Forty six years ago when I decided to become a Columban Missionary Sister, my motivation was very simple. I wanted to share the Good News I had heard and experienced with those who had never heard it. Over the years I have been surprised by the way the Lord works, and I am constantly hearing the Good News from the people I meet.
When our first Columban Sisters arrived in Korea in 1955, they opened two medical centers to care for the citizens of South Korea. In Mokpo City in the southern part of the country they opened a general hospital. In Chuncheon City in the northern part of the country, they opened an outpatient clinic. At that time, South Korea was a country ravaged by war and lacking in any kind of medical facilities. The clinic in Chuncheon City is still operating today.
In 1971 Mrs. Kim, a twenty-six year old mother of two little girls, was brought to Chuncheon clinic. She was seriously ill with a severe infection. The Sisters gave her all the help possible, but it soon became obvious that more radical treatment was necessary. The Sisters provided all the necessary documents and made arrangements that she would be treated for free in St.Columban’s Hospital in Mokpo, a journey of twelve hours by train. She and her husband undertook the long journey and were warmly welcomed by the Sisters in Mokpo. In that hospital, Mrs. Kim experienced hospitality that she never forgot, and after a month’s treatment she was able to return to Chuncheon free of infection. The years rolled by and Mrs. Kim often thought about the help she had received and felt guilty about it. She often thought she should become a Catholic as a means of expressing gratitude.
Three years ago she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Sadly, she is now in the terminal stage and is being helped by our Hospice Home Care Team and has become a regular member of our Hospice Day Care program. During one of the sharing sessions, she shared her desire to become Catholic. Two of the hospice volunteers registered her in her local parish and drove her to her weekly catechetical classes. Thanks to a very understanding parish priest, Mrs. Kim did not have to follow the regular course and her Baptism was brought forward to November. She was baptized Cecilia, and the hospice volunteers were there supporting her all along the way.
These days she is upset that her ill health means she cannot go to church regularly, but she seems more peaceful that she has made her choice and has her own little prayer space at home.
Each time I visit Cecilia I marvel at the way the Lord works. For forty years the seed planted by the love and service of the Sisters in Chuncheon and Mokpo laid dormant. Through her recent illness, she has nourished it. Our hospice volunteers have watered it, and the Lord has granted her hearts desire. The work of evangelization goes on.
The challenge to love not only in words but in deeds is as real to-day as it was forty years ago.
Sr. Nora Wiseman lives and works in Chuncheon City, South Korea.