Wednesday, September 30, 2009

1926 Korea Seen by Catholic Missioners

An old book The Catholic Church in Korea was published in 1926 and was reprinted again before the bicentennial of Christianity in Korea. It was a book that our older Maryknollers spent a great deal of time studying as they started the new mission in Korea in 1923. I found the final remarks and the conclusion on the obstacles to the spread of Catholicism in Korea an interesting sign of what our early Maryknollers faced in their work in Korea. It was a much more difficult environment in which to work than we faced coming to Korea after Independence.
A few political changes can do a great deal in changing the way of seeing the country. What follows is the chapter on Final Remar
ks :

We have already mentioned the fact that there are many different religions in Korea. Each one of these makes more or less vigorous efforts to influence the minds of the people.

Buddhism and Shintoism are especially protected by the government. They are official religions. The government also protects and favors Confucianism. Then there are the Heavenly Teachers, the Heavenly Guard, the Religion of Tankoun, etc., etc. These latter claiming to be purely Korean and therefore, the only really national faiths. Owing to this claim they win many followers. These followers are also attracted by the semi-political, semi-religious dreams of these sects and by the mystery in which several of them shroud their ceremonies and their true aim.

In speaking of all these religions, we also drew attention to the particular influence which this confused mixture of heterogeneous beliefs has had on the soul of the Korean. He has been led to develop a species of religious eclecticism. Nothing counts except exterior ceremonies, As for beliefs, there is no reason why they should not vary according to individual taste and to circumstances. The final result of this in some instances, practically amounts to atheism.

It is not difficult for Koreans having this kind of a mentality to show tolerance: one religion is as good as another in their opinion. If anyone argues with them, and especially if that person be a foreigner, they will reply; "Let each one follow the religion which appeals to him most." But in the bottom of their hearts, they have a leaning towards one of the religions of their own country, because it is a national religion. They have no objections to observing the ceremonies of several of these religions, even if the religions teach opposite doctrines. Such contradictions do not trouble them at all.

Sometimes Koreans admire the beauties of Catholic dogma and of the Church's moral teachings. He even expresses a more or less genuine desire to become a member of this religion which promises so much. But he is amazed when he learns what sacrifices he must make in order to remodel his life in conformity with the Divine precepts. He must abandon his idle superstitions, and, above all, he can no longer worship his ancestors. If the grace of God has not taken full possession of him, he will find it impossible to follow a religion which excludes all else. The Catholic religion will appear to him as rigid and narrow. This is the first obstacle that Catholicism meets with in Korea.

The second is the materialism, which has followed in the wake of the new civilization. It is useless to describe the materialism. This civilisation has produced the same fruits everywhere it has penetrated. It is hardly surprising that a nation which, until recent years, had practically no intercourse with foreigners should be easily captivated by the material aspect alone of modern culture. For such a nation, this brilliant aspect is the only one of any importance. It fascinates and attracts. Korea has not any principles in itself by means of which this attraction can be overcome.

At the present time, a wave of socialism and Bolshevism has swept over the peninsula. These ideas have bet with special success in Korea, for the Koreans love something new.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wearing the Veil at Mass in Korea

One of the priests with a doctorate in liturgy, writing a weekly column on liturgy in the Catholic Peace Newspaper, has an article on using the veil at Mass. Personally he finds the appearance of women offering the Mass with veils as something very beautiful and has mentioned this often.

It is often said that for women to use the veil is discriminatory. Another criticism we often hear: in other countries they no longer use the veil why do we insist on its use here in Korea? Even though in other countries they do not use the veil is there any reason we should not if we think it a good thing ? Is his response.

The wearing of the veil is undoubtedly not a duty. There is no law mandating a woman's use of the veil. Therefore there is no reason a woman should feel guilty or have any misgivings for not wearing a veil at Mass. However, when we talk about inculturating the liturgy to the Korean way then the veil is a good example. Our custom of giving a beautiful veil to those being baptized is a wonderful practice and if we understand the meaning of the veil, profound.

In the Old Testament the wearing of the veil signified that the person was unmarried. (Gen. 24:65) In the New Testament Paul mentions that women wear the veil, it was not a liturgical law but the custom of the day. Woman's hair was the husbands glory. Adorned hair in those times was a worldly luxury and going into a sacred place it was natural to want to cover it. Therefore a person of faith attending Mass expressing simplicity and modesty would use the veil. It would also bring to mind their baptism and new birth with the white veil. Covering the hair that was adorned was also a sign of humility and modesty.

Korean women for the most part still wear the veil. It is something that they have no difficulty in doing and is a beautiful sight at Mass as the columnist mentions. It is an easy way to remember baptism and the sign value of what we do should never be underestimated. Losing the meaning of signs can be very detrimental to not only our spiritual life but to our living a fuller life.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Koreans have a great love for learning and they will sacrifice a great deal to educate their children. This is a gift of Confucianism. In the Choson period of Korean History passing the civil servant exams would guarantee a life of honor and service to society.

Koreans because of this tradition know what learning can do for the individual,the family and society. In a way it is a religious notion. In Buddhism the future is reincarnation in Confucianism it is living through their children. This gives them a strong desire to educate their children but there is also a shadow side to this.

The educational system can be geared for exams and not for making the person. In an article in the Catholic Times the writer mentions that he has two daughters preparing for college and has told them they will very likely change jobs often: more than preparing for a job to prepare for life.

The second recommendation was instead of picking a field for study and occupation from only a personal desire they should pick a field that will be of help to the world to others to our environment.

This does seem extremely altruistic and overly idealistic. It is an attempt to fight against the prevalent feeling in the society. The effort to get into the first class schools in Korea is great and the competition is fierce. There is consequently the attempt by some to buy their way into the best of schools. The penalty in Korea is less than three years of prison and a fine of less than 10,000 dollars. It is very steep and yet you have those who attempt it. The government is doing what it can to eradicate this corruption with sincere determination.

There are those in every society and culture who live by the law of the jungle. " If I want something than to get it I will take all the ways and means available. If I have the strength I will get it" The new liberalism.

The writer of the article mentions that in many Catholic parishes they have started the 100 days of prayer in preparation for the exams for college. He laments that the prayers ascending to God are selfishly motivated to achieve success for their child, no matter what, and he sees this as in root similar to those who use immoral means to to pass the exam. They both are motivated by selfishness. It is also a sign of the fervor that is attached to preparations for college entrance.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Korean Catholic Laypeople In Mission

We often hear the Church is not concerned to relate the Christian life to our daily life. The concern in the teaching appears to be Sunday Mass, belonging to a parish group, and attending the different parish events.

