Five young men made their first profession this week for Korea Province, on the morning of 24th January (and have been replaced by a further six who are beginning their novitiate year). Another four – preparing for their ordination to diaconate a few days later – made their final profession as Salesians this week as well. And on the afternoon of 24th January 2014, these four were ordained deacons and three others were ordained priest in the large 7th floor chapel at the Provincial House in Seoul.
The ordinations on 24th January, in the presence of 1600 people including representation by all Salesian Family Groups, 60 concelebrating priests, amongst whom two Australian Salesians, were at the hands of the emeritus Archbishop of Kwangju and great friend of the Salesians, Archbishop Andrew Choi Chang Moo.
Those ordained were:
3 priests, Benedict Kim, Pascal Shin, Joseph Shin
4 deacons, Matthias Kang, Matthew Moon, Callistus Kim, Leo Byong
The two visiting Australian Salesians were the Provincial, Fr Greg Chambers and one of the ordinand's (Ben Kim's) former Rector, Fr Peter Rankin, both of Melbourne, where Fr Kim studied theology.
Now, just because your surname is Kim, or Kang does not make you brothers or even vaguely related in Korea! There would be 10 million Kims in a population of 51 million (and this is only in the South), and more than a million Kangs! But for KOR Province, this set of ordinations was a bit special – Ben Kim and Matthias Kang have brothers who are also Salesians, and who are already ordained as priests. It is an interesting story.
Matthias Kang, ordained deacon yesterday, is a younger brother of Benedict Kang who was ordained priest last year. Benedict Kim, who studied in Melbourne and was ordained priest yeserday, is the elder brother of Lupicinus Kim, who also was ordained priest last year. In this case things get a little curious because in contrast to what might have been expected, it was not the elder brother who pathed the way to Salesian and priestly life for his younger brother. While doing his obligatory two year military service Ben, the younger brother, joined the Salesians after completing high school. His experience in community life and work in the oratory made him begin trying to persuade his elder brother who had just left the army to join him so they could live Salesian life together. "When brothers agree, no fortress is so strong as their common life" !
Korea is a fast-growing province in many ways. In 1984 it had but 33 members. In 2014 that number, with yesterday's first professions, is around 120. Other than the 5 missionaries (and one or more to come), the work of the province includes a parish, a high school, a technical high school, four vocational training centres, a school for youngsters who are not attending formal schooling, 20 family homes – social service, 4 youth centres, one of which is in Seoul CBD, known as the 'Dream Centre', 3 vocational guidance centres, a consultancy centre and work for migrants – and, of course, the full range of formation from prenovitiate to ongoing formation.