Ulaanbaatar(AsiaNews/Ucan) - 106 Catechumens are waiting for Baptism, which will almost double the membership of the of the Mongolian Catholic Church, established in 1992. The three parishes, Good Shepard, St. Mary’s and Sts. Peter and Paul are preparing the candidates, some of whom will be initiated into the Faith during the Easter Vigil this April.
The reasons these Mongolians from primarily Buddhist backgrounds seek Baptism are as many as the catechumens themselves.
“When I first saw them [Christians] I was surprised by what good people they were,” said Baigal, a catechumen and a mathematics teacher at the church-run Verbiest Street Children Care Center : “I want to live a worthy life. I want to do good, like Jesus, like the sisters and fathers.”
Monhjargal, who will be baptised this Easter, is a 40 year old widow who admitted that it was personal difficulties following the death of her husband that drew her to Christ’s teachings. When asked by others why she spends time at church, she says, “I learn to pray, and when I pray I receive strength, and I can endure my life and hardships peacefully.” She is convinced of her decision and stated that she’ll receive Baptism, “no matter what my neighbors say.”
“First, I wanted to practice German and learn some new things from foreigners” said Husvgul, who takes catechism classes with her two sisters. But that wasn’t all: “Our parents live in the countryside and we were a bit lonely in the big city. Gradually I got to know some priests and nuns and started to love the Church.” Husvgul contacted other Christian groups before enrolling in classes at the Catholic Church. Now her eldest sister reads the Bible to the younger ones and one of her sisters is working for the Missionaries of Charity.”It is important for us to come to this Church so that we can live a better life.”
It was economic factors for some that led them to enquire into the Catholic Church. At Good Shepard parish, Oyunchimeg was able to get a low interest loan of US to start a sewing business. She attended her first Mass out of interest in the parishioners who were “somehow different.”
Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Lieve Straiger has been teaching catechism in the Ulaanbaatar Prefecture for seven years. “Knowledge is very important for Mongolian people. They desire to know God better through Jesus. They really want to become members of the Church.” She was told by some of her students that they prefer to go God directly, not through a lama as in the Buddhist tradition. The Christians’ sharing and communcal spirit was also something they couldn’t find among the local Buddhists.
Only adults can enroll in the catechism classes. Father Stephen Kim, parish priest of St. Mary’s Church said that the Mongolian Church will not baptise children under the age of 16 unless expressly requested by their parents who must promise to support them in the faith.
With the number of people seeking Baptism high, as Sr. Straiger noted, “Some have felt that receiving Baptism is “like receiving a college certificate or a degree, and they stop coming to church.”
Parish priest Fr. Philip Borla indicated that was to be one of the issues addressed at the first parish synod of Sts. Peter and Paul’s Church last January.
Mongolian population are mainly buddhist (95,8%), with some Muslim minorities (4,2%).