Korean diocese in bid to double number of Catholics

In a campaign to mark its 40th anniversary, the South Korean diocese of Masan has launched a three-year campaign to double the Catholic population in the industrial port city.

"The number 40 means change of life," Fr James Yoo Young-bong, the diocese's vicar general, told UCA News last week, explaining the diocese's bid for renewal after about 15,000 Catholics of the diocese earlier attended a celebratory Mass and commemoration ceremony at the Masan Sports Complex.

"Jews spent 40 years before going into Canaan, and Jesus spent 40 days in the desert before starting his work in the world. We tried to find the meaning of 40 years in ourselves."

As part of the anniversary, the diocese also asked everyone to find non-practicing Catholics and potential new Catholics in an effort to double Masan's Catholic population in three years.

Masan Catholics also read and transcribed the Bible. "Almost all parishioners of the diocese, including young people, have been reading the Bible and taking part in the transcription campaign," Father James Yoo said. "It helps them understand more about Jesus Christ."

According to Fr Yoo, 542 Catholics transcribed the entire Bible from January 2004 to September 2006. Another 223 Catholics completed New Testament transcriptions and 51 transcribed the Old Testament, while many others managed to transcribe smaller portions of the Bible.

During the same period, the diocese baptised 8,420 new Catholics and helped 7,341 non-practising Catholics reactivate their faith.

Faith renewal, Fr Yoo said, "should not be a one-time campaign but ongoing. We will continue ...to renew our faith and evangelise local society. For this reason, we launched our '1020 project' at the commemoration Mass."

This project aims to increase the number of Catholics in the diocese by having 10 percent of the general population Catholics by 2020.

As of 2005, according to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea (CBCK), 6.3 percent of Masan diocese's 2,444,690 people (145,016) were Catholics, while nearly 9.5 percent of South Korea's 49,267,751 people (4,680,437) were Catholics.

"For 40 years, our diocese based our spirit of fellowship and unity on the spirituality of our Catholic ancestors. They sowed the seed of our faith. We should harvest the fruits of the faith ... Now, we must devote ourselves to evangelise local society through our words and deeds, witness and service and fellowship and sharing," Bishop Francis Xavier Ahn Myong-ok said in his homily at the 40th anniversary Mass.

When founded in 1966, Masan had 28,000 Catholics who were served by 25 priests in 21 parishes. By 2005, the diocese had grown to have 153,000 Catholics, 139 priests and 337 Religious in 67 parishes.

Masan diocese marks 40th anniversary with special events and campaigns (Indian Catholic, 6/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Masan (Wikipedia)
Roman Catholicism in Korea (Wikipedia)
Catholic Bishops Conference of Korea

8 Nov 2006