Cultural evangelization was the lead article in this week's Peace Weekly. The development of the whole person has been a concern of many parishes in recent years. The dictionary meaning of culture is: the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties, especially by education. The article would like to see the Church take more interest in helping their members develop these cultural pursuits in order to bring about better communication with the larger community outside the Church.
The Church in the past gave witness to the Gospel by focusing its interest in medicine, education, welfare, and human rights; now it's time to give witness to the Gospel by focusing more on culture. Recent efforts to do this have proven successful.
Programs in many parishes are varied and mostly free. One parish in Seoul has talks on playing the organ, flower arranging, learning Chinese Characters, calligraphy, sign language, acupuncture, photography, and the tea ceremony, among others. Another parish has talks on philosophy, art, and the raising of children; ordinarily, these programs are a big financial burden for the individuals, but they are being offered to all completely free.
There are parishes with musical concerts weekly. One parish presented a musical that was attended by over 700-- all were welcomed. There are public concerts with very high standards, presenting the best in the musical field both from inside and outside the country. The ticket prices are much less than you would pay in a concert hall.
Many parish libraries are also open to all, with movie DVDs and free lending service. Some parishes have small art galaries and small theaters where plays and musicals are presented continually.
These are some of the ways the Catholic community is attempting to communicate with the larger community outside the Church. Many without any religion come easily to these events, opening a door for them should they be interested in the Church. It has also proven helpful in getting those who have fallen away from the Church to return. It is a method of evangelization that will be used more often now that the interest in the Church is less than in the past. The efforts of Church workers were not as necessary since people then were coming to the Church on their own initiative. This is much less the case today.
The wealthier and larger parishes in the city are doing well with this kind of evangelization; smaller, poorer parishes are not as open to this type of evangelization. It requires a long term commitment of people and resources which some of the smaller parishes have difficulty accepting.
The Church has always been interested in whatever makes for a more fulfilled life, and music--traditionally a pursuit which has served to provide this fulfillment for many--has been an important part of Catholic life. Our churches have been veritable art museums for the world, and education has been close to the heart of Catholicism. This interest in the culture is a simple outgrowth of the sacramental way of looking at life. Since direct evangelization has not been as successful as in the past, the efforts at the indirect will likely be more common in the future.