Today being Mission Sunday, the desk columnist of the Catholic Times recalls a trip to Ireland two years ago to trace the history of the monasteries of that country.
The word 'Ireland,' she says, is enough to bring to mind the Missionary Society of the Columban Fathers, which this year is commemorating their 80th year in Korea. They have been valiant workers in the missionary work of Korea and helped in setting up the scaffolding for future missionary endeavors in Korea.
Curious about the beginnings of the Society of St. Columban, she traveled to the Columban headquarters in Dalgan Park, Navan, about one hour from Dublin. The building is on a large stretch of grassland, and from 1960 to 1970 was the home to over 200 seminarians; today only 40 are living there, including missioners who have retired and returned to their homeland. The missioners who had worked in Korea were deeply moved by the visitors from Korea. It reminded the desk columnist of what a girl after marriage might experience when returning to visit her family after many years. The visitors were treated to a Mass celebrated in Korean, which was appreciated.
Fr. Brendan Hoban, who spent many years in Korea, led them on a ten minute walk to the Society's cemetery, where he went to the grave sites of those who had worked in Korea, putting a white ribbon on their graves. When it was time to go, Fr. Brendan sorrowfully bid goodbye to the visitors, telling them that during his years in Korea he received more then he gave.
The Columban missioners did a great deal to help build up the community of Christians in Korea, and for the last 30 years our own missioners have been sent throughout the world in gratitude for what they have received. However, she feels that although the Korean Church knows the importance of mission, it is still thought to be, she asserts, a task mostly left to other countries. The Church as a whole, she believes, has not taken the work of mission to heart and prepared a viable structure to promote the work financially and with educational programs. "The task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church" (#14 of Evangeli Nuntiandi).
Mission will enable the Korean Church to expand our vision, she says, and at the same time be the dynamic force for a more fruitful faith life. Let us remember the many missioners that have come to Korea to help in the work of evangelization, and in gratitude do our share to evangelize, knowing that with the energy that comes with the new evangelization, we will grow in maturity and vitality.