One of the priests in a neighboring diocese mentioned in the Pastoral Newsletter what a big change came over one of his parishioners after attending the small village groups in the parish. He did not miss one of them and said although he only has a rough draft of what it's all about he realized you can't separate daily life from our faith. Click to get to an earlier blog on small village groups.

He goes on to say, Jesus has given us instructions in Matt. 28:20- "Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you." There are times that our Catholics have no critical consciousness concerning divorce, abortion, fetal experiments and many other moral issues. They accept what they hear in the mass media; without conscientization we move with the flow of events without thought.

Laypeople have to be aware of the problems, make judgments and together with others of good will do what they can to bring about a healthier society. The difficulties we face in the family and in society are the areas in which our laypeople have to be involved or the Church will not accomplish her mission. We are not only to become holy but to be a leaven, yeast and light in society. Our Catholics have to take an active part in the society in which they find themselves, in the farming area concerned with farms, in the city with city life, each person participates with his or her own gifts, the competence will come.

In recent years we express our work of Evangelization with the words of our Holy Father:
New Evangelization, Reevangelization and Evangelization of Society. This requires that our laypeople become prepared to do this and encouraged to use their talents to accomplish this.

The Church has been explaining this approach to mission for many years now and most of our Christians would be familiar with the threefold aim of evangelizing. It is not only to get new Catholics but also to bring back those who have left and to try to evangelize the society in which we live. This work will depend on the participation of our laypeople.

Those of us who have pastoral rolls prepare the atmosphere in which this becomes possible and the morale that brings enthusiasm to the work.

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.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Korean Catholics Want From Priests

Over the years a number of questionnaires have been sent out to our Catholics asking them what they expect from their priests. In 1995 a questionnaire was sent to all the pastoral council presidents asking them what they wanted to see from their priests. There was a similar one sent out some 20 years before with similar results. The response was not as great as they would have wanted but those who answered were in leadership positions and knew the Catholic sentiment.

The response is not necessarily what the Scriptures would ask or what Jesus would expect from his priests but it is an important reflections of those who know the priests well. The following is the list of what Catholics would like to see from their priests:

1) A priest who prays

2) In silence a priest who exudes Christ's essence.

3) One who shares the suffering of the weak and powerless, and who works for justice in society.

4) One who is not self righteous and is able to run the parish with the help of laypeople.

5) A humble person, who can listen carefully to what others say and listen to the end.

6) A Priest who lives his calling until death.

7) A Priest who prepares appropriate sermons for the laypeople.

8) One who is frugal and not occupied with material things, and is meticulous in dealing with Church monies.

9) Priest who is polite in word and conduct not only to elders in the parish but to all.

10) A priest who can converse familiarly with the youth and spends time in teaching.

11) One who celebrates the sacraments with devotion and follows the liturgical rules.

12) One who is obedient to the bishop and his superiors and has a harmonious relationship with his follow priests.

13 ) A priest who is not tied to his relations and the Catholics who are close to him but whose both ears are open to all.

The desires we see expressed by the Catholics gives a good idea what kind of Catholicism they have accepted and try to live. Korean Catholics are demanding and at the same time very docile in their acceptance of what is expected of them in Church life.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gambling Addiction in Korea

Preparing for Christmas Mass many years ago a non-Catholic came with news that he had lost a great deal of money gambling and wanted to become a Catholic. I spent some time talking with him and it seemed he really wanted to change his life but that was the last I heard from him. Something similar has happened over the years but there has not been many happy results.

In the Chosun Ilbo there was an article that stated in its headline that Korea had the largest number of gambling addicts. I wonder at times about these polls, not that Korea's figures are wrong but other countries would not be as organized as Korea in gathering the required information. This study was made by the Korea Culture & Tourism Institute. 9.5 percent of the Korean adults experienced problems with gambling. This means that about 3.85 million people are addicted to gambling the greater majority needing immediate attention.

These figures make Korea , percentage wise, the most gambling addicted country in the world even more than Nevada that has Las Vegas. There are many private illegal gambling houses, illegal gambling sites on the Internet and many different avenues that one can access to gamble within Korean society.

The Chonsun Ilbo mentioned that we need more effort to treat Gambling addicts. We all know how difficult it is to break the habit and we are familiar with many famous names that have lost everything at the gambling tables.

Korea's first Gamblers Anonymous was started in 1984 by a Catholic Columban Priest who was shocked when a farmer killed himself because he lost all his savings. These GA chapters have spread throughout the country and are helping many. This past September 17, Korea observed its first gambling prevention day.

In Korea one of the authorities on gambling addiction said that to gamble it is necessary to have time, a partner, a place and money. In Korea we have all four A s. Anytime, Anyone, Anyplace and A little. The Internet has made gambling very easy to access and in a country which has always frowned on gambling and outlawed it for years it is surprising how things can change so quickly. The article mentioned that in many developed countries people go to gambling resorts for fun to enjoy but in Korea they go to make money.

In Korea we have little help for those that are addicted.This is an area that non governmental groups should be involved.The different religious groups should be making this an area of concern since it is such a serious problem in Korea. There are many addictions: alcohol, drugs, porn, Internet, gambling and it is difficult to find the necessary help and supply of funds necessary for programs to help. Many of those afflicted do not admit to the problem which makes it all that more difficult to know where to start. Korea has decided that its number one addiction is the Internet and is working hard to make a difference with money and personnel and getting hospitals involved. Internet addiction is a serious problem but for the most part it is an individual problem with family repercussions but not as serious as those with gambling addiction which can destroy family life.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Korean Catholic Priests and Sermons

Korean Priests on the whole seem to do a good job with the liturgy of the word. They have good voices and for the most part seem to work at preparing the sermons. Catholic Priests do not, however, compare well with our Protestant brothers when it comes to preaching. We are saved in a way by having the Mass to fill the needs of the people while most of the Protestant Ministers have only the Word as the center of their worship service. Our Mass has both the Liturgy of the Word and of the Eucharist, but the liturgy of the word often suffers at our hands.

In our parishes we have, as in every other country, some good and some not so good sermons. Outside of the occasional foreign missioner the language is clear and well spoken which may not be the case in many other countries . The country is blessed with a good number of priests and in the near future this will not change noticeably.

