Monday, March 18, 2013

Korean Catholic Church's Overseas Missions

During the general meeting of the Seoul diocesan priests, the topic receiving the most discussion was how to find ways of shortening the time assistant priests have to wait before becoming pastors. A priest who is pastor of the Bishops Committee for Missionary Work Overseas expresses his opinion on the topic in a recent issue of the Peace Weekly dealing with the encyclical of Pius XII, Fidei Donum, which called on bishops to face the challenges of the universal mission of the Church by making priests available to other continents.

Answering  the call of the Pope to go to mission countries, he says, may be the answer for those priests who feel their talents are not being effectively used by the home church. He was saddened, he said, to learn of the large number of priests who are frustrated and not able to do what they feel capable of doing as assistants.

The pastor had himself spent six years as a missioner in Chile, where there were over 4 million Catholics in his diocese. In the year he returned to Korea, the diocese in Chile had only one ordination to the priesthood. Today, two-thirds of the priests in Central and South America can be called Fidei Donum priests, but most of them are now elderly.

About 200 priests, religious and lay people from Korea are now working as missioners in Central and South America, where the work is often difficult.  One priest has 60 mission stations to take care of. Over 80 missioners are in Africa, where they are exposed to malaria  and a rugged life. Others work in South Asia, Oceania, Europe, and in other parts of the world. Those who return have a soft spot for mission work and do miss the time spent in these countries, despite the difficulties.

The priest uses his writing to recruit volunteers for these mission countries, but is aware that the allure of materialism tends to corrupt our way of thinking, making us content to live the easy life and to justify it--reliving the faults of the Pharisees recorded in the scriptures. So when a priest becomes  a Fidei Donum priest, we should all rejoice; the diocese will be blessed, and new life will be born.

In order to encourage the process, the diocese has to invest money in the education of these priests and  have programs to facilitate the study of languages. He tells those interested that they will experience the help of God in language learning, and not to fear the study of  languages. Financial help also needs to be given overseas because these areas of the world are often very poor. He ends by promising those who do become Fidei Donum priests that they will be rewarded many times over for their labors on behalf of the poor in the most needy countries of the world.


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