Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mission Stations In Korea

Mission stations--areas of a parish without a priest living with the Christians-- are an important part of Korean Catholic history, with more than 800 mission stations currently established in the country. In the early days of Korean Catholicism most of the country would have been  mission station territory, and the priest would come to visit once or twice a year.Today with good transportation the mission stations would have frequent visits, and many would be weekly visits. In some mission stations they would even have the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the chapels. The catechist in charge of  the mission station would be responsible for the liturgy on Sundays and Holy Day's of Obligation, and if the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, also distribute communion.

A woman missioner, writing in the Incheon Diocesan Bulletin, gives her impressions of life in one of these mission stations when she served as the person responsible to the parish for the running of the station. A priest visiting the station asked her, "How long have you been here?" She answered, surprising herself with her answer, "20 years." 

She was originally a Seoulite and lived the ordinary parish life when she met a young man who had graduated from the school of theology. After romance and marriage, they became a missionary team, living in a mission station far from any city, in the backwoods of Korea. And were soon to wake up from the dreams they had of the romantic rural life.

The first night they arrived at a place without a house. The Christians hastily found an empty room in the village to put their luggage. She was so upset by the situation, flustered and fearful, she wanted to return to Seoul. The room, having been empty for so long, had the smell of mold, dampness and tobacco; liquor bottles were strewn all over the floor. How was she to live in such a place? was the only thing she could think of. That night she cried, feeling resentment toward her husband, who expressed his sorrow for bringing her to such a place. That night she began to see what the life a missioner would be.

Missioner is still understood by most Koreans as  foreigners working in the country. Lay persons doing missionary work are few; because they are so few, knowledge of them would be rare. She mentions a group of over 30 who have graduated from the Seoul Catholic School of Theology; they come together to encourage and to help each other.
Lay missioners do not have any security, official recognition, or status like the clergy or religious, for they  take the work upon themselves.  Wouldn't  they be fools for Christ? she asks.
Most of these missioners worked in the remote areas of the country and in difficult surroundings. Today they are found in the cities, working among the poor in resettlement areas and welfare facilities. 

An epilogue would not be out of place here explaining the difficulties that lay missioners, like our husband and wife team, have had in Korea because of the status of clergy and religious sisters in the country. Our lay missioner was too kind to mention that the lack of preparation at the mission station was possibly due to the unwelcoming  mindset of the Christians there. Often, after the mission station has been run for many years internally, there will be resistance to the arrival of an outsider taking charge.  Change from the benign control of the pastor to the daily hands-on control of  lay missioners is no easy transition for many to accept.

No comments:

Post a Comment