Updated: December 18, 2014 08:59 PM GMT
Enkh Baatar will become the first Mongolian deacon during an ordination on Thursday in Seoul, Korea (Photo courtesy of Églises d’Asie)
The Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia is set to receive its first indigenous deacon during an ordination this week in South Korea.
Bishop Wenceslao Padilla of the prefecture said the ordination of Enkh Baatar, 23, is something he has long looked forward to and coincides with the recent celebration of the Catholic Church’s 20 years of existence in Mongolia.
Padilla said he was glad to see a Mongolian native take up the torch lit two decades before by the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The more than 80 priests and religious in Mongolia are foreign-born missionaries that have presided over the small but growing Church, Padilla said.
Enkh Baatar, whose baptismal name is Joseph, said in a blog post for the Catholic Church in Mongolia that he was impatient to join the Church because of the difficulties that had marked its history in the country and the deep faith that had inspired him.
“I wanted to go straight to the seminary after finishing school, but my family and everyone in the mission, including the bishop, advised me to educate myself first in college. I was disappointed.
He added, however, that he recognizes now that “it was a wise decision”.
After getting a biochemistry degree from Mongolia International University, an institution founded by South Korean Protestants in Ulaanbaatar, the young man flew in August 2008 to the diocese of Daejon in South Korea, where he first studied Korean for six months before entering the seminary.
A parishioner who attended Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Ulaanbaatar this week said Baatar’s mother addressed the congregation about her son’s ordination.
“She told the congregation how her son … had to struggle to persevere in his vocation and that the family, like most of his friends, had tried for years to dissuade him from becoming a priest,” the parishioner said.
But Baatar’s mother is proud of her son, the parishioner added, and will be in attendance at his ordination on Thursday in Seoul.
An expatriate businessman in Ulaanbaatar said the ordination of an indigenous Mongolian was important for the small Church community in the country.
"This ordination, in addition to its obvious ecclesial and apostolic importance, will also have practical consequences and will allow the church to finally have the right to own property and to be its own legal representative," said the businessman who has lived for many years in the country.
According to the laws of the Republic of Mongolia, only a Mongolian citizen can own land or run a religious organization.
Bishop Padilla said that a 2009 law requiring foreign entities operating in the country to hire local Mongolian staff according to a quota system had created a financial strain on the Church that would now be alleviated.
“According to these quotas, the Catholic Church is expected to hire an additional 60 people, but we do not have the money for their salaries,” he said.
He added that 13 missionaries would have to leave the country if the law was strictly enforced.
Christians of all denominations comprise just more than 2 percent of the population in Mongolia, where most people practice Tibetan Buddhism mixed with shamanistic beliefs.
This article appears courtesy of Églises d’Asie, the information agency of the Paris Foreign Missions. Translated and edited from the original French, it is published here by permission.