Monday, March 5, 2018

New Challenges of Family LIfe

Marriage Encounter (ME), was introduced to Korea in the early 1990s and grew rapidly but recently, difficult to maintain as a parish organization. ME meetings are held once a month but few couples attend and it's difficult to find leaders. Getting couples to participate in the weekend programs is also difficult. Sadly, the movement that's done much as a guide for married couples to grow in love for one another is now in decline.

An article in the Catholic Times by a parish priest describes the problems faced in the pastoral work.  Looking at this one reality of the Marriage Encounter Movement he realizes how much change we are experiencing. According to the data of the National statistical office in 2016, one person families in Korea accounted for 27.2 % of the total families. Followed by 26.1 % for two-person households, 21.5% for three person households, and 18.8 % for four-person households.

As the number of single person households spread and the YOLO (You Only Live Once life) style of living and philosophy spreads, values and consumption patterns change. This is the trend of the times. New words appear: eating alone, drinking alone,  watching movies alone, traveling alone and playing alone and are no longer strange to our ears.

We have those who no longer consider marriage necessary, the happy single person who selects the single life, and the not so noble single person who doesn't want the burden of children. Many are single because of divorce, separation, families that live separately for the education of the children, elderly people living alone, and those who have lost their spouses because of death and those who have no choice but to live alone. Living alone in the past was an abnormal situation but what was abnormal has become the norm.

Lifestyles of the single person living alone are many and varied. We have those who are connected with others but not relationally or socially. They dislike collectivism, delays, and making contacts with others, they choose voluntary isolation. Happiness and comfort are great values. Another type would pursue individual value and at the same time desire community and constantly try to connect with others by means of SNS.

Pastoral care of the family is difficult. The Church has generally divided the family of four into the normal and abnormal and been mainly concerned with the normal family. However, we need a new pastoral policy to work with the one person family. We need to remember that there are many who are comfortable living alone but want to be connected with others and long to join a community and do not because they don't know how to go about it. The church needs to recognize this and work to make their communities open and welcoming to these one-person families.

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