Saturday, June 26, 2010

Preparing for the 50th Anniversary

The diocese of Incheon will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary next year, and it was a sign of the maturity of the diocese and the need to manage the many works of the diocese that Rome finally appointed an auxiliary.

The Cardinal of Seoul, in his congratulatory speech, praised the work of Maryknoll Bishop McNaugton (retired bishop of Incheon) for his many years of service to the diocese. Back in 1961, there were only 9 parishes and 23,169 Catholics; today there are 113 parishes and 437,621 Catholics, making Incheon the 4th largest diocese in Korea. When the diocese was established there were no Korean priests, today there are 260. Since Bishop Mc Naughton was not present, the Cardinal asked us all to clap loud enough for the Bishop to hear us in the States.

The head of the Bishops Conference gave a congratulatory talk that was far from the staid and conventional speech that you would expect on such an occasion. It shows that Bishops can surprise even in Korea.

He began with a joke. A lay man went to heaven and was met by St. Peter who, without much ado, let him enter. Soon after, a Relgious Sister arrived and Peter gave her a bouquet of flowers. And then a bishop arrived and there was an orchestra to greet him. The lay man spoke to St. Peter about the unfairness of the receptions. He thought heaven would be different and was annoyed at the discrimination. St. Peter explained that this bishop was the first one they had seen in 100 years.

He went on in this vein telling us that when a person becomes a general in the armed forces, he has 80 or more things that change for him. Becoming a bishop also means many changes: a red cassock and hat, a miter, a ring, gloves, and a shepherd's staff--to keep his fingers busy--a driver, a secretary, and the best places at events.

He concluded his talk by reminding us of St. Ignatius' example of the two standards: Jesus and Satan. On one side, poverty contempt and humility; on the other side, riches, honor and pride. Sometimes, it's difficult, he said, to distinguish under which standard one is working. He congratulated the new bishop and asked him to be sure to check which standard we (the bishops) are working under. Let us make sure it's not every hundred years that a bishop gets to heaven.

Not taking ourselves too seriously and being able to laugh at ourselves is not out of place even at a bishop's consecration. The bishop made it clear to the new bishop what his priorities should be in a humorous but effective way. These are also what our values should be as disciples of Jesus.