For many years, South Korean Catholic Bible study groups have been campaigning to encourage the faithful to read and understand the Bible. (Photo: Catholic Times of Korea)
For more than two decades, Catholic couple Pius Son Eldi, 68, and Catherine Bae Geum-ja, 69, have been part of the Bible study group at Hongje-dong Catholic Church in Seoul Archdiocese.
Besides their day-to-day activities, they have been carrying out a pastoral ministry to engage couples of all ages in Bible study sessions with an aim to help them build a culture of love and life in the family and society.
They have helped more than 500 couples to participate in the weekly Bible study program that focuses on listening, learning and praying the Bible.
They say they find great happiness in their long-held association with Bible ministry and they see the Bible as a solace for all difficult situations in life.
“If we live centered on the Word of God and we help others by sharing something, and giving them joy to others, it makes us really happy,” the couple were quoted as saying by the Catholic Times of Korea.
The parish Bible study group where they are members is part of the popular Bible Week program of Seoul Archdiocese.
Through Bible study, couples can know and experience God and confirm their faith, and God-centered couples can learn how to love their spouse and children
The program, known as “The Bible in 100 Weeks,” aims to encourage Catholics to read the entire Bible in about two years with “a listening and prayerful mind.”
The program was introduced in 1992 by Father Marcel Le Dorze, a priest from the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP) who was mostly based at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo, Japan, from 1955. Father Le Dorze started the Bible Week program in the parish in 1974-75 as he was convinced about “the need for continual faith education for adults after Baptism.”
The priest also developed a popular guidebook for the Bible Week program.
Father Le Dorze died in 2015 at the age of 84, but his legacy of Bible Week continues in Japan and South Korea.
In Seoul Archdiocese, the Bible Week program is a major lay apostolate and has spread to 277 parishes and communities and produced about 14,730 Bible graduates, according to Seoul Archdiocese’s website.
For decades, Catholic bishops in Korea have emphasized and endorsed Bible studies for Catholics for continuous faith formation through a range of programs like Bible Week, Online Bible School by Diocese of Suwon, Catholic Bible Study Group run by The Order of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, The Daughters of St. Paul Bible School, Online Life Bible School and general and mentoring Bible classes through the Good News website.
In 2018, Seoul Archdiocese launched a YouTube channel for special Bible lectures. On a weekly basis, six-minute lectures are uploaded to help the faithful, from children to elderly, to learn and understand the Bible easily in a short time.
For the faithful, Korean bishops have prioritized lessons of Christian love and the sacredness of human life as enshrined in the Korean Catholic Life Movement.
In addition, the Korean branch of the Institute for World Evangelization (ICPE), a global Catholic group promoting evangelization, has been sponsoring online Bible lectures for married couples including newly married couples.
The ICPE program comprises 16 lectures and are conducted for two hours each week. During sessions parents are taught how to live the Bible at home and are asked to share their experiences.
“Through Bible study, couples can know and experience God and confirm their faith, and God-centered couples can learn how to love their spouse and children,” said Titus Choi, director of the ICPE Mission in Korea. “It is a starting point for creating a culture of love and life.”
Conjugal love reveals its true nature and nobility when it is considered in its supreme origin, God, who is Love
While Korean couples are drawn to Bible studies as a way of deepening their faith in God and strengthening their love for each other, they are also reminded of the famous words of Pope Paul VI in his famous 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae (Human Life).
“Conjugal love reveals its true nature and nobility when it is considered in its supreme origin, God, who is Love,” Pope Paul VI said.
In addition, they are also taught the preciousness of life through Bible study and to establish their awareness as Christians in pro-life issues such as abortion and euthanasia in line with Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), an encyclical of Pope John Paul II published in 1995.
For Catholic couples like Pius and Catherine, a Bible study group is an inseparable part of their life as Christians who wish to live as “children of God” and help spread God’s love to others.
“Through Bible study they can see and feel how much God loves them as human beings and it inspires them to spread the love in the family and society,” Titus Choi added.
South Korea, an economic powerhouse in Asia, has a large non-religious population. About 56 percent of South Koreans have no religion, 20 percent are Protestant, 8 percent are Catholic and 15.5 percent are Buddhist, according to official government records.
Church officials say about 5.6 million Catholics are spread across three archdioceses, 14 dioceses and a military ordinariate.
For couples like Pius and Catherine, living the Bible in everyday life offers what they call the feeling of “living as real Christians.”
This article uses materials from Catholic Times of Korea