Korean Priests are busy with large parishes, many meetings, visits, and the ordinary parish details that require attention. This for many is a serious distraction in preparing his daily and Sunday sermons.

We know to go to the pulpit without preparation is sinful. One of our priests mentioned in his newsletter: for many Catholics to listen to a sermon without a message and lacking enthusiasm is irritating. He went on to say that in those cases it is better to forget the sermon, for at least they will not be annoyed or bored.

The priest went on to say it is the desire of the priest to give a good sermon. He mentioned that after ordination like many other priests he was determined to give good sermons. However, he said he didn't have a gift with words and besides did not have an attractive voice. Consequently he felt guilty and not knowing the living conditions of the people and lack of knowledge, felt frustrated.

The priest said that instead of trying to give a good sermon he settled for giving a talk no longer than 10 minutes with a simple message but even that was not easy. He made it a habit to do a lot of reading and to read over the scripture for the following day's Mass before going to bed which was a great help.

He concludes with the reflection that without living the Christian life in its totality it will always be difficult to move the hearts of our Catholics. He quotes Thomas Merton:
" The Saint even without words by his work, his walk even his standing, his whole life becomes a sermon."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Foreign Journalist's Thoughts on Koreans

In a recent Korean e-mail I received, was a list of 4 shortcomings that a journalist leaving Korea after 11 years made known to his questioner. He only had the intention of giving the strong points of the Koreans; being urged repeatedly to give the weak points also he acceded very hesitantly. Below is the four that he mentioned:

1) Koreans do do not look forward to the future but rather look back at the past. They do not talk about future plans and dreams but rather talk about the life in the military, past political incidents, fellow classmates etc..

2) They use many excuses. When things do not go well, they do not admit it frankly but blame those above or below, use excuses or hold responsible the circumstances.

3) In personal relationships Koreans do not know how to lose. Compromise and concessions are seen as failure and they have a black and while rational for everything.

4) Koreans have a princely mentality wanting to harvest what they have not planted. As the saying goes they will even drink lye if it is free..

The e- mail ends with the words of the questioner: since the journalist had a love for Korea we should take his words to heart.

Also being a foreigner I would agree with the first one after thinking over what he said, but have difficulty in seeing the other three as any different from what humans have as a basic weakness. I do not see Koreans any more disposed than other peoples to excuse their failures, have difficulty in losing or like to have things for nothing. I probably have been in Korea too long and have been inculturated to a point where these human failings are not seen as such : something that came with the air I breath and the water I drink (?)


Monday, September 21, 2009

Helping the North Korean Defectors

The Seoul Diocese linking with the Catholic Farmers Association are helping North Korean defectors to move to the country. There are well over 16,000 now in Korea and they expect to have about 20,000 next year The Korean Government gives the defectors about 6 thousand dollars and a short period of reeducation to settle in South Korea.

Different terms are used to refer to these refugees. Saeteomin (people of new land) was the word used in the article in the Catholic Times. Talbukja (people who fled the North) is commonly used but not favored by the refugees and not pleasant to the ears of the North. A newer term is "residents who renounced North Korea". They are all refugees looking for a better life and for most it is not easily achieved.

It is a difficult move for many. They have fled political persecution and severe shortages of food and medicine; arriving in a new land and settling into a new culture is demanding. The diocese has many programs to acclimate them to this new life in the South. The Protestants are doing much more and have been involved much longer but the diocese of Seoul with the help of Save The Farm Movement and the Catholic Farmers Association is serving as mentors to those who choose to live in the country.

The biggest problems facing North Korean defectors are unemployment and poverty. A large percentage of North Korean defectors are jobless and many others have to live on a pittance. Most have temporary work, and only a small minority find full-time positions or start their own business. It is difficult for the government to provide indefinite assistance.

The North Koreans find it difficult to shed the label defectors which they dislike. One refugee sighing : "I will have to get use to being a foreigner. The culture, economy, the value system is just too difficult to adapt to." This will be a large problem when unification does come.

A refugee from the North, Mr. Kim who is now a member of the Kwangju Catholic Farmers Association is helping those who choose to settle in the farming areas. He tells all those that he mentors to look closely and deeply into the reasons you have settled here in the farming area. He tells them if they were looking for an easy life the chances they will fail are great.

Helping the North Korean refugees is a great work and will tell South Korea how successful they will be in becoming one nation again when unification does come.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

25th Anniversary Feast of Korean Martyrs

Today is the Feast of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, Chong Ha Sang Paul and Companions. The companions mostly are laymen and women, some old some young, some are children some were bishops some were priests, altogether there were 103. Pope John Paul II canonized them in Seoul in 1984.

In the breviary for today the second reading is taken from a letter of St. Andrew Kim in which he mentions some lessons we learn from seeds. The lessons are many let us reflect on a few of them:

The Blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church

1) Seeds point to the future. We wait in patience and work towards the harvest which will come.

2) The seed has to die before it breaks the ground and shows us life.

3) What we sow we will reap. If we plant potatoes we get potatoes if tomatoes we get tomatoes.

4) We plant one seed but the seed at harvest time becomes many. In our Lords words, "producing fruit a hundred times as much."

5) The produce benefits not only the farmer who planted the seed but his family and others.

6) We can not make the seed grow all we can do is remove the obstacles for growth. If it does not have enough water , we water, if the nutrients are missing we spread fertilizer, if the bugs are there we get rid of them, if the weeds are a problem we remove them.

7) The seed matures according to the nature of the earth it has found. Jesus in his parable in all three synoptic Gospels makes this one of his well know teachings.

8) The seed will develop depending on the concern the farmer has during the period of growth.

9) There is a time for the seed to be sown.

10) We will have to plant good seed if we want a good harvest.

This year is the 25th anniversary of canonization, a good time to reflect on what these martyrs have taught us.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Korean musical instruments with Chinese silk

The makers of Korean string instruments, to maintain the
Deep sounds try to obtain the materials from Korea.
However, the silk that goes into making our instruments
Has to be obtained from China.
We have farmers who raise silk worms but only for medicinal
Purposes and not for the silk.
The Chinese know well that we are not producing silk
So every year the price goes up.
Our artisans have no choice but to buy,
The Chinese producers of the silk are in control.

We are little by little giving up what we can do
And becoming subservient to others.
Do you think this is only in the area of silk?

