Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Church's Desire to Get Closer to the People

Pastoral work, if it is to be effective, often demands the 'moving of feet' and 'having the smell of sheep.' The priests of the Seoul diocese have heard these phrases and have decided to make them a part of their lives. This new approach to pastoral work by the Seoul diocese was written up in both Catholic papers; the Peace Weekly devoted an editorial to the new approach.

The diocese made some changes after their synod in 2000-2003. And before that, changes were made in the operation of the deaneries, with the goal of making them the center of diocesan pastoral work. The Seoul diocese has close to a million and half Catholics, and 775 priests in 229 parishes. One-third of the country's Catholics and one-fourth of the priests are in the Seoul diocese, which is a continuing incentive for the diocese to simplify the ministry and to make it more efficient. They will be an example on how to move closer to the people.

The reason for the reorganization is the archbishop's desire for more open communication with his priests, and the priests with their congregations.  Communication is "what it's all about," the archbishop has stressed on many occasions. The central administration has also been reorganized to be simpler and more efficient.

One of the more noteworthy changes proposed is to make the position of the dean a full time responsibility, with no parish obligations but working together with the priests in the deanery in efforts to be closer to the people, and help them in their pastoral work. He will be living in the deanery, and be given the authority to function as a bridge with the Ordinary and to make changes in the personnel of the deanery.

The deans will meet once a month to talk about the progress being made, and the results of this interchange will be shared with the members of each deanery. This decentralizing of the work of the diocese should help the deaneries bring the message of Jesus to more people and in a deeper way.

The efforts to improve the pastoral structures have been going on for many years, and with these recent changes the place of the deaneries in the pastoral work of the Church has now entered another stage. The rest of the country will be watching to see the results. The Korean Church has been blessed with many vocations to the priesthood, which allows a country like Korea to dream big and attempt changes other local churches have no possibility of imitating because of a lack of clergy. That the Church is wise enough to take advantage of the blessings they have received to be creative and more pastoral is something that should be applauded.

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