Newly set-up Jesuit province in South Korea will focus on missions throughout Asia
Seoul (AsiaNews/UCAN) Jesuits in South Korea are preparing to boost the presence of their missionaries in other Asian countries. During a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the Jesuit community in Korea, Fr Matthias Chae Joon-ho announced that the number of its missionaries in Asia is set to increase by 25%. Fr Chae was responsible for the South Korean Jesuit set-up before its transition to an independent region and province, announced on 1 September by Jesuit Superior-General Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach. The new province will be made up of 90 priests, three brothers and 53 novices.
Focusing on overseas missions is a priority requested by Fr Kolvenbach. Fr Chae said the superior-general "asked us to generously send men to other countries, especially in Asia, to promote Gospel justice in dialogue with culture and with persons of other faiths, as well as to discern and respond to the spiritual and social needs we face in Korea". The Korean Jesuits have already sent two Korean Jesuits each to Cambodia, China, Japan and Taiwan, and one each to Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand.
"The Jesuits' major mission," said Fr Robert McIntosh, vice-provincial of the Korean Province, "is the apostolate of words -- such as catechism and prayer ." He said so far the Jesuits in Korea have concentrated on intellectual formation, and now the new province will seek to develop other aspects of the mission.
The Society of Jesus in Korea was established in 1955 as a mission, or dependent region, of the US Wisconsin Province in response to a request from the Korean Church to support the spiritual formation of Korean youth. In 1960, the Jesuits opened Sogang College in Seoul, which became a university in 1970. As of April, Sogang university had some 12,000 students.
In 1985, Fr Kolvenbach elevated the Korean mission to the level of an independent region within the East-Asian Assistancy which covers China, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines and Vietnam.
According to Fr McIntosh, a province and an independent region are the same in terms of membership, the major superior's authority, finances, formation and supervision of apostolic works. "The one main differenceis that the province must send a delegate by right to a general congregation, but an independent region sends a delegate only by invitation of the superior general or his vicar," he said.
Last November the Korean Jesuits launched commemoration events to mark their 50th anniversary. During the anniversary Mass, nine Korean Jesuits professed perpetual vows. At the end of the Mass, Archbishop Andrew Choi Chang-mou of Kwangju, highlighted the Jesuits' contribution in Korea, citing their role in the development of Catholic higher education, and spiritual growth of the clergy. In his homily, the Archbishop of Seoul, Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, underlined the importance of the Jesuits' apostolic mission. And Cardinal Kim, pointed to rapid growth among the Korean Jesuits during the past 50 years. "It is rare that nine members profess their final vows simultaneously in one Jesuit province," he said.