From an e-mail.

The Difficulties of Korean Farmers

Korea is now ready for a new rice harvest and still much of last year's rice remains. In a news letter for priests we are being asked to be enthusiastic in helping the farmers to sell their produce by dealing directly with the people in the parishes. This has been one of the goals of Save Our Farm Movement.

Cardinal Stephen Kim's homily at the Mass that inaugurated the movement back in in 1994 said : "If we lose the farms we lose our birthplaces. If we ruin the farms it is like ruining ourselves. The pain of the farmers should be our pain."

The desire is to link the farms with the city dwellers to sell the farm produce. There are many outlets in parishes that try to facilitate this direct buying from the farms. The reasons for this concern are listed as:

1) To take care of our health and lives we must avoid becoming subservient to other countries at the table and to avoid tainted foods.

2) Understand the place of food for Korea's national security.

3) The place of farms in balancing the economics of the country.

4) To protect our national lands and environment.

5) Keep the population from gravitating to the cities.

6) The driving force behind development and a resource for tourism.

7) To provide natural settings, rest areas and to experience the verdure of the country.

8) To have an alternative to the industrial society that we have made.

The pastor's intention in the article was to alert us to the plight of the farmers and asking us to support the farmers in selling their produce. Rice production of the country has been abundant in recent years with very good harvests, while the populace is eating less rice. Younger people have not continued the eating habits of the older generation; imports especially from China have hurt the farmers with the cheaper prices. Farming co-ops take the premium types of rice but the other varieties the farmers have to find their own markets, a problem for many. The international price of rice is much cheaper so we can see what will happen when we have tariff barriers disappear.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Four Fingered Pianist Lee Hee Ah

The Catholic Times had an article about the 4 fingered pianist ( she plays with two fingers in each hand) Lee Hee Ah (Hyacintha) who is well know around the world having a number of YouTube appearances and many concert appearances overseas.

Her story is heart-wrenching right from her birth to now at the age 23. The mother knew before Hyacintha was even born that she was handicapped. Her family wanted her aborted and even after she was born some wanted her to be put up for adoption overseas. The hospital told the mother that she would not live long.

The mother was sure that this was a gift of God and never doubted this for a moment. She now has a daughter that stands tall where ever she goes.

Her last concert was on September 10th and 11th in Taiwan and she is booked in November to go to Indonesia and Hong Kong. One priest has said she is one who has changed her destiny. Her Catholicism is important to her and she enjoys being able to make God known where ever she goes.

The article mentions that the mother wanted to teach the child how to play the piano so she would be able to hold a pencil. She tried to get her into many piano academies with no luck but with extraordinary patience and effort on the part of Hyacintha she did succeed.

What I found interesting was the attitude of many still towards the handicapped. I am not surprised for it is a feeling not easily lost. Because of her disability she was told that people have a loathing to have her on same program and when she went to make a record she was told who wants to hear a two fingered pianist? Even though her name was widely known many were saying that her popularity would disappear and her chances to perform would cease. The predictions were wide of the mark.

She is now well know in her own country, Korea. " This is not the work of humans . It is the work of God and the intercession of our Blessed Mother. God wants me to live as a necessary person in this world 'the way we look is one thing to discriminate is not right' this I want to make known. "

From childhood she dreamed of being a nun. But today without the religious habit she is able to give joy and comfort to many. She has given many charity performances and recently one for the disabled in North Korea.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Political Left And Right In Korea

In the recent Pastoral Bulletin one of the diocesan priests had a humorous black and white caricature of the difference between the left and right in Korean politics. It would be for some a slander but also not without a basis in reality.

The right is interested in financial well being. A friendly atmosphere for business, doing away with obstacles for their success; lessen the taxes of the rich, flexibility with labor, making it easy to fire workers. Government stays out of labor disputes as much as possible. They want a small government. Moreover, the things that have to do with the citizenry for the most part , health insurance, mass media, electricity, gas etc. they want to put in the hands of the private sector. If big business and the rich do well we all do well.

This is the strategy that we have had in England and the United States with the results we have seen in recent years.

The left is for distribution and equality. Tax money has to be well distributed. Citizens to live well, the government has to distribute the tax monies evenly. Welfare for the poor requires the concern of the government. Tax benefits not only for the rich but for the ordinary citizen. This requires positive regulations by the government. This effort to help the masses live the good life is the aim of the left.

From Chosun times, for the last 200 years Europe has been in the hands of the left. Citizens when sick can go to the hospital, the government provides childcare, and education. The old get a pension to enjoy their life. To have these benefits they have to pay exorbitant taxes, especially the rich. All have to be resigned to sacrifice.

How was this brought about? It was built on the foundation of 200o years of Christianity. Catholics and Protestants working in the field of welfare and the attempt at living the Christian life has brought this about in Europe. The teachings of the ancestors has made this the reality.

Those of us who have been baptized where are our hearts? Is it not that we have followed the ways of the world? Are we willing to sacrifice and pay taxes so that all of us can live well? If we look into this carefully we can see that this is more in keeping with the Gospel. In Korea those who are opting for this kind of government are looked upon as Communists and he blames past Presidents Syngman Rhee and Park Chung-hee.

In the States stereotypically the Democrats are considered as the left and Republicans as the right. The Democrats want more government regulations and interested mostly with social issues. The Republicans want few regulations and more concerned with moral issues. In Korea the political parties are not known by the ordinary citizens, to have these obvious differences.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Health Benefits of Some Exotic Foods

Food is an important part of our daily lives and living in a different culture requires at times that you eat unfamiliar food. There was an article in the Kyeong-Hyang Catholic Magazine a few months ago in which a Korean lay missioner in the Philippines ate her first balot. A balot is a fertilized duck (or chicken) egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell. It was a memorable event which she remembers with fond memories, not necessarily with the desire of eating one again.

Just this evening I was invited to eat mudfish (loach) and jellyfish in the home of a parishioner. I have eaten both of these items in the past and didn't find them that difficult or distasteful. It always makes a hit with the host when one eats what is given. Most of the foods that an American would have reservations in eating, come with a list of medicinal benefits.

"We are told that the main substance of loach is protein and it also contains lots of iron, calcium and vitamins. The fat is unsaturated, so it melts cholesterol. Loach soup is used for the patients with high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis and obesity. Mineral, high protein and calcium which are needed for moderns are also in loach soup so popular and recommended. It is good for eye sight and strengthens the immune system by building up the respiratory organs."

