Thursday, February 16, 2012

Special Works have their Own Attraction

Catholicism in Korea has enough priests and religious to help solve some of the problems in our society, reports a columnist for the Peace Weekly. Many of them are in mass media, the maritime apostolate, working with the handicapped and migrants, providing assistance in overseas Korean communities, and in many other activities. The columnist, assigned to the worker's apostolate in his diocese after  returning from pastoral work with a Korean parish in Vietnam, reflects on what this has meant to him.

The work with laborers in Korea has a high priority and his assignment, coming  unexpectedly, left him dazed. He had spent two years as an assistant priest before going overseas for work in the Korean parish in Vietnam. Parish work is varied and challenging, and he envied his classmates when they talked about their parishes.

As an assistant he was busy with a very tight schedule: preparing the liturgy and sermons, visiting with parishioners, lecturing, interviewing; he  felt he was not always in control of his time.  

His special pastoral work has many different aspects: going to an office, having to follow a work-shift--all this going and coming were strange experiences for him. Sitting at a  desk was awkward, and the number of Masses and meetings were few. He was physically comfortable, but there were many restraints in  the work which bothered him. He was not busy like  a parish priest, and though he could go mountain climbing, if he wanted, on Saturdays, being creative in his work did not come easy.

Unlike working in a parish, he would interact not only with Catholics but with activists from the  different segments of society, which was often awkward. They did not always see the  problems facing the workers in the same way he did. His values, justice and love, were not always their values, but when he could meet the workers in their place of work and talk with them, all changed. This gave him great satisfaction in being able to bring the concern of the Church to these poor and alienated workers.

When he saw the acute difficulties that some of the workers were facing, he felt helpless and wanted to run.  However, in these painful circumstances of injustice the laborers had to face, he knew he was not only representing the Church but could act in a pastoral way as a priest.

Looking over his new assignment, quite different from a parish in which he was always busy and pressed for time, this opportunity to be in control of his time, while being of service, had its own attraction.

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