In November 1955, Columban Father Thomas Quinlan was consecrated as Bishop of Chuncheon, Korea.
He had served in Korea for more than 20 years, arriving there shortly after the Columban mission in Korea began and even spending three years as a prisoner of war of the North Korean military.
In 1965, after attending the sessions of the Second Vatican Council in Rome, Bishop Quinlan, who was approaching his 70th birthday, made the decision to retire. He supported the designation of his fellow Columban, Father Thomas Stewart, to be his successor.
The Vatican granted Bishop Quinlan permission to retire in early 1966, and on May 11, 1966, Father Stewart’s consecration as Bishop of Chuncheon took place. The County Galway-born Bishop Stewart had arrived in Korea as a young priest in 1954 and would serve with distinction in the Diocese of Chuncheon until his own retirement in 1994.
For his part, the retired Bishop Quinlan decided to spend his final years in his beloved adopted homeland of Korea. He died on New Years’ Eve of 1970, a few months after the 50th anniversary of his ordination.
The “passing of the torch” from one Columban to another in Chuncheon showed how much the Columban mission in Korea had developed.