Sister Marie-Enosh Cho, OSB
Prioress of Busan (South Korea)
The Formation of Benedictines
in South Korea
On the occasion of a questionnaire on monastic formation, sent out by AIM to different regions of the world, one of the responses concerned monastic formation in South Korea. We think that it will be of interest to give this contribution as it stands, since it shows the solutions adopted in a region which shares the conditions and concerns of other regions.
I- Initial Formation, Noviciate
For the initial formation each Congregation runs its own programme. This formation focuses on prayer, study, work, and community life. It may include seminars or workshops tailored to a better understanding of human nature. Between entry into a community and first profession there is generally a period of four years for women (one year as aspirant, one as postulant, two years as novice) and two to three years for men.
Some Congregations have their own classes for spirituality, catechesis and theology for this initial formation. Others send their candidates to the theological institute of another Congregation or diocese. During this formation attention is focused on a life of prayer, education and experience of the religious life.
Course : Bible, dogmatic theology, liturgy, spirituality, psychology, social teaching of the Church, the Rule of St Benedict, constitutions, statutes and customs of the Congregation, ecology, English, Latin, liturgical music, organ.
Seminars on the understanding of self and of relationships, communication.
Regular spiritual accompaniment and psychological help if necessary.
Experience of a temporary apostolate.
Five or six years for women, three to seven for men.
Spiritual orientation with the mistress of the temporarily professed, regular meetings and retreats.
A ‘second noviciate’ of a year before permanent vows, work and study, the Thirty-day Retreat of St Ignatius of Loyola.
Regular meetings of the young professed within each Congregation.
Work within the Congregation and/or missionary apostolate for the Church.
Experience of the mission and apprenticeship in English for future missionaries.
Monthly regional meetings for the temporarily professed.
Study of philosophy and theology at the seminary in view of the priesthood. Monks not intended for the priesthood also study theology and other matters needed for the apostolic mission.
Participation in seminars in spiritual psychology for self-understanding.
Requirement of counselling individually or in groups.
Participation in missions and apostolic work.
3. Inter-Congregational Formation
Annual reunion for young professed of the Korean Benedictine Orders.
III- Continuing Formation
1. Programmes of continuing formation organised independently by each Congregation
Participation in programmes of continuing formation put forward annually on Church teaching and understanding of human nature.
Participation in programmes of contining formation organised by the various Congregations.
Thirty-day retreat for tenth, twenty-fifth and fortieth anniversaries of religious profession.
Participation in programme of formation for renewal between six and twelve months before Silver Jubilee (25 years).
Formation Seminars for elderly sisters.
Participation in formation and seminars provided within each Congregation.
2. Participation in courses
These courses, which focus on personal development, mid-life needs, the responsibility for movement, are put forward by the Institute of theology and the Institute of formation, and are organised by the association of major superiors.
IV- Seminars and Meetings for Formators
1. Preparation intended for formators in charge of initial or continuing formation.
After solemn profession courses on theology, Scripture, monasticism, the Rule, spiritual psychology, etc.
Courses on the formation of formators in Korea or abroad.
Formation for spiritual accompaniment: the association of major superiors are planning a course next year.
2. Continuing formation of formators
The formators meet each year; they set up a programme of meetings and organise sessions and discussions on the relevant subjects. These meetings are very active at the heart of the association (initial formation, continuing formation, religious life and the elders…).
Participation in international meetings of formators organised by the Benedictine Confederation.
V- Formation of Superiors
Conferences and meetings intended for Benedictine superiors are organised twice a year by the association of major superiors. They meet also to hear conferences or to discuss a particular subject.
The superiors of small Benedictine communities meet each year for formation and to discuss their role and responsibility.
There are also meetings for Bursars.
Supplementary Information about the Formation of Korean Benedictines
The Benedictine Orders of Korea belong to the following Congregations : St-Ottilien or Tutzing (Germany), Olivetan Sisters (Switzerland), Olivetan Brothers (Italy). These Congregations (with the exception of the Olivetan Brothers, who came to South Korea in the 1980s) all began in China or North Korea, which are now under a Communist regime. The communities, which have all undergone expatriations, exiles and imprisonments by the Communist governments, are now part of South Korea. The Korean Benedictines have grown and established their stability. They bear witness to the Benedictine spirituality in the Korean Catholic Church, and serve the Church by various ministries.
The Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing and the Olivetan Sisters are not enclosed and have undertaken apostolic ministry. They make a big group and include hundreds of members. Their distinguishing mark is that they undertake apostolic work and live in small communities.
Even though the number of vocations has declined sharply in the last twenty years, they remain relatively important by comparison to other countries. This is probably due to the effort put into formation and study. Korea was a missionary country. Catechesis, theology, Scripture and spirituality were considered basic to initial formation and deepening of the Christian spirit. All this has favourably influenced the apprenticeship and understanding of the fundamental principles of the consecrated life.