Jellyfish are supposed to stop the aging process and help the memory. Koreans, Japanese and Chinese are big eaters of jellyfish. We do have the recent report from Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry reporting that the number of centenarians in the country has reached over 40,000.

There are few scientific facts on the truths of these claims but the food, for many is tasty and a treat which tells us much of our likes and dislikes are influenced by the culture from which we come. We can for the time being, leave out eating dog, which for the Korean also has many health benefits.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wanting to See External Results

Maryknoll missioner Fr. Clarence Witte mentioned in yesterday's blog, stated in his book: "The following is something that is particularly true in Japan and does not apply everywhere but we can take a lesson from it. We see our people outfitting themselves with the best equipment for a whole range of activities, often without being very expert in the performance of those activities. Whether it be skiing, golfing, fishing , or whatever, the equipment has to be the best, but the performance doesn't always measure up to expectations. And this doesn't apply only to sports. In many aspects of life, including business, politics, and some home life too, putting on a good front often hides a less attractive backside."

This approach to life is often found in Korea and often found in other cultures but probably not as noticeable as Japan or Korea. The Italians also are reported to have a need to "fare una bella figura." Literally it means to put your best foot forward or to make a good appearance.

"We too need to be careful not to make the same mistake. Our missionary endeavor is certainly well-organized, and we have a plethora of equipment and gadgets. But we do not get the results that we would like. There! That"s it! Results! That's the dirty word! We need to clean that word up a bit! In fact we do get results, the only trouble is that they are invisible---- invisible to us, but not to the Holy Spirit, who is really running things. It is good for us to remember what our Lord said when one of the Apostles asked him, ' Is this the time Lord, when you are going to restore the kingdom to Israel? ----the time when we are going to see the results' Our lord's answer was, to put it in the vernacular, That 's none of your business. My Father will take care of that. You get on with the job I gave you."

"If we have to see the results of our efforts, we really do not have faith, for faith is 'the evidence of things that are not seen and the substance of things to be hoped for.' "

Monday, September 14, 2009

Words of Wisdom from an Old Missioner

One of our Maryknoll Missioners, Fr. Clarence J. Witte, who worked in Japan for many years and was also Society Superior for Japan and Korea before the title was retired wrote a book ,"What It's All About." It was a reflection on his life as a missioner. "His life was often interrupted by war and other calamities, has paralleled the history of Maryknoll, which was founded one year after he was born. This parallel gave him an unusual perspective in making worthwhile observations on missionary work." He died in 2001.

" What was it that got Maryknoll off to such a good start? It was what our Founders put into us. He did not know Fr. Price but his influence was still with us in the early days; his principal legacy was a life of prayer----a lived conviction that our life must be an uninterrupted prayer, a life of absolute dependence on God and of uninterrupted communion with Him. Bishop James Anthony Walsh had that also, but he was at the same time a very practical man. And he taught us a lot of things---- mostly by example, but also by word and precept. The list runs the gamut of the virtues, but we can emphasize a few of them:

Honesty------ admit when you are wrong.

-- when you get put down stay there.

Generosity------ do more than anyone expects you to do.

Dedication------do the dirty work and shut up about it.

Patience------accept the short end of the stick with a smile.

Poverty of Spirit--
----give away your last dollar with the assurance that you won't starve to death.

Confidence in God--
---- don't allow yourself to be frustrated, or even discombobulated by the Sisyphean character of your work, because, for those who love God, all things do, indeed work together for good.

And to sum it all up
------ don't ever stop laughing at yourself.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Discrimination in Korea

The number of foreigners in Korea is growing continually. We have many coming to Korea for work, many visitors and those who marry and come to Korea to reside. It was reported recently that by the year 2050 10% of the population will be foreign. Korea has developed greatly in just a few years so many foreigners find it an attractive place to call home for a few years.

With the numbers there has been an effort on the part of the government and those in public service to make living in Korea a pleasant experience but obviously the message does not reach everyone. Korea like any other country will have many sad stories of discrimination. They have their own internal discrimination and having been a very homogeneous country for so long and underdeveloped the change to a first world country and seeing so many foreigners does take time to register on the Korean psyche.

There have been many blogs that find living in Korea rather stressful and many have experienced discrimination. That is a fact that has to be acknowledged. Whether we have more or less than other countries is a question that would be hard to determine. However I believe the government is trying to make it easier for the foreigner to be at home in this culture. The
country does not like being singled out as a country inhospitable to foreigners.It will also take time and effort on the part of those who are attempting to adapt to a new culture to feel at home in strange surroundings. In the study of Korean it was made clear that for most who go to a foreign country there will be a cultural shock that could be very serious for some. Everything is annoying: the food, the dress, the streets the people. It is not uncommon and one should be prepared for this phenomenon.

We have had the case recently of a man from India a professor
at the Anglican University, who pursued a criminal case for slander against a Korea man who called him a number of racially demeaning names while traveling on the bus. The diatribe lasted for over 10 minutes. With the help of his friend he went to the police station to report the incident and was treated unkindly by the police officer. "He used 'banmal' (informal speech not necessarily rude -but can be rude- but familiar) to me and addressed the Korean kindly. "

The professor filed a petition with the Human Rights Commission after the police made it clear that they had no desire to punish. The man has been indicted. This being the first case of its kind in Korea. Korea does not recognize discrimination as a crime but the case is one of personal insult. The offender was drunk which would excuse him in the eyes of many.

This case is a sign that Korea has come a long way in its approach to "Hate Crimes". We will without doubt also see discrimination as a crime with
severe penalties in the years ahead. Discrimination is a part of life and we will never really see it disappear in our life time but it is well to try to see it as a part of out lack of awareness of others and personal weakness.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Whistleblowing in Korea "The Crucible"

Koreans according to what you read are rather lenient, tolerant, at the way they look at sexual problems in society. In recent years there are more reports of sexual harassment, assault and sexual violence issues in Korean society. The macho culture that we have and the lack of information is partially the cause for the so called apathy of the past; this is changing. We do have the process of concientization (consciousness raising) going on: laws have been changed, penalties are getting stiffer and the issues are being publicized.

