The number of foreign missioners in Korea continues to decrease. Korea no longer needs the help of the foreigners, and is sending her own missioners to many parts of the world. Recently, the Seoul Diocesan Council of Priests has set up a program for the treatment of old foreign missioners who remain in Korea.
An editorial in the Catholic Times reports on the decision to give these old foreign missioners, who choose not to return to their country, and have worked in the diocese for over 10 years, a place to stay and living expenses. The essence of the decision is to make the life of the retired missioners comfortable in Korea. This, says the editorial is a change, and welcomes and applauds the move.
The editorial mentions that the Church has been able to grow the way it has because of the help given by the foreign missioners in the past. The Paris Foreign Missioners came to Korea in the beginning to spread the faith when they knew they would face the threat of martyrdom by the knife. After them came the Maryknoll Fathers and Columban Fathers, who both materially and spiritually gave unstintingly to the Church. Especially after the Korean War they were instrumental in supplying the hungry Koreans with something to eat.
These missionary societies in contrast to the Korean Church have become weaker and have fewer members than was the reality when they came to Korea. The missioners have become old and infirm, they have not been replaced and their work has been curtailed. The Seoul Diocesan plan to help these missioners is a way of remembering what they have done, and showing the Korean Church's gratitude for their many years of work.
In God's providence the Church of Korea has benefited from the work of the foreign missioner and now is the time for the Church to return this in care for the old missioners.This is a grace that the Church is able to show to these old missioners. Sharing is of the essence of what Church should mean. The decision of the Seoul Diocese in regards to these old missioners is welcomed.
The missioners have not only worked in Seoul but in other parts of the country. Each diocese, the editorial hopes, according to their needs and capacity, will follow the example of the Seoul Diocese.
Many of the dioceses have without any formal programs or decisions shown concern for the old missioners. Here in Gyodong, where the writer of this blog lives, has been benefiting from the largess of the Inchon Diocese for the last eight years. Many other dioceses have without any formal decisions and programs shown concern for the old missioners. Retired missioners in the present Church benefit from the work of the missioners of the past, who worked in difficult circumstances and now those who are old and infirm are receiving the love and gratitude of our Korean Christians with whom we live and work.