Saturday, September 26, 2009

Korean Catholic Concern For The Dead

Yesterday two buses came to the mission station for an outing and a Mass. They were members of the Catholic Parish Society whose concern is the care of the dying and those who have died. They attend at the bedside of those facing death, assist in the preparations for the funeral, console the bereaved family and sing the office of the dead. This concern of the Korean Catholics is not readily seen in other cultures: an example of accepting something into Catholic life that was traditionally very Korean.

There are many families that when faced with death do not know what to do. Notifying the society they are assisted by the members who may even take over the responsibility for the days preceding the burial. They sing the office of dead which would take about one hour. They assist in serving at the table for the guest that come for the wake. In older times when the undertaker was not readily available the members of the society would wash and cloth the body for burial and serve in doing what your undertakers would be doing, a spiritual work of mercy.

Up until recent times the waking of the deceased would be done in the homes of the deceased. Now with the apartments this is discouraged. Many living in the apartments do not like the idea of using the elevators to move the deceased besides they seek to avoid the unwanted distraction to others in the building. Many who are on the verge of dying will be taken to a hospital to die so they can use the mortuary. This is much easier on the family. In recent years we also have many funeral homes that serve the same purpose.

The voluntary service of the members of the society are welcomed by the Catholics. There are many who do not have the means to take care of the funeral expenses and they are there to help. There are those that have no family and the members would serve as family. It is a great consolation to many families to have the members help in this very difficult time.

The services in these circumstances has done much to build up a great deal of good will and has attracted many to the Church. The members are always available to help and their solicitous concern for even some of the smallest details are appreciated by the mourning family.

The members of this society are the older members of the community. Usually there is a group in all the parishes and even in our little mission station we have a person who is in charge. When my parents died the Catholics for three days came to the Church from the different areas of the parish and would say the office of the dead before the picture of my parents. They in turn would be replaced with another group from another area of the parish and this would continue around the clock. It was a very consoling time for the son.

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