Our Sisters – Sr. Ellen | Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood
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Our Sisters – Sr. Ellen O’Neill, CPS

Missioned at Last

I had resigned myself that I would never be missioned outside Canada, and even in my wildest dreams I would never imagine that I would go to Korea! Then in June 2014, I was asked to do just that – go to Korea to help our Korean Sisters learn English – the common language of an international congregation.

I arrived in Korea on November 12, 2014 and was rescued at the airport by Sr. Marianna Lee, CPS.

Korea is a country isolated geographically, linguistically and culturally. Geographically it is surrounded on 3 sides by water and on the 4th side by North Korea and China; linguistically the Korean language characters are unique, although some Chinese influence remains. Korea has a deep and ancient culture of which the Korean people are fiercely proud.

The history of the Catholic Church in Korea is unique as well. Catholicism was brought to Korea by Korean intellectuals who studied Chinese translations of Catholic texts, and founded the Catholic Church in Korea in the mid-1780s. In the first 100 years of the Church in Korea about 10,000 died for their faith, including Kim Tae-gon Andrew, the first Korean priest.

Upon my arrival in Korea, I was reminded by the many ups and downs that Korea is 70% mountains. As always having been one willing to try new things, the food seemed to present no problem, until my stomach reminded me I needed to cut back on the spices! But after 5 months the language still presents a problem – lack of communication or misunderstanding can be very frustrating. I have to keep reminding myself “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.

Korea has a population of over 50,000,000 with more than 10,000,000 living in the capital city, Seoul. The rapid development from agriculture to technology has deepened the generation gap, and the blooming of cities uses up scarce farm land. Everyone who has even a small plot of land grows something; nearly everyone has a greenhouse {even the CPS}, acres of greenhouses serve to extend the growing season as well as food production. It is not uncommon to see “mansions”, gardens, garages and factories packed together in a small area. Every corner is used. Streets are very narrow and busy. This can create problems for emergency vehicles.

Education in Korea is extremely important and competition for universities fierce. High school students typically spend as much as 14 hours a day in school related endeavours. Competition for jobs and daycare make family life difficult. But Korean people are generally very kind and generous and the Catholics are deeply committed to their faith. Everyone is happy when I learn a new word.