Columbans 100: Young people meeting in Korea

16th July 2018 - by Nathalie Marytsch

Emily Tierney shares some reflections from the Columban Centenary youth mission exposure programme she is attending in Seoul, South Korea. Emily is a descendant of Fr Cornelius Tierney, one of the first Columban martyrs.

During my time here in South Korea I am reflecting on Fr Cornelius’s letters. His book of letters is entitled ‘Part Of The Bargain’, which is taken from a quote from one of his letters:

‘Of course these things are part of the bargain one makes with the Almighty when going on the errand of converting China’

‘MISSION IS NOT ABOUT DOING IT IS ABOUT BEING!’, these were the opening words we heard at our first Mass in Soul, Korea. We are all here to learn about each other culturally, to learn more about ourselves and to move ever closer to being at one with God.

Today in Mass we heard the Gospel of doubting Thomas. Happy are those who believe without seeing. When Thomas does not believe his friends about Jesus’ return, he fails to understand the teachings that Jesus had to fulfil. But we hear in the Gospel that when Jesus finally meets with Thomas his first words are of peace. Peace for his friend; he is not angry or annoyed, he simply says, Peace be with you!

This is what Jesus continues to offer us today, when we fail to recognise Jesus in our lives. When we forget the importance of knowing Jesus. Jesus continues to offer that peace to humanity today and always. How beautiful is that, we know that Jesus will be with us wherever we are in our journey. This continually gives me hope and it is with this Peace that we can be transformed and transform others.

The letters that begin Fr Cornelius’s book tell all about his discernment of being called as a Missionary Priest. ‘I am determined to make the sacrifice if God calls me’. Unlike the Thomas we hear about in the Gospel, Fr Cornelius puts his full trust in the Lord by simply entrusting his discernment in prayer.

‘I will continue to pray earnestly for light and guidance and I certainly am determined now to carry out whatever is considered the Will of God.’

At an older age of 45, Fr Cornelius questioned what he could bring to the Mission, however, he knew there was a calling somewhere so offered his services to Fr. Blowick (Co-founder and first Superior General of the Society of St Columban). Fr Cornelius also spoke about how he would have no reservation to the mission but would simply go and do what he was told by Superior Authority. This again shows the trust Fr Cornelius had for the Mission to China and the Mission of God.

I have been thinking and reflecting on the first Columban Missionaries and how they were sent out on Mission. Knowing not what they were going to find when they arrived at their destination but having full trust in God to provide.

This week we have had the opportunity to visit and experience many places in which the missionaries will have landed in. We have visited traditional villages, missionary parishes, and farming parishes. We completed a mountain walking pilgrimage, following the footsteps of those persecuted before us, and experienced retreat time at a Buddhist temple.

We visited social enterprise projects for those in need, soup kitchens, medical centres and seen the need of the people. We learned about the complex and tragic history of Korea and how the Columbans have been at every step of the way throughout all our experiences.

Simply being is not enough for the Columbans, but when they see a need they serve the community, with the help of God, to create change for the better. Today we arrived at Mokpo Diocese which was set up by the Columbans.

The Columbans this year are celebrating their centenary year (100 years). I wonder if when they first set out on Mission they even dreamt of what they may achieve and this is only here in Korea. They have also done work throughout the world.

In this week we have had a snapshot of the wonderful work the missionaries have done with the help of God. It is when we say Yes to God like the Missionaries that we can transform not only ourselves but the whole world.

‘Father Tierney once warned me in a letter to save up my admiration for himself and his fellow missionaries until they had proved that they deserved it. No one will now deny that he has proved himself worthy of admiration and imitation by his life and by the sufferings and death which God permitted him to suffer in the end as a reward for that life’

John Blowick, first Superior General of the Society of St Columban