Sunday, March 17, 2013

Korean Catholic Senior Citizens

'Future change' seems to be here now, permeating our present life and doing so at super-speed, says a writer in the diocesan bulletin. Using the words of a futurist, he wants us to be conscious of this reality. If we decide to ignore what is happening, content to "walk in place," as he puts it, we will be fighting against this change and not be ready for living in the twenty-first century.

One of the big changes now is the aging of society. Economic development and scientific discoveries, along with the low birthrate, have brought this about, he says. According to the  office of government statistics, our country is already an aging society. When a country has 7 percent of the population over 65 years of age, that is the accepted sign that we are an aging society; if over 14 percent, we are called an aged-society; over 21 percent, we are called a super-aged society. Korea is one of the fastest aging societies and will be the fastest such society in 2018. In 2026, it is predicted to reach the super-aged society.

Compared to other societies, it will take us less time to reach an aged-society, the writer believes. It took France 115 years to go  from an aging society to an aged-society. Sweden in 1973 became the first aged-society; it took them 85 years for that to happen. Japan took 26 years; He believes it will take Korea only 18 years.

What does this mean for the Catholic Church in Korea? he asks. The Church has already gone ahead of society in becoming aged. Church statistics in 2011 showed that the aging of Church members was 4.5 percent higher than society at large. In 2022, over 30 percent of Catholics will be more than 65 years old. This means that the numbers of  the zealous and dependable parishioners will be in this group, and if they are excluded as active members of the Church because of age, we will have difficulty finding those who will do volunteer work in the Church.
If this group of the aged is going to be a concern of the community, as needing the care of the community, then there will be serious problems for the community to continue its pastoral work and services. It is even now difficult to find laity who are willing to be members of the parish council, or leaders of the small communities, or members of parish societies, and become involved in parish work. It will also be difficult to find women able to help out in the parish, as they have done so generously in the past because of work outside the home. With these likely future problems close at hand, it is easy to see what the church will be faced with in a short period of time.

The Church has spent money and time in determining how to work with the young; it is now time to see the aged as a pastoral concern. Up until now, it has not been an issue, but this will soon change. Priests will have to be educated in this area of pastoral work while still in the seminary. For those in pastoral work, we will need seminars and educational programs to help change how we currently see and respond to our senior citizens. 

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