Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Catholic Lay Movements in Korea

A lay theologian writing in the Kyeongyang magazine introduces us  to a number of lay movements within the Church that have not followed the examples of the religious orders but are working within society, living a new type of spirituality. The article briefly sketches four of these communities working in Korea.

The Women Lay Auxiliaries of the Missions was founded in Belgium, in1937, by Yvonne Poncelet, with the help of Fr. Vincent Lebbe, a missioner in China. The spirit of the movement is focused on Gospel values: a giving of oneself to others, with complete love and always with joy, both as an individual and as a member of a community. Their faith life beckoned them to enter society, and whatever society they entered, they sought to assimilate its culture and its way of thinking so they could express God's love and evangelize and liberate using the cultural guidelines the people were familiar with.

!956 was the year they entered Korea and from the very beginning, they have been running a boardinghouse for women college students. They have established welfare centers in many areas where they offer adult education and lectures on the culture.  In 1970 they began to accept as members unmarried women, men and couples.

The Focalare Movement, started in 1943 by Chiara Lubich (1920-2008), a young college student from  Northern Italy, was intent on putting into practice the gospel message that "God is love," and with a small group of friends began helping the poor of the city devastated by war. In a very short time, the movement spread to 184 countries and entered  Korea in 1969. Members take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They are composed of single men, women and families.

Based on the ideal of unity that belongs to Christianity, members try to understand other religions, respect  their values and  peacefully live with them. This is the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. They realize that love resides in the heart of all, just like the heart that beats within all of us. With the expression of that love made manifest in society, they believe society can be changed.

Each year in different countries there are Mariapolises, where the members come together to experience the Gospel teachings, to discuss the movement and spirituality. This lasts only a few days, but they also have a permanent Mariapolis, in Loppiano, Italy, where 800 people from 70 countries live peacefully together, and yet have different languages, different beliefs and customs--a living testament of what is possible with the human family. The Mariapolis model has spread to other countries.

Catholic members from Germany, together with Protestant members, have gone to Africa to work with different tribes to help them to trust and work together. These experiments are also going on in other parts of the world, showing that the Gospel message can be lived in trying circumstances.

The Taize Community, an ecumenical movement  was started in 1940 by Brother Roger, in his mother's homeland France, in the area of Taize.  Because he saved Jews during the war, he was expelled from France to Switzerland. which was his country of origin. It was during this period that he gathered together those who wanted to live his form of community life. He returned to Taize in 1944, and in 1949 there were 7 who decided they were going to live the celibate life together.

In 1977, Cardinal Kim, while in Hong Kong, met Brother Roger living in a slum area, and was instrumental in establishing the movement in Korea. In September of this year they had a meeting of young people from East Asia, sponsored by the Taize brothers, a meeting for reconciliation and truth. These ecumenical meetings have spread to other cities.

In 1986, when John Paul visited Taize, he said "Taize is like a fountain. The pilgrim comes, for a short period, satisfies his thirst and moves on. The brothers of the community with prayer and silence and drinking the waters that Jesus promised have  tasted God's joy, experienced his presence, answered his call, and give proof to the love of God in their  parishes, schools, and places of work, living  in service to their brothers and sisters."

The Saint' Egidio Community, started in Rome in 1968 by Andrea Riccardi and  two of his high school friends, who began by helping  the poor in the area in which they lived.  Like the apostles, they  begged our Lord to teach them how to pray. Each of the members, in the evening, leave their families and places of work  to meet and pray together, strengthening their bonds  and committing themselves to live according to Gospel ideals.

The community is currently in 73 countries and has over 50,000 members. Even if they do not  promise to become a member, they can be friends of the movement. One of the goals of the movement is to work for the abolition of capital punishment,  They have served as arbiters between countries, helped to promote dialogue and reconciliation between people from different cultures, and are  helping to eradicate Aids in Africa. They were  invited to North Korea to begin a soup kitchen for the needy young and old.

The community arrived in Korea in 2013 and offered their first Mass at the Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine in Seoul. It began with 20 members. Every second Wednesday during  the month they meet for a prayer meeting, and every first and third Saturday of the month give their time, either individually or as a group, providing necessary services in their area.

Although these movements are independent of each other, they are made up of mature Christians dedicated to doing the same selfless work for the Church. In Korea there are also some home grown movements, the article points out: the "Village on the Mountain," and' the "Living like Jesus Community." The Gospel message is one unifying message, but the laypeople in these movements are showing us different aspects and colors of the Gospel that will give more light to more people.

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