Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Life of a Missioner in Korea

After ordination, for one year, I work on development work for the society and did a lot of visiting of parishes in an effort to introduce Maryknoll . I was not a very successful promoter but by far most of the encounters with pastors were very pleasant and helpful.

In order to help me get acquainted and to break the awkwardness of doing something with which I was not familiar I would usually start by asking questions. One of the questions to a pastor was: "Father what have you learned over the years that would help a newly ordained priest?"
One priest very quickly told me: "Father buy a chair and sit in it and when your ass gets bigger buy another, and sit." I was certainly stupefied by the answer. I can still remember the parish in which this happened, and have thought of the occasion many times. It was the response of one who must have been hurt much during his years . It has remained with me and has proved that this attitude towards life is possible.

Cyncism is a very unattractive flaw and the older we get a possible response to what we hear and see. Living in Korea and being in pastoral work for many years this response would be rather forced and not natural. The Korean Christians are very respectful of authority, do we have the Confucian culture to thank for this? There is a great deal of formality but this also oils the wheels of relationships.

We know how to react to others. Koreans who are members of a community are extremely respectful of those who are leading the community. There is always a gift when some one comes to visit. I just heard today that those who wear black even during a famine never go hungry and never pay the bill when invited out, there is also a third. I suppose that we have those who can become cynical even in this society but I do not think that it is an easy step for a missioner. The Korean Catholics do have a tendency to spoil their priests, not very helpful for a follower of Jesus. Our Maryknoll Bishop here in Inchon for many years use to remind us that "we came to Korea to do good and we did very well. "


  1. Nice piece, Father! As an Asian living in the West, I can relate to this.