Thursday, January 14, 2010
On Tuesday of this week, in a large indoor gymnasium, the diocese of Incheon ordained 22 deacons to the priesthood. This is the largest number of priests' ordained for the diocese in their history of 50 years, which they will celebrate next year.
Actually the number of priests ordained were 27 because 5 religious priests were ordained at the same time. During the ceremony 18 deacons were ordained for the diocese and one as a religious. This means next year we will, with God's grace, have 17 new priests.
The question is asked will this continue? Why is Korea different from other countries in the East or even from the States? These are not questions one can answer knowledgeably. It is a fact that Korea continues to do well even with the prosperity that the country has achieved. Many thought that this would not be the case. Those who showed an interest in the priesthood and wanted to enter the new class starting in March from Inchon was well over 30. Only 12 were accepted, because the grades in the college entrance exams were not considered high enough for the seminary. This does show the interest is there and in the next few years we will have about 1o ordained each year.
The respect for the priesthood and the Catholic Church in Korea is strong. When Cardinal Kim died, his last words: “Thank you, we have to cherish each other,” were heard and seen in many different situations in Korean society . Cardinal Kim's successor Cardinal Cheong was selected as the most influential religious leader in Korea last year. This all helps the standing of the Church in Korea, and would add to a climate in which Catholic young men, who have a love for the Church, would find naturally attractive and a help in making their decision for the priesthood.
As an example of this respect the priest would have even among some Protestants, the pastor of our parish, with whom I went by car to the ordinations, stopped for a meal on the way to the 2:oo pm ceremony. The owner of the restaurant, a Protestant, took payment for my meal but the pastor got his on the house. This motivation of respect received, is certainly not very high, as motivations go, but one believes the ten years required before ordination would be sufficient time to purify the motivation to one worthy of a disciples of Jesus.