Over the course of nearly 100 years, Columban missionaries have been caught up in major wars and insurrections in the countries where we live and serve. Columbans and other missionaries have grappled with the question to go or stay in times of crisis.
The Paris Foreign Mission Society handed over pastoral responsibility for Jeju Island to the Columban Fathers in 1933. At that time it had two small parishes, one in the north and one in the south of the island.
I call this article “men of the road” because in all my years in Japan, only one woman came to me looking for a handout. I was once advised to refuse all such requests for three months after I went into a new parish, or I would end up with an endless stream of petitioners asking for money.
Going on mission to Hong Kong in 1976 was both an exciting adventure and a shock to the system. Moving from the wide-open spaces, the peace and tranquility of a small Irish town to the closely packed high-rises, the noise, the over-crowded streets, was a new experience for me.
Ever since I returned to Korea, people have asked me, “How old are you?” “Why don’t you dye your gray hair?” whether I’m at the market or waiting at a bus station. And my response would be: “It has already been dyed by God, in a natural way, so why do I need to dye it?”
That encounter inspired me to be more with the people with my true self. You don’t have to pretend because people would notice it. People would be grateful to you if you stay true to yourself by means of accepting your limitations and utilizing your gifts.
On a September morning in 2014, I arrived in Iquique in northern Chile on a flight from Santiago. I was coming to visit the Korean Associates who work with the Columbans in a parish in the new city of Alto Hospicio which has formed in the hills above Iquique.
Since childhood I have been fascinated with geography. At times I would build different islands and mountains on the seashore and imagined myself at the top of them. It was a lifelong dream for me to travel from one place to another, but being in Peru was far beyond my imagination.
It would be a disservice to truth for me not to acknowledge that there have been and are serious challenges for religious and civil society in China from sections of the State as well as the ever increasing lures of consumerism.