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Issue Date:  December 21, 2007

Mission stations in Seoul serve working Catholics

SEOUL, Korea -- Tucked among towering skyscrapers and shopping malls in downtown Seoul, inside police stations, corporate offices and hospitals, urban mission stations quietly serve busy Catholics in or near their workplaces.

The Seoul archdiocese has about 180 such stations. The archdiocese established the Department for Pastoral Ministry in the Workplace in 1993 to provide pastoral care and help build faith communities in workplaces. The 38 mission stations in police institutions and the 40 stations in non-Catholic hospitals have chapels where Masses and other sacraments are offered regularly on weekdays.

“For police officers who cannot attend religious activities in their own parish regularly, these faith communities can help by holding such activities in their workplaces,” said Fr. Augustine Kang Hyuck-june, director of the archdiocese’s Police Pastoral Committee.

The missions in police stations are mostly served by priests from the parish in which the stations are located. The hospital stations are served by full-time chaplains, which include several priests and 28 religious women.

The workplace ministry department has two full-time priest-chaplains to visit the 120 mission stations located in office buildings and commercial properties in downtown Seoul. About 1,500 office workers and civil servants regularly attend workplace ministry activities.

The faith groups meeting in these stations have no permanent chapels and must make do with conference rooms, auditoriums or other such facilities, according to Fr. Gregory Choi Soo-ho, a workplace ministry chaplain. Besides celebrating the sacraments, these priests also teach catechism classes and offer counseling in the office missions, often after normal business hours.

The ministry celebrates a lunchtime Mass for office workers on Fridays at Myeongdong Cathedral. It publishes Catholic Office Workers, a 32-page monthly magazine and a five-day a week e-mail newsletter, Spring of the Soul, that contains short Bible readings and essays on Catholic social teaching and Gospel stories.

Seoul has a population of about 10 million and 1.3 million are Catholics.

A recent survey of Seoul office workers found that they work an average of nine hours and 42 minutes a day.

-- UCA News

National Catholic Reporter, December 21, 2007

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