Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Family Atmosphere In Parishes Far From Korea

Before coming to Korea, I worked briefly for the society in mission promotion, and one of the tasks was to visit parishes. I can recall visiting one town with a population of only 10,000 and yet it had six or seven parishes, one being the territorial parish, the others were ethnic parishes. This situation is changing today because of the lack of priests and acceptance of multiculturalism.

Change from ethnic to territorial parishes is an ongoing process in the United States; it was because of these ethnic parishes that entrance into American life was made much easier for many Catholics, and served to keep them in the Church.  It gave many a home away from home and friends to help them make the transition to life in the United States.

The life of the ethnic parishes was less trying on the immigrants because they were associating with others with a common background and culture. Here in Korea practically all the parishes, obviously, are ethnic parishes that  happen to be territorial parishes because we have so few Catholic immigrants. When this is the case the spirit of a parish is much more like a family and the demands on the parish staff would be much greater than when you have many different nationalities forming a community. Most of the parishes even today would have two Religious Sisters working in the community.

This week's Peace Weekly reports on a parish that is celebrating their 18th year as a parish, with 22 different events within a period of five days. There will be a scripture memory tournament, a music concert, fun and games for the children, athletic contests and many other events.

One of the events was called the Sincerity Game, with the priest and sister taking questions from the Christians on any subject. Both the sister and priest were presented with a Bible at the start of the session by one of the parishioners (intent on getting a few laughs) and both had to promise to speak the truth. The session lasted for almost two hours with  all kinds of questions; from start to finish the hall was filled with laughter. Some of the questions asked what life was like being a priest and sister, and there were also questions that suggested some dissatisfaction with the way the parish was run. But there was no question that all had a good time and experienced the event as harmonious and peaceful.

The Korean Catholics are familiar only with this type of community. When they emigrate to another country, they want to maintain this camaraderie which they would not ordinarily find in the territorial parishes. The bishops would like them to join the parishes already established but this would be asking a great deal of the Catholics. At present, the priests from Korea are taking care of these ethnic parishes, and as long as Korea is blessed with an abundance of priests, there should not be any problems.

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