One of the more popular novelist Gong Ji-young (Mary) has written a novel which is online. I do not know how serious her Catholicism is but she has been strong in working to do away with the death penalty and is interested in human rights issues. Her recent novel The Crucible is a novel that deals with a factual case in Gwangju Inhwa School for the deaf and dumb students. The education workers and the principle sexually abused the disabled students in 2005. This is the incident in which she uses as background for her novel. Both Catholic papers had a short article on her recent book.

The protagonist of the novel is a teacher who was hired to work at the school and makes a discovery that all was not right. The new teacher learns rather quickly that the students in his class have been sexually abused by the principle and other co-workers in the administration. The principle was the son of the founder and was considered a devout Christian and had the respect of the community.

We have the story here of a whistle blower who suffers and becomes a victim for trying to do what is right. The whistle blower had made his own sexual mistakes in the past which were used against him. The community stands by the principle and the teachers. The police are taken in by the community and even the parents of the victims agree to cover over what happened for the money they received.

The three are accused and sentenced to probation and are set free to return to the school. In real life they were given jail sentences.

Whistleblowing is where an insider discloses wrongdoing within an organization, calling for rectification. They have a difficult time of it in most countries. You are making something known that is going to be traumatic to many and bring about a change which is difficult for most. The protagonist in The Crucible, because of his own mistakes in the past, suffered a great deal and decided at the end to leave it all. This seems to be the lot of the whistle blower. He has to put up with retaliations from those he was living with and those he has worked with and his family can't helped but be involved. This is very difficult and in many cases the truth does not win out at least initially.

In Korea we have laws that help to protect the whistileblower. He can be monetarily rewarded for his disclosures but it is still a difficult road to take. One has to think well and long for he often will be facing a strong legal system that is often in the hands of those with the financial means. The results of the conflict often take years to conclude and not always in the whistlerblower's favor. However it is a great service to society and a very powerful way of conscientizing society.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Another Catholic Conscientious Objector

South Korea does not recognise the right to conscientious objection. Objectors to military service are sentenced to 18 months in prison. Korea has the largest number of conscientious objectors serving in prison, and most of them are Jehovah's Witnesses. Click here for a previous blog on the subject.

The situation in Korea is different from many other countries and the conscientious objection movement has a hard road ahead to find approval. The Catholics for the most part are opposed to alternative service for those with problems of conscience. The Catholic Bishops do not have any formal statement on the issue.

The previous South Korean government announced preparations for a law recognizing conscientious objection, but the new government has abandoned these plans. Amnesty International, War Resisters' International and other human rights and peace organizations are campaigning for South Korea to recognize the right to conscientious objection.

A Nahnews report mentioned a Catholic who made a telephone call to the Military
Manpower Administration a few days ago, refusing to serve in the military. He was a member of the college student group in the Seoul Archdiocese. The chaplain of the group made clear the Church's teaching on conscientious objection and supports the young man in his decision.

In January 2007, the United Nations Human Rights Committee recognised the right to conscientious objection as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,

There has been some improvement in the understanding of what conscientious objection entails and the reason for accepting it as a viable response for those who do not in conscience want to serve in the military. One of our Korean Maryknollers, Fr. Russ Feldmeier back in 1968 refused to serve in the Vietnam War and joined the Peace Corps as his alternative service. He came to Korea, served as a Peace Corps member and after his term of duty was over, returned to the States to join Maryknoll. Ordained to the priesthood in 1980 he returned to Korea as a missioner, and is presently working with a team on partnership issues and interested in human rights. He feels strongly that we should have an alternative response for those who do not want to serve in the military and shows strong support for those who are now making a stand for conscientious objection status in Korea.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cardinal Cheong's Influencial Role in Korea

A news weekly has selected Cardinal Cheong Jin-Suk, the archbishop of Seoul, as the most influential Religious leader in Korea. The weekly had a well know public opinion polling organization make the study and the Cardinal came in first in the religious category. There were 10 different categories in the study. He received 38.8% of the vote to best the second who received 29.3% and the third received 18%. The deceased Cardinal Kim came in fourth with 12.9% of the vote.

The Catholic Times had a interesting comment on this recent poll. The second place was a Buddhist leader and the third was a Protestant . The editorial was quick to comment that the general public is 'fickle" . They can support you today and turn on you tomorrow. Consequently it should be taken in stride and not taken too seriously. The Catholic Church is young in Korea while Buddhism has a long history and has a valued place in the Korean heart. Buddhism has had some internal difficulties and some of the leaders have not lived up to their calling but the Koreans have been tolerant. This can be compared to the place of Catholicism in Europe.

Korean Society looks upon the clergy, religious and the organization of the Catholic Church with a rather strict yardstick . Korean Society is such that even a small fault when found within the Church can cause despair and turn society against the Church. This is a sign that the The Catholic Church has not found a place in the hearts of the Koreans.

The acknowledgement of the Cardinal's influence is a sign of the efforts of the Church. We should not overly rejoice or simply find satisfaction in seeing the positive place the Cardinal has in Korean Society but should accept this as a prod to do better.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Catholic Women's Religious Vocations

In recent years there has been a large decrease in the number of young people who are interested in a religious vocation. This was not always the case. Some 5o years ago Maryknoll had so many applicants there was a problem with space. They had to build to accommodate those who were entering. This we all know has changed drastically.There are many in Korea seeing this happening for men in the near future.

The Nahnews had a provoking article on the problems with women vocations in Korea. The priestly vocations are staying pretty much the same, the men religious are similar to the diocesan numbers but the women religious have decreased. There are 103 different groups in the country. In 34 communities there is no one in training, only one in not a small number of communities. Compared to the past this is only about 1/3 of the numbers they had. This is not something which came on suddenly but was statistically
foreseen during the last 15 years.

The author thinks that the reason for this are plentiful in our culture. The improvement of the condition of women in Korea is one of them. "Have only two and educate them well" was the motto under which many were born; this enabled the girls to flourish. They received the love of the parents and they were not exposed to the discrimination of the past. Although it is still a man's society, in certain areas of the society they were given equal opportunities.
With the women's entrance into society the idea of man's partner is not readily acknowledged. Rather we have an increase of weaker men and those who are afraid of women. With the ability of woman to make money there is no need to depend on men. Many women instead of trying to accommodate to the patriarchal society have opted to remain single.

Since we do have a large number who remain single in Korean Society this should be a large pool from which to expect vocations but most are not interested. Since we have so few being born it was reasonable to accept the decrease of vocations but this way of thinking no longer has reason on its side.

