ST. BONIFACE — St. Thomas More Parish has a Christian community that is largely of Korean origin and every year it welcomes more and more faithful who ask to receive the sacrament of baptism.
St. Thomas More Parish, in the Archdiocese of St Boniface, has about 300 parishioners of all ages and welcomed about 20 new members in the past three years, most of them immigrants recently arrived from South Korea.
At first, the church of St. Thomas More was a chaplaincy. It was officially erected as a Korean parish by Archbishop Emilius Goulet on June 19, 2009. Sunday masses are now celebrated in Korean by Rev. Andrew Kim.
This year, during the 2015 Easter Vigil, 14 adults, men and women, were baptized. They followed the catechumenal program, accompanied by Laurent Song, a layperson who was himself baptized as an adult.
“I was baptized in Korea in June 1984,” explains Song. “I had already journeyed with young catechumens in Vietnam, but this is the very first time I can walk with adults on their journey to baptism.”
Two new immigrants from South Korea, K. C. Sim and Sungin Kang, are among the 14 adults who were to be baptized. “I have asked, along with my wife, to receive baptism, as I desire to know God and the Catholic religion, but also to be part of a community,” explains Kang. “I wish to take part in building a lively community of faithful to the one true God, with all the other parishioners.”
Sim confirms the importance of the community aspect of the sacrament of baptism. “It’s important for me to be able to rely on religion since I came to Canada, as I have no family here. I need to rely on God, as well as on a community of faith. It is difficult for me to express my feelings, but my trust in God is growing.”
Back in Korea, Kang was a disciple of Buddha, and Sim’s family was also guiding him toward Buddhism. But after their arrival in Canada, conversion was easy.
“I find that there are similarities between both religions, even if the two are different,” states Sim. “I recognize similar values and mentality. Coming to church or to baptismal preparation is soothing and relaxing. And that is really motivating!”
The baptismal preparation lasted 16 weeks, and catechumens had to attend at least 70 per cent of the sessions in order to receive the sacrament. A manual approved by the parish, videos and other media in Korean, help the catechumens delve into topics such as God the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit, Christendom and the sacraments.
“For beginners, what is most important is not the quantity of information received, but the manner in which it is received,” says Song. “In order to receive Christ, we must learn to let go, to empty our hands. It’s a good challenge for me. It is an opportunity to renew my faith and open my own hands. I was baptized more than 30 years ago; this is just a great way to revive the grace I received at the time. It has transformed my heart and makes me feel closer to God and Jesus.”