Friday, June 25, 2010

Fr. John Edward Morris, Maryknoller

An article in the July issue of the Kyeong-Hyang Magazine introduces us to the first Korean Religious Order established in Korea: the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, founded by Fr. John Edward Morris. He was a Maryknoll priest who was sent to Korea in 1923, a difficult time in Korean Church history; he was made the Ordinary of the diocese in 1930. We are told that he was the first one to have seminars for lay people with interest in mission work and had helped many in his diocese overcome the difficulties of living in a country occupied by the Japanese.

He started a monthly magazine, "Catholic Studies," to encourage the work of evangelization, and improve the way the diocese and the parishes were run. He was also instrumental in giving hope and a long-overdue sense of empowerment to Catholic Korean women.

Right from the beginning, the Sisters were exposed to Continual Lectio Divina: regular study and reading of the scriptures. This was their charism, and they continued with this dependence on Scripture in their many works, guided by the words of Luke 18:41: "Lord, that I may see."

Wanting to know more about their founder, the Congregation sent a representative to Rome to gather whatever information was available, but learned that the time for release of the material has not arrived. So the Sisters will have to wait to see what the documents covering that period in Korea will reveal about Fr. Morris. .

Since Father Morris was ordered to resign by the Superior General of Maryknoll in 1936, there has been on-going discussions on what really happened during that turbulent time, when the "rites controversy," a complicated issue, was being hotly debated. Missioners were on both sides of the issue, intensifying the problem, a problem that led to the resignation. It was not an action initiated by the Vatican but rather by Maryknoll because of the dissension among Maryknollers in Korea. It was an attempt to bring peace and harmony back to the diocese.

At the funeral Mass for Fr. Morris, Fr. Sheridan, who knew him well, said that Fr. Morris, "Never sought to be vindicated but some day, please God, it will come about and perhaps soon." That would be a welcomed and long-awaited gift to the congregation he brought into being so long ago.

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