The Life-Giving Spirit in South Korea
Our journey as the Korean province of the Holy Spirit Sisters began on March 9, 1987 in Seoul with three sisters from the Japanese province. Starting with the first aspirant in June 1989, the tiny seed sown 36 years ago is bearing more and more fruit as the community continues to grow and carry out various apostolates.
Currently, 25 members are divided into six communities in Korea, comprised of sisters from nine countries: China, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Poland, Romania, and Vietnam.
Simple Knowledge of the Country
The Korean War broke out in 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. The war ended in 1953 but the country was divided into two, South and North with different ideologies. There is still hope that the two Koreas will one day be reunited, but the challenges are great.
The population of South Korea is about 51.96 million and about 17% of the people identify as Buddhists, 20% as Protestants, 11% as Roman Catholics, and then others who hold other different ideologies. Buddhism is the oldest religion in Korea and has a long history in the country but Christianity has continued to grow as it has opened its doors to the West.
How Catholicism Started in Korea
The history of the Catholic Church in Korea is a story of faith, persecution, and perseverance. The uniqueness of the Catholic Church in Korea did not come from missionaries from the West, instead, it was born of the Korean lay people. It is a story of how a small group of people were able to overcome great challenges and build a thriving community of faith. It was introduced to Korea by a small group of Korean intellectuals and scholars who were exposed to Western books and Chinese translations of Catholic texts.
The first Korean to be baptized was Yi Seung-hun, in Beijing in 1784. He returned to Korea and began to spread the Catholic faith, and soon a small community of Catholics was established.
The growth of the Catholic Church in Korea was met with opposition from the King of the country, which saw Catholicism as a threat to its Confucian-based social order. Between 1801-1873, there were several major persecutions of Catholics and thousands were killed.
In 1836, the first Korean priest, Andreas Kim Taegon, was ordained. He was later martyred for his faith. Altogether, there are 103 known martyrs in Korea who have all been made saints and 124 beatified. The persecution of Catholics finally ended in the late 1880s, when Korea opened its doors to the West.
The first priest St. Andrea Kim Taegon and Korean martyrs
As women SSpS missionaries, we experience deeply the presence of the Triune God in the place where we are living and listening to the cry of all creation. We transform the world with love and compassion.
Following the way of life that Jesus showed us, we try to answer to the needs of society and the local church and become companions for the marginalized.
The three sisters who first arrived in Korea in 1987
The Provincial House in Seoul
Following the charism and missionary purposes of our Congregation, the Korean Province listens to and works for the marginalized and underprivileged people who are the most needy of today’s society.
In the early days, it established itself through pastoral care such as group homes for children from single-parent families, shelters for HIV/AIDS patients, as well as shelters for vagrant women. It is currently providing pastoral care to migrants, who constitute part of the priority issues in today’s Korean society.
The intervention covers migrant workers, refugees, multicultural families, an academy for children, rehabilitation of prostitutes, as well as a retreat center that serves as a place for spiritual guidance for all people.
We are also actively interested in social justice and the environment and are committed to contributing to the future. We also continue to think and discern about other apostolates that will be most needed for those who are marginalized in society.
• Migrants and Refugees
In recent years the influx of immigrants into South Korea has been on the rise, with foreign residents about 4.9% of the total population in 2019. As of the middle of 2020, 1.7 million foreigners were living in the Republic of Korea. As of 31st December 2021, 3,575 people have been recognized as refugees or granted humanitarian status by the South Korean government.
The SSpS Korea has endeavored to provide the most needed humanitarian assistance to Migrants, Multicultural Families, and Foreign Students by extending to them access to Spiritual Help, Counselling, Medical aid/medical insurance, Shelter, integration, Police/Immigration services, etc. We have also continued to reach out to the migrants whether documented or not to help them access social and spiritual assistance and services in different languages like English, Vietnamese, and Timor-Leste in collaboration with our SVD brothers.
SSpS and SVD, working for migrants and refugees in South Korea
East Timor community (on left) and Vietnam community
Philippines &Africa Community
Korean Language class
International Migrants and Refugees Day
In June 2018, 561 Yemenis arrived at Jeju Island in South Korea, fleeing from a civil war in Yemen between the Yemeni government forces and Shia Houthu rebels. As of June 2018, 549 Yemenis have applied for refugee status in Korea.
• Family Support Center
We have been able to establish Administration, Sponsorship Management for Broken Families, Single-parent Families, Multicultural Families, etc. We provide counseling and provision of social programs for all kinds of families (Migration through marriage, Single mothers, Youth parents, Unmarried parents, etc..)
• Children’s Academy
Children from multicultural families and broken families come to the academy for learning assistance and help. There are art clinics for emotionally unstable children.
Bazaar for the Children’s Academy
• Youth and Vocation
We facilitate university campus ministries, summer camping, youth Mass, and retreats for the youth.
• Retreat House (Mission Spirituality Center)
This includes our Mission Spirituality Center which provides Space and also holds retreats, Biblio- Drama Courses for Individuals and groups.
• Women’s Human Rights Center
We work together with lay partners to provide counselling, medical support, and legal aid to women who are prostitutes, victims of abuse (children and youth), and the battered in society.
Support for the closure of prostitution staging areas.
We are also actively interested in social justice and the environment and are committed to contributing to the future.
• The Holy Spirit Mission Association
In order to learn and practice the spirituality of the Founder, they live, serving along with missionaries of the Triune God. We have regular monthly meetings for these members and offer various programs to help them live our missionary spirit.
Co-operation Program with Japan Province
Biblio-Drama with sisters in Japan
Visit to the site of the Fukushima nuclear accident
Current Joys & Struggles
1. Interculturality is a positive aspect of our communities but there are also difficulties due to the diversity of cultures.
2. Age-related health issues and generational differences of the members, but it is also an opportunity to grow as a community with deeper understanding and acceptance among members.
3. Rapid decline of vocations and religious life, though it is not a problem as such due to current social realities of less marriage and low birth rate. But it is time to reflect on the future of missionary activities in this social dispensation.
4. Valuable and rewarding missionary work done by every member of the community in the most needy places at the same time this is quite challenging too.
5. A decrease in passion for religious missionary life in a fast-changing society stalls the efforts being made to portray the value of religious life.
Future Vision and Possibilities for Crossing Further Borders
1. Establish cooperation and develop exchange programs between the Japanese and Korean provinces in order to have a better relationship between these two provinces, as there has been an uncomfortable relationship between these two countries. An integration of these two provinces can be considered in the future.
2. Have a wider perspective of missionary service reaching out to other provinces, regions, and continents. Rekindle the passion for missionary work and experience by creating an international exposure program for one year.
3. Geographical borders are disappearing due to online meetings. Various online meetings at the congregational level can be encouraged in order to have a better knowledge of the Congregation as a whole.
By the Province of Korea
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