ASIA-OCEANIA25th anniversary of Oblate presence
On the feast of
St. Eugene de Mazenod, May 21, 2015, Bishop Matthias Lee of Suwon joined the
Oblates and their friends to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the
arrival of the first Oblate missionaries in 1990. During the celebration, they
heard a congratulatory message from the Oblate Superior General, Fr. Louis
In 1986, Fr. Marcello ZAGO, Superior General, approached some Italian Oblates about the possibility of their opening a mission in Korea. After four years of preparation, Fr. Vincenzo BORDO and Fr. Mauro CONCARDI arrived in Seoul on May 12, 1990. In a 2006 interview with omiworld.com, Fr. Vincenzo spoke about the Korea they met upon their arrival:
“As soon as we
arrived, we started to inquire about the Korean Church and society in order to
understand the situation. We soon realized that the circumstances were very
different from the expectations we had had while in Italy. We found out that
the implantatio ecclesiae had already
been accomplished. The Korean Church was very well organized and
self-sufficient in personnel and in structures. All the bishops were Koreans,
and for every parish, there was an average of two Korean priests. We also found
that Korean society was, economically speaking, very rich, secularized,
nationalistic and very proud of itself. We realized in a short time that
neither the Church nor the country needed our presence there.
“So we started, with the other two Oblates who arrived in the following years, Giovanni ZEVOLA and Maurizio GIORGIANNI, a series of meetings, reflections, and seminars to help us understand our presence in Korea. We came to this conclusion: if the Church is a hierarchical institution (bishops, parish priests and teachers), they don’t need us. But if the Church of Jesus is a communion of charisms as Saint Paul said (Rom.12,4-11) and Vatican II teaches, then there is a place for us as religious in the prophetic ministry, and as Oblates, in the missionary dimension of the Church. So we wrote a short document in which we, as Oblates, identified four areas of involvement.
“Working for the
formation of local vocations; helping the local church on weekends; working for
the poor people, according to our charism; and the formation of lay people.
“… (Korea) is also a secularized society. (When we arrived there, the Sunday Mass attendance was 80%; now we are below 30%!). In addition, this society is very proud of itself and has a strong sense of nationalism. For this reason, it doesn’t very well accept a foreign presence. As for the Catholic Church, they don’t need us and our money because it is a well-established Church, economically speaking, and with human resources. In spite of all these problems and difficulties, the name of the Oblates is well known and respected within society, considering our courage to face the most difficult and challenging problems within this society (foreign workers, hospitals, street people…) and within the local Church, because of our humble and constant collaboration with the local clergy and our work in the formation of lay people. For 16 years now, we are involved in the mission to secularity and we are doing quite well in this field.”
Now, 25 years later, according to our OMI Personnel, there are 6 priests and 2 scholastics. Korea is juridically a Mission of the Delegation of Japan under the aegis of the Province of Colombo, Sri Lanka.