Don Bosco Youth Center, Seoul, Korea, 10 March 2023 -- On 8 March, a day when spring was in full bloom, even though in the middle of the Lenten season, a special feast took place at the Don Bosco Oratorio. Eight young people were baptized as children of God after a well-planned preparation period. The baptisms took place during a Mass celebrated by Fr Marcelo Kwang-hyun Baek, director.
The baptized children received intensive catechesis for two months and passed a final test and interview with thorough catechists, Bro Stephen Kim and Cl. John Lee, a practical trainee. Fifteen children started the program, but seven dropped out or failed to pass the tests, so eight were baptized on the day and rejoiced to be reborn as sons of God.
The Don Bosco Oratorio (as principal, Fr Gabriel Oh) is a kind of social-welfare correctional facility, where children who have been assigned 6th level by the court live for six months under the care of the Salesians and lay collaborators. Currently, there are 40 boys living there, with about 80 passing through the center in a year. Most of them are boys between the ages of 14 and 18, and most of them are junior high school or high school students who have been involved in juvenile crimes and have been sentenced by the court to spend at least 6 months in the Oratorio.
While they stay here, they study academic subjects, participate in various cultural and athletic activities, as well as different job experiences. One of them is religious activities. Most of the children come here without any religious background, but after living with the Salesians for a few months, their eyes are opened to the religious dimension and they are willing to participate in religious practices such as attending Mass and praying the rosary. So, for example, at the end of the day, around 20 children volunteer to pray the rosary, which is offered around 9 p.m., making it a daily tradition to pray together. I don't know where else in the world you can find 20 unbaptized youth of that age praying the rosary together every night!
There are four occasions for baptism in a year, and the total number of new baptized are between 20 and 25.
Don Bosco Oratorio in Seoul, with many help of lay collaborators, strives to build processes of reintegration of these young people once left on the margins, excluded from society, to return them to it as people capable of autonomous development, as active and believing citizens – with absolute respect for their freedom.
“Convinced that working with the young and with communities at high risk is one of the most beautiful kinds of sanctification that we have inherited from our Founder, we recognise, in all humility and without triumphalism, that we are called to continue to work with evangelical spirit and professionalism within these social works and services: it is the Salesian contribution to building up the Kingdom of God.” (AGC 438)