01/08/2020, 14.38
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Kkottongnae nuns from S Korea in Flores welcome disabled people in 'House of Love' (video)

by Mathias Hariyadi

The Labuan Bajo facility is home to 13 people, three men and ten women. Three postulants and one aspiring novice are helping Sisters Matthew and Thomas. Daily life in the home is marked by great work and rigorous discipline. The South Korea-based community draws many hopefuls from Southeast Asia and is trying to open up to local Catholics.

Flores (AsiaNews) – Two Kkottongnae[*] nuns from South Korea travelled to Flores Island in eastern Indonesia in June 2018 where they set up Rumah Kasih, the House of Love, in order to provide housing, medical assistance and spiritual support to disabled people forgotten and abandoned by society.

The facility is located in Labuan Bajo, West Manggarai district. It is here that Sister Matthew and Sister Thomas (provincial superior) provide a home for 13 people, three men and ten women.

"Some of these people have been sent to us by priests who serve the faithful in the district; others have been found in the street," Sister Matthew told AsiaNews.

Mgr Sylvester San, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Ruteng, and Mgr Antonius Subianto Bunjamin, bishop of Bandung and secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI) (picture 2), led the ceremony in which the House of Love was inaugurated just over a year and a half ago.

The spirit of the initiative is summarised by the words Even if you have only the strength to beg for food, it is the blessing of the Lord found at the facility, which offers its residents a place to live and learn in dignity.

The Sisters Matthew and Sister Thomas are not alone in their work. They are being helped by three Indonesian postulants and an aspiring novice, all from Flores, a predominantly Catholic island.

The four women feed the patients, administer medicaments and monitor that everything is correct before bedtime.

Maria is set to begin her novitiate this month, while the three postulants will continue the education the Kkottongnae community dispenses in Labuan Bajo.

A local young man joined the House last month to explore Kkottongnae spirituality and discern his vocation to the consecrated life.

Daily life in the House of Love is marked by great work and rigorous discipline. Every day, staff and residents wake up early and take part in the morning Mass. After the service, the group break their fast, and then attend biblical studies.

In the early afternoon, physical activities take place. Dinner is served very early, because everyone turns in at 8 pm. People can also take part in various prayers during the day.

The testimony of faith offered by the House touches many Indonesians, above all for the spirit of service and unconditional love that characterises the work of the staff.

Sisters Matthew and Thomas can also count on charity from local Catholics and other parts of the country. For example, Ira Setiawan, a surgeon at the public hospital in Labuan Bajo, visits the patients when needed.

The Kkottongnae community was founded in 1976 in the Diocese of Cheongju by Fr John Oh Woong-jin (centre, picture 2), a Franciscan, after he had a providential meeting with a homeless man known as Grandpa Kyong-Lak Choi. This led him to establish medical, religious and spiritual services.

Since then, the community has taken care of over 13,000 sick and marginalised people with four facilities in South Korea. Some 2,000 people currently benefit from the services provided by 500 staff, and over 80 priests and 250 nuns.

In 2014, during his apostolic visit to South Korea, Pope Francis visited the House of Hope in Cheongju.

Today, Kkottongnae also operates facilities in the United States, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Uganda India, Haiti, Canada and most recently Indonesia.

In the latter, the community is trying to open up to local Catholics. “The harsh Korean winter represents a serious obstacle for Indonesians undergoing training,” St Matthew explained. “In order to meet the needs of candidates from Southeast Asia, training and probation will be performed in the Philippines in the near future,” she added.

[*] Flower Village in Korean.

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