Monday, October 19, 2009

Korean Catholics in Mission Overseas

The Catholic Church in Korea is young and ready to begin in earnest going out to others. Many young people in the future will give themselves to the mission effort of the Church. We mentioned in yesterday's blog the words of the archbishop of the Orthodox Church in the way he looked at evangelization. He mentioned a number of times that you can't force the faith on anyone. The Orthodox Church does not have the history that we have in this area. That is probably one of the reasons they are so adamant in not wanting the Catholic Church to proselytise in Russia. We say that we are not but that is not the way it appears to the Orthodox. We did follow the guns and swords of the conquistadors in South America and the results are there for anyone to see.

In Korea the faith came without that baggage but with the blood of the martyrs. It suffered which
made it a strong Church. The future of the Church in Asia will depend a great deal on the Korean Church.

The Catholic Korean Mission Society was established in 1975 and now has 56 priests and 34 seminarians. Two Maryknollers are helping them in their formation program. They have missioners in Cambodia, China, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Taiwan , Russia, and Mozambique.

Besides the men who are sent out by the Mission Society we have many other men and woman sent by the diocese , religious groups and societies of apostolic life. The Colomban Fathers have a lay missionary program working in the formation and sending of lay missioners overseas.

In this present issue of the Catholic Peace paper there is a brief sketch of Fr. Han Yeong-wan (John) who as a seminarian in 1985 for a diocese here in Korea offered his services to the diocese of Guayaquil, Ecuador. He was accepted and the following year left for Ecuador. He was ordained in 1988 worked for 5 years in a jungle area, two years on the Amazon River working among 5 native tribes and in 1995 became the first pastor of the Sacred Heart parish in which he worked for 15 years. It is about half the size of Chejudo Island with 40,000 Catholics and 60 mission stations. He returned to Korea this May for a heart operation and to recuperate and will return next year to Ecuador.

The work is very hard and despite 500 years of Christianity they are far from the status of Korea with a much shorter history. They all have their children baptized within a year but it is to ward off the punishment of God. It is like a charm against evil that the Koreans are familiar with. "Let alone knowing about prayer and sacramental life, not a small number even know how to make the sign of the cross," he says. They need the help of missionaries to educate them to what they have received. There are 120 Korean priests, religious and lay people working in Central and South America at present.

This sending of Korean Missioners is just beginning. The Protestants have many times the number of the Catholics but there is a noticeable difference in the approach of the Catholics and their efforts to follow our Lord's mandate to evangelize. A foreign missioner seeing this ferment in the Korean Church adds great joy to his last chapter of life.

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