Thursday, July 1, 2010

Diocesan values alive in Korean sisters

By John Andrews
Director, Department of Communications

The idea that we experience God’s grace in unlikely people and places is not new. We just have to look for Him there, right?

This came to my mind Wednesday as I returned from the Kkottongnae Retreat Camp in the hills of Temecula. I was down there to visit with the Korean, Kkottongnae Sisters of Jesus and write about the fact that they have reopened their camp, 14 months after a tragic shooting took place there.

A permanent resident of the camp was killed in the incident and the Sisters who own and run the facility – holy, hardworking and hospitable women if ever there were – were devastated. This is how I met them. I was called on to use my experience in mass media to help them navigate the predictably revved-up press interest in the story.

It turned out to be much more than that. I was asked to help compose a statement from the sisters to be read at the funeral of the woman who was killed – and to stand before the Korean community and read it. Though admittedly nervous I began to understand the importance of my being there when, as I read, I could hear them weeping.

Their gratitude since that day has not ceased. They send gifts – plants, a rosary, a basket of colored Easter eggs. They keep inviting me to the congregation’s headquarters in Seoul. When a new group of sisters transferred to the Temecula camp, they came up to San Bernardino to visit and were sure to have their picture taken with me. Please don’t mistake these details for self-aggrandizement. It’s really more amazement on my part, for we are an odd pair.

I’m a tall white guy. They are not-as-tall Asians. They don’t speak much English. I know how to say ‘hello’ in Korean and that’s about it. I didn’t know much about their country. In fact, I hadn’t ever really even located it on a map. They were teasing me Wednesday about looking like the guy on the cover of the English textbooks they use in Korea.

Why this may be of interest to others is that through this unlikely friendship with the Kkottongnae sisters, I have experienced many of the values we often speak of in the diocese:
  • The continued gratitude expressed by the sisters for what seemed like just a couple of days work for me last year,
  • The hospitality that they continue to show when I see them (I’m still savoring the delicious Korean lunch they prepared when I was there),
  • The way that one ministry, my communications work in this case, can help bring reconciliation to another, in this case their retreat/formation ministry.
Perhaps, most importantly, if a typical Caucasian American like myself can bond with a group of modest Korean nuns, with no common language, no less, there truly is unity in diversity in our diocese and in our Church.

Happy 4th of July everyone.

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