Korea Turns To Us
TN every part of Korea today IN are coming to the Church as never before. Their numbers are limited only by the number of priests and catechists available to instruct them. This may be a foretaste of what happens to a country which has lived under Communism and then been freed.
have talked to missionaries and native Korean priests in North, South, East and West and the story has everywhere been the same. And it is hacked by the figures for baptisms and for catechumens which priests have shown me.
They reveal a sharply rising trend over the past few years, each of which has been up to a significant degree on the year before. The movement is taking on a snowball character. The moment of opportunity is now. Either it will be grasped and used to the full or it will be lost.
For it is now, whilst their suffering and bereavements are so fresh in their minds, whilst the work of the Catholic Church on their behalf is still apparent for all to see, whilst the names of the Church's martyrs arc still on their tongues, that Koreans are examining our claims, and comparing our Faith with their own paganism. The result is a flow of converts and the growth of a Catholic community new in the Faith and rich in fervour. It is making life exciting indeed for the missionary in Korea.
THE role of the lay catechist in all this is an impressive one. The missionary's approach to pagans is restricted by his race and his limited knowledge of their language. But the lay catechist (who works for a tiny wage, making it up through the generosity of the faithful), bridges the gap. They do it magnificently.
I have often written in this column of the need for our own laity to be "convert-minded." Here in Korea that state of mind, that approach to men in general, is developed to a wonderful degree.
The full-time catechists have it, as is to be expected, but so have the laity in general too. Outstandingly successful is "Old Paul," the catechist down in Mokpo, in the extreme South-West, whom mentioned last week as having twice been condemned to death by the Communists. He had already seen Mokpo's three Columban Fathers, Mgr. Brennan, Fr. Cusack and Fr. John O'Brien taken off by the Reds to die, Old Paul has influenced nearly 6,000 converts in the 40 years he has been a catechist, playing some direct part in the conversion of each one of them, either by starting them off on the road to the Church or by helping them in their instruction after they had already taken it. Between them the catechists are well fitted to handle the various types of pagans who are now coming to them with questions about God, the soul and after life and to which they are demanding answers. They are people who know their Faith and, simple though most of them are by our sophisticated standards, have their own extraordinarily successful ways of getting it over to others. The secret of their success is to be found in their hearts as well as in their heads.
For 50 rents . .
UP in Song Jong Ri, North of Mokpo. Fr. Frank Mangan, an Australian member of the Society of St. Columban, told me how people there, as elsewhere, are coming asking for instruction in greater numbers than he and his three catechists can handle.
Large numbers have to be put off, because he cannot afford to employ more catechists even at the small sum required to meet their most elementary needs. Experience shows that each addi
tional catechist would bring in at least another 100 converts a year.
"For 50 cents (approximately 3s.) a day," he said, "we could claim another 100 souls for God each year." That is something to ponder.
BECAUSE I am on the move the .1-)whole of the time with almost every minute booked, this column has to be started in one place. continued in a second and possibly finished in a third. For the past week I have spent the larger part of each day bumping in ancient jeeps along rough roads, among them some of the most dangerous passes anywhere. They have left a deep impression on me.
But it has all been well worth while, for by this means I have been able to go to parts of the country where foreign correspondents—or any other foreigners for that matter —are practically never seen and have seen a very different Korean land and people than those about which the other pressmen have so loudly complained.
To come to Korea as a pressman one must be accredited as a war cotrespnndent and don uniform. You are then expected to use only United Nations trains which are reserved for U.N. forces and visiting experts, and to go only to places where what is described as "logistical support" may be provided.
This is because Korea is technically still in a state of war and also because there are guerillas who are fighting it out in the hills in many parts of the country.
have, however, gone to places where U.N. trains do not run, "travelling Korean" on their own crowded trains for whole days at a time and keeping to the areas where there are no military personnel. It has meant that Instead of simply ohserving the Korean people from railway carriage windows and meeting only the camp followers as so many have done, 1 have been able to share the life of the ordinary people. have never met with more friendliness nor had greater kindness shown mc.
Korea and its people have been badly libelled.
'Henry'sWROTE last week of Fr. Harold H Catholic leper colony which I had just visited. The lepers in the camp are better off there than in the great State leprosaria. The atmosphere is entirely different and they have a chapel which they have built themselves and in which they gather regularly for players.
But, as is so often the case with the sick in this country where medical skill and equipment are so scarce, they get very little treatment. They have a new dispensary but as yet there is nothing in it.
A MAN who picked up a certain ra.amount about the treatment of the disease when he was in a State leper colony tries to look after their medical needs. He is a serious young Catholic leper, anxious to serve, but hampered both for want of expert knowledge and equipment. When 1 went to the camp he asked the two priests who had taken mc there if they could somehow gel him anti-tuberculosis drugs (lepers are particularly prone to T.D. and there is thought to be some relationship between the two diseases) and a bone saw. At the moment he amputates with a penknife and a small axe.
The lepers—our fellow-Catholics --crowded round as he made his plea, anxious to hear if these elementary needs could he met.
Equipment and funds for the work are desperately needed. And there is a tremendous need here for nuns who will do this work. They would find, as I found, that these Catholic lepers in particular are a lovable, cheerful crowd.
And they are first-rate Catholics whose whole lives revolve around the Faith.