Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mission Stations and Catholicism in Korea

Some years ago on Kang Hwa island there were 10 mission stations visited once a month. A mission station is a community in which a priest does not reside and where the catechist takes care of all the services and would act like a permanent deacon. Today 4 of these have become parishes. The importance of the mission stations in the growth of the Catholic Church in Korea would be hard to ignore.

There was an interesting article in the July issue of Kyunghyang Catholic Magazine on the Life in the mission stations during the persecution. It was the place where a new life was nurtured, the seed bed for inculturation ( Inculturation is a term used in in the Roman Catholic Church, referring to the adaptation of the way Church teachings are presented to non-Christian) and maturing as Catholics. It gave them the strength to follow the way of martyrdom before religious freedom arrived. Below is a summary of the articles with some quotes from some of the missioners.

(St. Anthony Daveluy, 1818-1866) wrote in his diary:
All the people although poor were able to help the poorest. They took care of the widows and orphans. During these hard times the expression of love was something that was never seen before. Some older people gave all of their goods to help others. Those who had more education than others entering the Church thought it their duty to help to teach others the prayers and the catechism. Those who gained some influence in the community because of their knowledge, personality and reputation, moved by the spirit, devoted themselves completely to the difficult task of building up the Korean Catholic Church .Even after the freedom of religion this way of acting continued in the mission stations, in the Chollado area.

Paris Foreign Missioner Baudounet, 1859-1915 wrote: Seeing the working together of those entering the Church is marvelous. Among them we have an exceptional practice of virtue, a show of love and devotion. Although there is a lack of material goods they share the little they have. When I look around the mission station I see the early apostolic Church. The Christians are living like those in the Apostolic Church, they expected nothing from this life and followed the example of their elders in the Faith.

The example that the French Foreign missioners saw in these mission stations allowed them to give themselves completely to the work and it gave them great joy and pride.

(St. Pierre Maubant , 1803-1839) traveled to the mission stations from September to June of the following year. Choi Thomas mentioned that he walked almost 1700 miles from January to September. Whether it rained or snowed he walked 20 miles a day. When his health began to take its toll he walked about 14 miles a day but even that year he walked close to 3,300 miles

The writer of the article concludes that even though at that time the social position of each was extremely important and strict the Christians did not feel restrained by it. They were building a new society. They were moved by love and detachment. Their daily lives and spiritual life were one. This life of Faith became a part of who they were and gave them the strength to face death.

This faith of the Christians ennobled the Missioners; it gave them the strength to face death. They helped each other to be people of Faith. The author wondered if without the mission stations we would have had the number of martyrs, the growth and the inculturation of the Church in Korea.

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