Daejeon (AsiaNews) - "I would like to become a priest who has his permanent centre in Jesus Christ. This way, I can live the Gospel and proclaim God' message in my country, Mongolia. Here, unfettered capitalism coexists with animist traditions, making it very hard to be a Christian. Yet we never lose hope for the Lord's love makes all things possible," said Joseph Enkh-Baatar as he spoke to AsiaNews.
Joseph's story is simple. He was ordained Mongolia's first deacon on 10 December in Daejeon (South Korea) by the local bishop, Mgr Lazarus You Heung-sik, and the Apostolic Prefect of Ulaan Baatar, Mgr Padilla. His homeland is a former Communist state that is still predominantly Buddhist and animist, where Christians are few and far in-between with less than 2,000 Catholics, members of a Church that was officially established 22 years ago.
"I was born on 24 June 1987, in a non-Christian family. When I was seven, I heard about the Catholic Church through my sister, who introduced me to faith. I was baptised in 1999."
"When I finished high school," he said, "I wanted to enter the seminary to become a priest. My friends and my bishop advised me to go to university first. After graduation, I went to South Korea to study to become a priest. In 2009, I entered St Joseph Seminary in Daejeon, and now I am a deacon. In a year, after my priestly ordination, I will return to my country."
The ordination to the diaconate and the path to the priesthood "give me great joy. I feel God's grace on me, but also the responsibility of being a witness to the Church and the Catholic message in a country that is not Catholic. I try to be a good example, with my words and actions, so that others can hear and recognise Christ in me and my life. During my training, before ordination, I learnt that a deacon has a duty to serve God and the Church. Now I want to serve the Church and God with all my soul and with all my strength."
Joseph has only one desire. "I want to become a priest who never loses sight of his centre, which is Jesus Christ. I could have said a priest 'like Christ', a priest who is a 'good shepherd' or a priest 'who gives his life for others and for God'. But the truth be told, I want to become a priest who never loses sight of Jesus, who remembers and keeps his relationship with Christ in first place, who draws joy and meaning from Him for his life".
The journey Joseph has ahead is not an easy one. "The Church of Mongolia was born 22 years ago, and there are many things to do for the Catholic community. From my point of view, the pastoral priorities are the growth of religious vocations, translating the Bible into Mongolian since we currently use a Protestant edition, the missionary aspect, and finally the life of our laity, whom we sometimes lose after baptism."
It is clear that "we will also need a theology and liturgy closer to Mongolian sensibilities. We face many thing, and have so many challenges, which we must face calmly and decisively. In addition, my country was Communist until 1970, whilst in the nineties a particular type of capitalism arrived, which generated a great gap between rich and poor. We also have to take the right steps so that the Church can be an interlocutor with the government and the people."
"In this situation we are few Christians," he said. "But we can show the joy that is born from Christ and the truth of the Church through our lives, with our words and in our actions. The rest will come."
Finally, "Please, pray for the Church in Mongolia, which is the youngest in the world," Deacon Joseph said. "It is hard to proclaim the Gospel in my country. It is even harder to live according to the Gospel. Yet, I have no doubt that if we love others as Jesus teaches us in his words, then everything will be fulfilled according to God's will. I believe in the power of God's love. We may be few, but if we love our neighbours, we can carry out a great mission. Thank You!"