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 the Archdiocese of Seoul.
In addition to their daily activities, they exercise pastoral ministry to engage couples of all ages in Bible study sessions with the aim of helping them build a culture of love and life in family and society.
They have helped more than 500 couples participate in the weekly Bible study program which emphasizes listening, learning and praying from the Bible.
They say they find great happiness in their long-standing association with Bible ministry and see the Bible as a comfort in all difficult situations in life.
“If we live centered on the Word of God and help others by sharing something and giving them joy to others, that makes us really happy,” the couple said, as quoted by the Korean Catholic Times.
The church Bible study group of which they are members is part of the Archdiocese of Seoul’s popular Bible Week program.
Through Bible study, couples can know and experience God and confirm their faith, and God-centered couples can learn 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 spirit of listening and prayer”.
The program was introduced in 1992 by Father Marcel Le Dorze, a priest of the Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris (MEP) who was mainly based at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo, Japan, from 1955. Father Le Dorze began the Bible Week program in the ward in 1974-75, convinced of “the need for continuing education in the faith for adults after baptism”.
The priest also developed a popular guide for the Bible Week program.
Father Le Dorze passed away in 2015 at the age of 84, but his legacy of Bible Week continues in Japan and South Korea.
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In the Archdiocese of Seoul, the Bible Week program is a major lay apostolate and has expanded to 277 parishes and communities and has produced around 14,730 Bible graduates, according to the Archdiocese of Seoul website.
For decades, Catholic bishops in Korea have emphasized and endorsed Bible studies for Catholics for lifelong faith training through a range of programs like Bible Week, the Diocese of Suwon’s online Bible school, the group Catholic Bible study led by the Order of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Bible School of the Daughters of Saint PaulOnline, Bible School of Life, and General Bible and Mentoring courses via the Good News website.
In 2018, the Archdiocese of Seoul launched a YouTube channel for special Bible lectures. Each week, six-minute lectures are posted online to help the faithful, from children to the elderly, easily learn and understand the Bible in a short time.
For the faithful, Korean bishops have prioritized the lessons of Christian love and the sanctity of human life, as enshrined in the Korean Catholic Life Movement.
In addition, the Korean branch of the Institute for the Evangelization of the World (ICPE), a global Catholic evangelistic advocacy group, sponsors online Bible conferences for married couples, including newly married couples.
The ICPE program consists of 16 lectures and lasts two hours per week. During the sessions, parents learn to live the Bible at home and are invited to share their experiences.
“Through Bible study, couples can know and experience God and confirm their faith, and God-centered couples can learn to love their spouse and children,” said Titus Choi, ICPE mission director in Korea. “It is a starting point for creating a culture of love and life.”
Conjugal love reveals its true nature and nobility when considered in its supreme origin, God, who is Love.
While Korean couples are drawn to Bible studies as a way to deepen their faith in God and strengthen their love for one another, they also remember Pope Paul VI’s famous words in his famous 1968 encyclical. Humanae Vitae (Human life).
“Conjugal love reveals its true nature and its nobility when it is considered in its supreme origin, God, who is Love”, declared Pope Paul VI.
In addition, they also learn the value of life through studying the Bible and to establish their conscience as Christians in pro-life issues such as abortion and euthanasia in accordance with Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), an encyclical by 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 the love of God to others.
“Through studying the Bible, they can see and feel how much God loves them as human beings and this inspires them to spread love in family and society,” added Titus Choi.
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 like true Christians”.
This article uses material from the Catholic Times of Korea