Tuesday, November 17, 2015

130th Jubilee of the Congregation and the Year of Consecrated Life: Seoul Priory

 In 2015, we look back upon 130 years of our history, with more than 1300 women living as Missionary Benedictine Sisters. Over the coming months of the Year of Consecrated Life we will bring to you the histories of our Priories and Sisters across the World.

God granted the German Sisters who survived years of life in the cruel concentration camp in communist North Korea, the faith and courage to return to the war-torn country, the land of the martyrs, South Korea. Their self-sacrificing dedication was rewarded by numerous numbers of young vocations which gave new foundation in Daegu a rapid growth. It was already in the priory chapter in 1971, the suggestion to make a new independent priory in the hope that true Benedictine spirituality could be better lived in smaller community, was up for discussion. After 15 years of deliberations, the priory chapter in 1986 finally came to a decision to establish a new priory in Seoul. On Nov. 16, 1987, Seoul Priory dedicated to St. Gertrud was born with 72 Sisters and 9 stations, mainly located in and surrounding area of Seoul, the capital of South Korea. It started as an independent priory with its novitiate which opened with 3 postulants from the Daegu Priory immediately.
On Oct. 13, 1989, the construction of Seoul Priory House located in the compound of SanJi Retreat Center which had served as the seat of the new priory, was completed and blessed. The Church in Korea needed Sisters in many fields of apostolic work, and the Lord sent us a good number of vocations for the new priory to expand and develop.

Since the founding year, we have established 7 stations for parish ministry and a clinical pastoral center in the Seoul National University Hospital. We also founded the first oversea station in respond to the spiritual need of Korean immigrants in USA.  Sisters of this station take care of Korean nationals in New Jersey and New York areas.

In 1991, we built a socio-pastoral center in the periphery of Seoul to welcome the children from broken families. This center has recently been renovated to house a counseling center after being used as a temporary shelter for North Korean refugees for some years. In 1993, St. Joseph House for the elderly with hearing impairment was constructed in Wongog, southern province of Seoul. Caritas Children’s Center started offering special education to the children with multiple handicaps, and Suyu Soup Kitchen opened to distribute free hot lunch for the poor elderly since 1998.
In 2000, Seoul Priory House was finally able to extend its space with new annex connected to its main building. Thanks to the Passionist Fathers who had generously rented their seminary house for our young Sisters of growing community for 8years!
In 2004, Bundo Village, a nursing home, was built in Pocheon. Two years later, in the compound of the Priory House, Seoul Benedict Kindergarten started providing Catholic education to the children of the neighborhood of the convent which was then surrounded by newly built apartment complex. Counseling services by our Sisters for the children were followed. Benedict Education Center in beautiful countryside of Gicheonri was set up in 2010. It aims to offer nature-friendly experiences as well as cultural and spiritual programs.
Upon the invitation of Bishop Peter Kang of Jeju diocese, Benedict Counseling Center was blessed in 2014. In 2015, we built Benedict Center in the compound of the Priory House to accommodate a counseling center, a Bible school, and a place for our oblates.

28 years after its beginning, 133 Sisters (128 final professed, 5 juniors) actively engaged in prayer and work in the Priory House and 15 local houses. We thank God for giving us still some good vocations, though rapid decline in number as almost all religious congregations experience nowadays in Korea.

We proclaim the good news in 10 parishes, a retreat house, a Bible school, a pastoral center in a hospital, and a mission center for hearing-impaired persons. We care for the disabled in a children’s center, a special school, a house for the hearing-impaired elderly. Every day the aged and the poor are welcomed in our nursing home, and in our two soup kitchens. Sisters endeavor to lay Christian value education in 5 kindergartens and an education center. We work for spiritual need of Korean immigrant communities in NJ and NY areas in the States, while trying to give assistance to immigrants in our own country. We are proud of two renowned artist Sisters who design and adorn many chapels and holy shrines with their sacred artistic works. We have sent 8 missionaries to 4 priories, and always give serious considerations to respond to the need of inter-priory sharing.
Recently we put our special efforts in counseling ministry mainly by means of Sandplay therapy.  It is an answer to the urgent need for spiritual and psychological healing ministry in Korean society and a fitting way by which aging Sisters can effectively help clients based on their life-long experience of faith and human understanding.  We opened 4 centers with one more in preparation.

