On Thursday September 24th from noon to 2 p.m. in the Maryknoll dining room, the Wellness Committee organized a preemptive Chusok celebration at Maryknoll, complete with authentic Korean foods (Even the kimchi was a hit—we ran out!), music, singing, decorations and with many of the veterans of Maryknoll in Korea wearing their "Han Bok" or traditional Korean costume.
Traditional Korean folk music greeted the Maryknollers as they entered and got their lunch of marinated beef, chicken, clear spinach soup, bean sprouts, cucumber, scallion pancakes, roasted barley tea and the staple of all Korean meals, kimchi—a spicy, pickled cabbage that has been known to reduce even tough guys to tears. Yours Truly acted as M.C. through a 20-minute program of Korean songs by the Maryknoll Sisters, a solo by Fr. Marty Lowery, a song by the Fathers, a joint choir singing the Korean version of Nearer My God to Thee in four-part harmony, an impromptu song about reunification by Fr. John Tynan and a kiddies' song "churchified" by Fr. Jm Gilligan. We then invited the people to join in singing the refrain of "Sarang Hae" (Repeating "Yea" 45 times!) as well as the ever-popular folk song "Arirang."
These were interspersed with inane banter as well as a crash course in a few select Korean expressions. Throughout the event there were drawings for some wonderful door prizes such as gift cards for Starbucks, Tagert and Barnes & Noble.
Strings of Korean and American flags as well as blue, white, red and yellow crepe paper streamers will festoon the pillars as is the shamanistic custom with some Korean artifacts strewn about.
The Church in Korea and our work there can proudly be hailed as truly a success story, although, truth be told, Maryknoll simply caught the wave of evangelization at the right time that was sweeping across the country. The Korean Foreign Mission Society with missions in Taiwan, Hongkong, China, Papua and Peru is just one example of how the Church there has come of age.
Another interesting cultural note: the New York Times reported last week how the Korean alphabet (한글) is being exported around the globe to help native peoples who lack their own written language. It is 99% phonetic but does lack sounds for "F" "Z" "V" and "Th". Conversely it has a few hard gutteral sounds that may come in handy with some of those indigenous languages.
Many thanks to Claudia Kublenz-Sulkov (OSP), Br. Wayne Fitzpatrick, Fr. Mike Duggan and Fr. John Moran for putting this all together. People lingered and chatted long after the party ended, so that is the best sign of success.