Many of the young women feel that the restrictions in the Patriarchal society are similar to the restrictions of the religious life; they enjoy the freedom of living the single life in society. With this in mind the author concludes that it doesn't seem things will change in the near future. He compares this to what happened in the States in recent years with vocations to the religious life.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Conqueror of Leukemia in Korea

One of the professors who was instrumental in bringing blood forming bone marrow stem cell research to a point that it could be used in the treatment of Leukemia in Korea has retired from his position at the Catholic University Medical School.

The Catholic Peace newspaper had an article on Professor Kim Chun Chu who worked for 40 years at the university medical school and will go to Cheju -do to continue his work at a hospital on the island. His work enabled the University Medical Team to become the hub in Asia with bone marrow transplants for the treatment of leukemia.

Leukemia is the excess of white blood cells in the blood stream. In Korea before 1983 there was little that could be done. He felt that there was a way and went on to experiment by selling his apartment and putting the money into the experiments: there was no hope in getting financial help. He did succeed and the transplants were highly successful.

There was much speculation on why he chose to got to Cheju-do when he could have gone to many hospitals nearby. He feels a loyalty to the Medical school that gave him his start and did not want to bring any harm to his alma mater in the Seoul area. The necessary infrastructure in Cheju-do has been put in place to perform the operations. One of the junior doctors from Cheju-do was at his side at the medical school for 6 months to accustom him to what will be done in Cheju-do. Professor Kim hopes to be of help to the many who will find it difficult to make the trip to Seoul.

Although he is an authority in his field of medicine he prefers to be called a poet. With his retirement he will have his seventh book of poetry published. His own description of himself is a "life the interior of which was full of cabbage". The needs of time require that he change his place of work . He will have much to do and wants to continue his study and be of service to those who need treatment for blood diseases.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Catholic Church in Korea has little historical material on the part the Catholics played in the Independence movement . They do have the example of Ahn jung-geun (Thomas) who assassinated the first Prime Minister of Japan in 1909. This year is the 100th anniversary of the incident in the Harbin railroad station.

Just recently they have found some material in old Manchuria which has been great news for the Church . The Church in Korea during colonial times was administered by foreign missionaries who were not too keen in getting involved in what they thought were politics. They wanted a strong separation of Church and State.
"Breaking off dialogue with traditional religions and the Protestant Church was an aspect of the Korean Catholic Church's history during the colonial period. At that time it was only through religion that one could organize or form solidarity with others. It was the most convenient way for Koreans to get together because the colonial officials banned Koreans from forming civil associations. Religious leaders, speaking out in solidarity with the people, influenced public opinion."

"The Catholic Church, isolating itself from other religions and refusing relations with them, even further restricted Catholic influence in Korean society. For example, the Catholic Church was the only major religion not represented in the March 1st Independence Movement leadership which was the most important Korean independence movement against Japanese rule, initially organized and run by religious leaders." This has been an area that the Church reflects on with some sadness. Check the Bishop's website for information on the The Nationalism of the Korean Catholic Church during colonial rule.

The historical material that was found showed that the Catholics did get behind the independence movement. They raised funds, bought munitions, bore arms and fought against the Japanese and went to prison. There is enough information to counter the prevalent idea that the Catholics were indifferent to the occupation of the Japanese. This is more meaningful when one remembers that the official Church was against getting involved in the independence movement.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Difficult Road to a Career in Music

Koreans have a gift for music: they do extremely well in musical competitions throughout the world. The Catholic Times tells us how a high school student Gwak Ki-ae (Theresa) won the pipe organ competition for high school students this past month. She started playing the piano at the age of 7 in the neighborhood church. After three years with no formal lessons, she took first prize in the national competition for elementary school children.

Because of her families difficult financial situation she wasn't able to take any serious piano lessons. But the remarkable ability that she showed at the piano caused the people in the neighborhood to see her as a child prodigy. She was asked to play the accompaniment for the Masses in her parish with an old organ that they received. She fell in love with the organ and went to bigger churches to use their organs. Playing the organ which required her feet along with her hands and hearing the majestic sound of the music was enough for her to turn her attention to the pipe organ. The Cathedral Parish in Chongju had an academy for organ and she decided to attend; returning home she would go to the church and push on to late hours practicing the organ. Her father found himself out of work when she was going into high school so Theresa felt that music would require too much money and decided to go into nursing.

In preparation for college she discontinued the study of organ for two years to give herself to her studies full time. However she could not extinguish the desire she had for the organ and she again went back during her third year of high school thanks to a teacher at the school. Just a few months after returning to the organ she took first place in the Taegu competition and 3rd place in the Seoul College competition for students.

She has wondered why she has had to face these difficulties in her desire to learn the organ. Her answer is that God wants to prepare her with more passion and zest in her desire to become an accomplished organist.

She is now dreaming of entering the School for Fine Arts for organ. Through the auspices of her high school teacher she has been given the opportunity to take individual lessons from a college teacher. She thanks all who have helped her and have encouraged her. She is grateful to the teacher who is giving her lessons and the family that is taking care of her in Seoul.

There are many who are in the same position as Theresa and some are not as fortunate. Theresa is getting the help necessary to follow her dream of a musical career and is very grateful to all who have made it possible.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Retired Korean Catholic Priests

The clergy in Korea for the most part are young but the old timers are having their Masses of retirement rather frequently these days. We see this at the time when new assignments are being made and in many dioceses this was recent. The age of retirement for most dioceses is 70 and for many it is still too early to rest. In Korea, society does retire their workers rather early but the Church is still one that keeps them on the rolls until they are 70.

Even though they are retired there are still many who are very active in many different works. We have men who have volunteered for the foreign missions, those who are still teaching and have there own web sites, many have just changed their place of residence.

There is one priest from Taegu who from the time he was a pastor was interested in Street Evangelizing. He started this in his parish in 1990 and has spread it to many other parishes and even to the Korean Communities overseas. At the start he had 100 or so Catholics with the same mind and trained them for two months. He printed 5000 pamphlets introducing the Church and sent the team out. They started at 12 o'clock noon and ran out of pamphlets within an hour. It gave them a strong desire to make the movement part of the way we evangelize. Let us gather to pray and go out to evangelize, was the motto of the movement.The priest is now retired but feels that he now has more time to give to street evangelizing.