From the foundation days, Seoul priory intended to have solidarity with the poor, giving more considerations for them as prescribed in its Priory Statutes. Thus we respond to the need of the poor in caring for the hearing-impaired persons, mentally handicapped, and children with multiple disabilities in special facilities. We feed free hot meals in two soup kitchens. In parishes, Sisters visit and help the poor and lonely.  Our kindergartens and counseling centers provide favors to children from multi-cultural background, poor or disadvantaged families. Children from broken families are being taken in our two group-homes.

We are grateful to the Lord that invitations for more fields of apostolate do continue to arrive, and we know that one of the important criteria for a discernment process should be whether the new work would benefit the poor.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Update from Sr. Rosann Ocken's New Mission: Jinja, Uganda

Dear all!
Loving greetings from Paradise!  Well!  The weather and surroundings are about as perfect as one can imagine. The sun shines gently; I think because it is “winter” now.  Temps range usually between 75 and 83.  The humidity is generally around 50 %.  It rains at least something every day.  Sometimes the rains are very strong, but mostly, it is a nice shower.  

This first photo is the front of the convent.  The second photo is of the front yard looking away from the convent.  You see we have such nice green and beautiful flowers.  The third photo is the view we have from the back of the house out to Lake Victoria.  
We had our official (once-in-six-years) visitation from our leadership in Rome.  The photo below is taken of the two “Romans” with our community.  Two of our sisters are missing from the photo because they are out of the country.

This gives you a sense of our community.  There is only one Postulant in the photo (on the left).  The other five are in Kenya having their formation (Postulancy and Novitiate) there.  

We took our guests to “The Source of the Nile”.  It is just 20 minutes-drive and a small boat ride away.   The photos are on the next page.  It is an amazing experience.  I feel like I’m at the naval of the earth!!! The visitation has taken up most of our energy.

The visitors left on Thursday, so we are only now trying to get into a normal sense of life here.  On the whole, it is going far better than I imagined. 
 I am sure your prayers are helping us.  Please keep them coming!  I will tell you more about the ministries as I get more acquainted.  For now…to thank you for your loving support and prayers and to let you know that things are going well-enough. For today…almost time for prayer.  Love and prayers to all of you! 
Sr. Rosann

Friday, November 6, 2015

Meet Our Sisters: Sr. Philomena Roche, OSB

(Meet Our Sisters will be a Blog Series to get to know our Sisters from the Missionary Benedictine Sisters in Norfolk, NE. Each month we will feature a new Sister and her journey to become a Missionary Benedictine Sister.)

Born November 17th 1931, Christchurch, New Zealand.
First Profession: December 8th 1949
Final profession: December 8th 1952.
Feast Day: August 11th
Mission Experience: Philippines, Australia, Winnebago, Norfolk

Religious Journey:

I entered the enclosed Contemplative Benedictines in Sydney, Australia at the age of 16. I was there from 1948 till 1970 when I changed to the Benedictine Missionary Sisters in New Norcia, West Australia. These mainly Spanish Sisters had 2 orphanages, one for girls and one for boys. They returned to Spain in 1974 and Sr. Veronica Willaway and I went to Spain. We both helped in Casa del Nino for children of working mothers. When more help was needed where 3 of the Spanish Sisters had remained, Sr. Veronica and I went back to Australia to help there. I was put in charge of the Kindergarten, took the weather reports for the Perth Meteorological station (transmitted via radio), I had care of the poultry (ducks and fouls); I helped with the religious instruction in the government school there. I was in Kalumburu for 8 years (1978-1986). In 1982 we all transferred to the Tutzing Missionary Benedictine Sisters.

In 1986, I was assigned to Marikina in the Philippines for two years as one of the 4 helpers to the librarian in the grad school library. I was also the sacristan (with a good helper) for the chapel where there were many masses (weekly) for the 6,000 students. Some masses were held in the gymnasium.

In 1988 I was assigned to Baguio where more help was needed for the aged Sisters. I was in charge of the laundry and gave weekly religious instruction to the many domestic helpers. July 16 1990 was the big Baguio earthquake and the guest area was badly damaged, so not much work for the laundry. More help was needed in Kalumburu, West Australia and I was asked if I was willing to return there. So I was back there from 1990 until 1995 when I came here to Norfolk.
I was in Winnebago from 1996 till 2003 when I was diagnosed to have cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart) so I needed to do less work. I came back here to Norfolk where I visit the sick and ageing and write letters to prisoners. I thank God for all these missionary experiences.