“Brendan,remember you’re not as young as you used to be”…. This was what afriendin Cork said to former school teacher Brendan Daly in a gentle bid to try and perhaps get him torethink his plans to embarkon a life changing mission to South Korea.

BrendanDaly, an affable and hugely positive man laughs at the memory. “At first the poorman was too polite to say what he was thinking but eventually he just came out with itand fired his salvo thinking it would shake a bit of sense into me”!!

Undeterred however,the then 56 year old Brendan andhiswife Maryleft their home and jobs in Balincollig andset out for a new lifeas lay missionariesin Seoul,South Korea.Fourteen years on it is clearthat they made the right decisionand are delighted with how well it has gone.

Sitting in theirsimple apartmentin Seoulduring our‘World Missions Ireland‘trip,Brendan says that while a life dedicated to lay mission might not be foreveryone, for himself and Mary it was a natural progression. “We were verymuch involved withour Parish in Ballincolligwe were ministers of the Eucharist and I was on the Parish Council. Also we were members of theneocatechumenate in that parish and it was therein that our desire to be missionaries took rootso we volunteeredfor mission not knowing where we’d be requestedtogo.As it transpired we wereasked to go to Seoul.We made the decision in twodays andset out for South Korea two months later.Before we went we made contact with a Columban priest who had returned to Ireland after spending forty years in Korea and he gave us some helpful advice”.

On being asked if it tookhuge couragetogofrom Ballincollig toSeoul, Marytakes up the story,“Well, the way we looked at it wasthat we hadvolunteered for mission so we were fully prepared to go wherever requested asthat was obviouslywhere we wereneeded and we believed God would help us regardless of the destination. Sheadmits that theysufferedfinancially asBrendan had to wait some years to reap the rewards of what was by then a reduced tteacher’s pension.“Ihad nursedin my earlierlife but was working asachiropodistat the time of leaving, soyes,it did impact on us financially but those factors are not anissue. God providesand we get by”.Mary smiles as she remembers the reaction of some friends and family members “mynephews in particular were reallysurprised“. 

 Arriving in Seoul wasa shockto the system, howevera number of factors contributed toease themin.“We were lucky in that we arrived some months before the 2002 World Cup so all signs and  information were  in English to cater for the massive influxofvisitors. ManypeoplecamefromIreland at the timeincluding some friends and there was a terrific buzz and atmosphere about the place. The fact that the Korean and Irish teams performed so well contributed hugely in that regard.

 Brendan smiles as he rrecalls a memory from thattime…

“We met the IrishSoccer Teamin their hotel. The team managerwas Mick McCarthy whose father had emigrated from Tallow. I was brought up in the neighbouring town of Lismore so I approached Mickand askedhow’s the son of Charlie McCarthy from Tallow”! Shows what a small world it is really.  In the hotel after the game against Spain, Damian Duff gave me his jersey much to the chagrin of oneof the FAI officials.  The players and manager signedthe jersey and it was later auctioned for charity inBallincollig.On another occasion Mary and I were among a group invited by the Irish Embassy to a social eveningon board the L.E. Niamh at the port of Incheon.  It was the first time an Irish Navy Ship had sailed in Asian waters.Captain Gerard O’ FlynnfromCourtmacsherry, welcomed everybody on board but was shocked to find himself greeting a former teacher who had taught him in Cork many years previously. We spent the night reminiscing.”

Brendan and Mary are members of a neocatechumenal community with whom they give catecheses for adults in the diocese of Seoul. Neocatechumenate, Brendan explains, gives a very good formation in faith and attracts many who have lost contact with the church. Another aspect of their missionary work is their involvement in the International Parish of Seoul. They read in the church and are members of the Parish Council. They teach Sunday School to children and teenagers and on Saturdays instruct adults preparing for Baptism.

Brendan, with the approval of the parish priest, summarized the contents of The Catechism of the Catholic Church into a manageableandunderstandable booklet. “Well, we were dealing withpeople,many of whom knew nothingaboutthe Catholic Church or its teachings so it made sense to make it more accessible to them”.  

 Mary says“One girl fromMongolia cameto us. She knew absolutelynothing aboutreligion, let alone aboutCatholicismbut it is funny how people can be quiet witnesses in their own way. Friends of hers whom we instructed had converted toCatholicism and she was iinfluenced by them. Each year we have three or four adult candidates for Baptism at the Easter Vigil in the parish.  Because they are older and more mature they tend to be quite enthusiastic and really want a good grounding in faith. It’s always a very joyful occasion when they’re baptized“.

Brendan agrees saying that “While there are 5 million Catholics in Korea, this is a relatively small(11%) percentage of the total population butthere are compensations inbeing aminority.It means that people think more about their faithand appreciate it. By the way when one considers that the Catholic population in 1960 was 0.5% today’s figure of 11% represents a tremendous increase.

On being asked what they felt was their main function as missionaries in Korea they replied “The Second Vatican Council called on Christians to be a light to others. Accordingly we try as best we can to give Christian witness in our daily lives and in that regard prayer is vital.

Staff members form World Missions Ireland, Sally McEllistrim and Jackie Pallas met Brendan and Mary Daly while on a mission trip to South Korea in 2015.




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