This is the voice of Na Jong-cheon, who has been blind for more than 60 years, at an online seminar by Woori Theology Institute (WTI) on April 19. Although it may be due to my lack of knowledge of the pastoral area, I have never heard of such a clear and extraordinary pick-up of the present of the church’s ministry for the disabled people.
It was surprising, indeed, to hear what he said by melting his arduous life and faith into the Bible and Catholic Social Teachings while listening to the lecture of him. It was as if he wrote “a well-organized laity theology on the disabled.” The same was true of coherent words from him such as “Rights for Church Life”, “Mutual Evangelization”, “Spiritual Disability”, and “Disability of the Church without Presence of the disabled.”
In addition, it should be considered one of the “voices of the periphery” which the synod of People of God is to listen to. Although we have discussed and planed to have a series of online seminars in the first half of this year with “discrimination” as the main topic, Na Jong-cheon’s
story was more precise than expected demanding more concentration.
One of them is the term “Rights to Faith Life.” The Church life that has been taken for granted
to many church goers but not to Na who has seen a right to be restored which would galvanize many faithfuls for sure. Indeed, it was amazing to have approached Church life as one of the important rights and struggled to realize it.
What he wants to convey is broad, but the central message is not complicated. “The disabled live proudly in the region with ordinary believers and furthermore with residents in the same region, not in quarantine”, he pointed out. Therefore, he stressed out that it is wrong to create a separate parish for the audiovisual disabled or the deaf. This judgment seems to have originated from his experience rather than any theory.
In 1979, he established the “Catholic Blind Mission of Korea” and worked hard to expand it to each parish and nationwide. And 12 years ago, he carried out welfare activities for the blind based on the parish near his home. As a result, in 2019, it was possible to establish a disabled apostolic organization. His emphasis on “Disabled Ministry” rather than “a Devotional Group” is deeply related to his suggestion of “mutual Evangelization” between physically disabled people and ordinary people who may have mental or spiritual problems. In short, the visually impaired are not the object of benefits, but the subject of evangelization.
Therefore, the meaning of learning and practicing with each other as equal partners in the realization of the Reign of God in his speech is permeated in a mild but indomitable manner. Now he proposes a Theological Institute for Disabled. This is because in order to establish a realistic and reasonable pastoral policy, it is urgent to transfuse new blood to the Korean church, which is barren of theology and pastoral backups for disabled people.