Friday, June 10, 2011

Paris Foreign Mission Society's Example

"That the Church of  Korea developed with the help of the Paris Foreign Missionary Society is a joy. Along with this help, the zealousness of the Korean Church enabled them to quickly grow to maturity."

These are the words of Fr. George Colomb, Superior General of the Paris Foreign Missionary Society, quoted in an article in the Catholic Weekly. Referring to his visit to Korea for the 100th anniversary of the Taegu diocese, he said that Korean Catholicism impressed him for its youthfulness and vitality and the desire of many to live the Christ-like life.

He was presented with a plaque of thanksgiving to the Society for providing the foundation that allowed the Church here to prosper. The first bishops of Taegu were members of the Paris Foreign Mission Society, and still today in Taegu there is a strong bond with the French missioners. And this relationship continues with many of the Korean priests who are studying in Europe, staying  with the French missioners at their Society House. Recently, a priest from the Suwon Diocese, wanting to become an associate priest of the Society, is now in France to fulfill that intention.

The Society, established toward the end of the 17th century, was given instructions for its founding by Rome's Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.  It is not a religious order but a society of secular priests, which was the model for the founding, more than two centuries later, of the Maryknoll Society.

In 1831 there were only 30 Paris Foreign Missioners but when the Korean Church, needing priests, asked for help from Rome the French missioners were sent. In all, 170 French missioners were sent to Korea; 25 were martyred and 10 of them are listed    with the 103 Korean saints. The French missioners during the difficult years of persecution built seminaries and prepared the programs to educate the Korean clergy.

Fr. Colombo, seeing the trials of the Vietnam refugees because of their religion, was shocked and, putting aside his aspiration for a legal career, decided then to become a priest and entered the seminary. He was elected last year to be the superior of the Society. 

Maryknoll has  been indebted to the Paris Foreign Missioners for  help in starting the work in Korea. This year we celebrate the  100th anniversary of  founding;  a time  for looking back in gratefulness to the French missioners for their help in making this celebration possible.

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