A Catholic priest administers the baptism of a child in South Korea in 2020. (Photo: Catholic Times)
Catholic clergy, religious and laypeople in South Korean parishes have maintained pastoral services despite a significant income loss and low church attendances during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The findings were shown in a report based on studies in eight parishes in Uijeongbu Diocese, about 20 kilometers north of capital Seoul.
The report covered Jingeon, Jeji-dong, Singok-dong, Dongducheon, Wondang, Jeongbalsan, Tanhyeon-dong and Unjeong parishes.
Eight representatives from each parish were involved in the study, which was prepared by the research subcommittee of Uijeongbu Diocese’s Covid-19 committee.
The report summarized that parishes were at the forefront of carrying out services and supporting needy people during the pandemic despite challenging situations.
The parishes saw a drastic drop in income of up to 37 percent in 2020 from the previous year. Mass attendances also declined significantly by up to by 50 percent, the report stated.
It also found that parish income decreased less than expected thanks to generous donations and the support of local faithful. However, it noted that without any change in the Covid-19 situation in 2021, there will be a further reduction in parish income as mobilization of additional resources would be difficult.
The report revealed the negative impacts of the pandemic on lay apostolates of parishes, such as suspension of district and class meetings and decreased attendances for Sunday schools and parish volunteer programs.
“As a result, non-face-to-face pastoral services through revitalization of digital media such as YouTube, pastoral letters and contactless visits became prominent,” said Kim Yong-moo, president of Uijeongbu Parish Council.
Vulnerable people such as pregnant women received support from volunteer groups who effectively responded to urgent needs, he noted.
“Each parish had believers who risked infection and gave their time and resources generously — little heroes who led the way with examples of responding to the crisis. It showed the bright face of the Korean Church,” Kim added.
Uijeongbu Diocese, carved out of Seoul Archdiocese and erected in 2004, is the newest of three Catholic archdioceses and 14 dioceses in South Korea. The diocese has about 300,000 Catholics in 78 parishes.