Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mission Is More than Doing

The Columban Foreign Mission Society is the only Catholic religious society in Korea, except for the  Protestants, that sends lay people overseas as missioners. The Columbans usually send unmarried lay people, but three years ago they accepted a married couple, Stephen and Veronica, who have just returned from their assignment in Chile. The "'Here and Now" Catholic news website profiles the couple.

Stephen had graduated from the Naval Academy, and after a brief stint in the navy worked for a year fixing electrical signs and CCTV cameras to gain experience of the life outside the navy.  He soon met his future wife; they were both members of a parish in Taegu where Stephen was very active. Veronica, also a faithful Catholic, said her faith was only of the head, her heart felt empty--until she met her future husband. Since they were of one mind, they were thinking of marriage but first checked the internet for opportunities to do mission work, and discovered  the Columban Father's website.They were told by the Columban Fathers that it would be better to marry first before signing up for mission work, which they did.
They began their formation as missioners by taking a course of instruction for nine months that was far from easy. They studied theology, received  pastoral experience with abused women, bereaved families and aids patients. They attended seminars and a clinical, pastoral education program which helped them to understand themselves better in order to be more effective in helping others. To allow for a more natural feedback experience, each of them took the programs separately. Veronica felt that even if she did not go to the missions, this period of instruction was extremely important for her personally.

Their mission assignment in Chile was not easy. Shortly after arriving, Veronica gave birth to a son. She went  through a period of culture shock. The relationships with the other lay missioners was at times awkward, feeling on the outside, but it was all a learning process. Their work was with the young people and although their language ability was poor, they realized that being a missioner is not only doing things but that their living as a family was a means of teaching. They also were being evangelized by what they were doing. The work of a missioner, they realized, is more living the Christlike life than preaching the good news.

They have returned to Taegu and are preparing for another 3-year period of mission work in Chile. They have no money set aside but have a great deal of trust in what Jesus said, "Your heavenly Father knows all that you need. Seek first his kingship over you, his way of holiness, and all these things will be given you besides" (Matthew 6:32).

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