This year starting from June 19th to next year June 19th is the Year for Priests. The Holy Father has hopes to see a revitalization of the priesthood and a desire for a spiritually intense new life on the part of priests throughout the world. It is the “150th anniversary of the death of the saintly 'Cure of Ars', Jean Marie Vianney". Some of the Korean retired priests are giving an example of how to be apostolic even in retirement.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Beware of Number Nine

Unlucky numbers are a part of almost all cultures. In Korea we have the number 4 which is considered unlucky; true of those countries that use Chinese Characters. Four is spelled and pronounced the same as the word for death. In Korea many hospitals do not have a 4th floor, this is true also of apartment buildings.

In the Catholic Times this week there was an article on the number 9. This is also a hand down from China. Usually you hear that when you reach the age of 19, 29, 39, you have to be careful it may not be a good year.

This year in Korea we had the death of many influential Catholics: "the death of Cardinal Kim, Kim Dae -jung, the archbishop of Taegu and many others who did not live to see the year 2010. People do not like to move on a date with a nine, or get married . If one team has 9 victories the 10th seems difficult to make. They do not want to get married on their 19th or 29th year. The multiples of 10, which are good, follow so be careful.

In the old days one could not build a house with 100 kan or larger for that was the privilege only of the king during the Chosun period. One Catholic told me he thought that the inauspiciousness of the number 9 began from this time in Korean history. We can leave the facts to the historians to uncover, it could simply be the closer you come to your goal the more you have to be careful; the digit 10 and its multiples being whole numbers are something good.

We as Catholics try to stay away from what we think is superstitious. It does harm to our way of reasoning and brings fear into our lives for no good reason. Having all these folktales, legends, "old wives' tales" to influence what we do in our daily lives is not beneficial for our mental and spiritual health and even our physical health.

The Catholic Catechism #2111: Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even effect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance , apart form the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Third World Country to a First World

One of the Maryknollers, Fr. Michael Bransfield, who died in 1989, was involved for many years with laborers and knew their problems. He wrote a book, Wrinkles in the Heart with very graphic pictures illustrating his short essays at a time when Korea was not a first world country. I have printed the introduction to the book by Stephen Cardinal Kim, the deceased Archbishop of Seoul , which will indicate why the Cardinal was so loved by those who worked for the forgotten in Society.

Michael Bransfield graduated from the University of Notre Dame, served in the United States Naval Reserves, and left a promising business career to enter the Maryknoll Seminary.

Father Bransfield came to Korea in 1959 and neither hardship nor serious illness has dimmed the love, devotion and enthusiasm he has for the Korean people, as pastor, educator, author and chaplain of the Young Christian Workers in Seoul.

His message is universal, Korea the microcosmic setting. He exhorts men of good will to exercise the charitable imperative to love the poor and spiritually enrich themselves in the process. The author, in unminced words and vivid pictures, challenges the reader to embrace the values of Christ in the clear and unequivocal terms set forth in the scriptures.

The book is not for the faint hearted. It is a holy rail against social injustice, economic inequality, and political oppression. It demonstrates the tragic consequence resulting from indifference to the oppressed people of the world as enunciated in Mater et Magistra: " It will not be possible to preserve a lasting peace so long, as these glaring economic and social inequalities persist.... We are all jointly responsible for the undernourished people" Wringles in the Heart assaults the conscience and attacks hypocrisy.

It is Christ's message unexpurgated.

We in Korea still have the problem with the 3 Ds. Work that is dirty, difficult and dangerous but now it is often in the hands of foreign workers. There has been a great deal of improvement in workers' rights although a great deal more needs to be done. The treatment of our foreign workers also has improved greatly. There is more interest in their human rights and attempts to help them both in the public and private sectors of the society.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The GoodNews portal and UCC

The Seoul Diocese has lately joined the many others in the field of User Created Content. The Catholic Internet GoodNews service has entered a new era. The Diocese feels it is late in joining this new way of interacting with their viewers but with this new beginning they see great meaning.

The diocese with the help of the other Catholic Media will have about 700 videos available for use and will be open for anyone who has Catholic material and wants to upload it to the UCC GoodNews Portal which is the largest in the Catholic Church of Korea.

They are hoping that it will be a great help in fostering many to use their talents for music, sermons, teaching plans for doctrine, making liturgical aids, teaching liturgical flower arranging and enabling religious groups to reach out to the youth in their vocation work.

In time they hope to produce "stars" through this new medium: star teachers, liturgical flower arrangers , singers, lecturers and many more that can help improve the culture in which we live.

This program will allow the Church not only to evangelize but to to shine the light of the Gospel on the culture of the times. There will always be concern on what is upoaded and there will be care made that the material is of a Catholic nature and of help to the viewers.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Korean Catholic Church and Leadership

There are many different leadership styles; they are seen in all areas of society. We have those who lead from the front, the center, and the rear. Korea is familiar with all of them but the Confucian ideas are still very strong: relationships- young and old, father and son, king and the ruled.

Some years ago I heard a lecture by one of our diocesan priests mentioning how a pastor asked the pastoral council to look into a problem and see what they could do to solve it. Nothing was done, months later he brought the issue up again, telling them it will cost a great deal of money if we do not solve it quickly, still no interest. A year or so later, I have forgotten all the facts, he told the council that he received word that they had to proceed with the project and the cost was a substantial amount of money. The priest mentioned that it was an expensive lesson for the Church to learn but he thought it was worth it. Here was someone who was leading from the rear. His hope was to educate the council and it was expensive. Some would consider this foolishness. I was surprised to see at that time this kind of leadership.

We have been hearing in recent years a great deal of team ministry, collaborative ministry servant leadership. This is far from the reality in Korea but they are talking about it. Maryknoll went through a period where this was very much a topic of conversation but our history in that area is poor. It was attempted and failed.

The Catholic Church of Korea has all kinds of leadership styles: those who feel a strong leader is what is necessary and can be considered autocratic, those who are very democratic and listen and try to get participation, those who have a hands off policy and let the community go their way, those who spend a great deal of time educating and trying to inspire the community and in recent years we are hearing a great deal of the servant leadership style. What is strange is that this style is more prominent in secular society than in the Church.

Team ministry, servant leadership are beautiful concepts but we have no great examples of success in the church, there is little to imitate. This was a topic for discussion in the different areas of our diocese some years ago but nothing ever came of it. Probably Seoul has put the most time in trying to implement the idea and will probably be the leader in the years ahead. There are many studying the concept still dreaming of the possibilities. I am sure in time they will bear fruit.