Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lowering the Walls between Dioceses

Not all parishes and mission stations in Korea are self supporting and independent of outside help. You have mega parishes , but also the small communities that work to supplement their income coming from collections , Mass stipends and free will offerings-- reality in many small country parishes and mission stations in rural Korea.

Many Maryknollers stationed in rural areas benefited by help given them by wealthier parishes. These poorer communities would visit city parishes to sell their farm goods: pumpkins, sweet potatoes, turnips, peppers and the like. They would make the rounds of parishes that would welcome them. The rectory and church of the mission station where I am in residence was built by parishioners selling farm goods and sea laver in city parishes.

On occasions you have city pastors going to country parishes of another diocese to work and realizing for the first time how high the walls are that divide the dioceses from one another. One pastor, with many years experience in Seoul, wrote about his experience of working in a poor country parish, and concluded that the concern for the poorer areas of the country should be a concern of the wealthier parishes.

He recalls the day he received a telephone call from a priest from another diocese telling him that some members of his pastoral council were planning to visit. On their arrival he was surprised to see the visiting priest had attended the same seminary. The pastor of the country parish was more surprised, however, hearing that the visitors would have a second collection once a month and deliver it personally to the poorer parishes in the country.

The smallest diocese in Korea has about 46,000 Catholics and 73 priests in 36 parishes. About half the diocese makes their living from farming and the other half makes a living offering services to the farmers. It is dioceses of this type that need help to develop.

One of the signs of our Catholicism is unity. The country pastor dreams of the day when this would be more visible in church life. It is important to have concern for one's own diocese, but this still can be done with more efforts in equality of Catholic growth throughout the country. The Church's social principles of 'solidarity' and 'common good' could be applied in this area of Catholic Life.