Korean Chaplaincy Crosses Cultural Divide

By Elizabeth McFarlane
Korean Chaplaincy group
The chaplaincy creates a space for Korean parishioners to come together

Fr Stephen Hyun Sangok and Michael Lim believe migrant chaplaincies enable parishes to celebrate cultural differences and similarities. Photo: Elizabeth McFarlane.

There is a great beauty in the varied face of the Catholic Church. Diverse migrant communities make up the Diocese of Parramatta, each with their own traditions and customs that merge in a great demonstration of the universal Church.

Fr Stephen Hyun Sangok, Korean Chaplain for the Diocese of Parramatta, and Michael Lim, President of the Korean Chaplaincy, believe migrant chaplaincies enable parishes to celebrate cultural differences and similarities.

The chaplaincy, based at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Baulkham Hills, runs a Korean Language School on Saturdays at 7.30pm and a Bible Study class on Sundays from 9.30am-12pm.

“We are very grateful that the Diocese supports the chaplaincy and that they have also allowed Fr Stephen to work with us,” Michael said.

Fr Stephen celebrates the 7.30pm Saturday Vigil Mass and the 11am Sunday Mass in the Korean language at Our Lady of Lourdes Church.

“There are language barriers. Some parishioners cannot speak English fluently and even if they understand in part, they do not fully grasp the homily, so we ask Fr Stephen to help us in deepening our faith,” Michael said.

The chaplaincy creates a space for Korean parishioners to come together. However, Fr Stephen acknowledges the need for the chaplaincy to be an open community.

“Some Australians may look at the Korean Chaplaincy and think, ‘Why are they so exclusive?’ But that is not the case. There is a natural intimacy and we are very close, but we are not exclusive,” Fr Stephen said.

“We are open. We want people who are not Korean to gather with us and attend our Korean Language School, Bible Study classes and masses. Everyone is welcome.

“I am not here just to serve the Korean Chaplaincy. I am here to serve the whole Church.”

Many migrants share the Catholic faith and enrich the life of the Diocese through their witness and participation in parish life and other forms of Christian community.

The Diocese of Parramatta is among the most multi-ethnic and multicultural in the world. One-quarter of the Catholics in our Diocese were born overseas in a non-English-speaking country (25.5%) and more than one-quarter of our Catholics speak a language other than English at home (28.4%).

Migrant chaplaincies bridge the gap between cultural divides, promoting a stronger connection through the one shared faith.

They provide migrants with familiar cultural expressions of the faith, addressing the need for the mystery of Christ to be proclaimed, celebrated and lived out at all times and in all places.

As time passes, the focus of a chaplaincy shifts to assisting migrants, especially younger generations, in becoming more active participants in the life of their local parish.

“The Korean Chaplaincy is not separate from the Diocese. We belong to the Diocese,” Michael explained.

“Many Korean parishioners are still involved in the wider parish. I used to be an acolyte for the Church.”

In welcoming people from overseas, our parishes, schools, agencies and individual members are mindful of the rich cultures, traditions and experiences that migrants bring to their new home.

“At the end of the day, we are part of the same Catholic faith, which teaches us to love one another. It doesn’t matter if you are Korean or Australian, when we are part of the same faith, we will always have a natural connection,” Michael said.

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