The Catholic University of America

 Daesup Kim Defense

Final Examination of Rev. Daesup Kim

For the Degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology

April 18, 2011 at 2:00 p.m., Caldwell Room 125


The Church as Communion in Small Christian Communities in South Korea


Rev. Msgr. Paul McPartlan, D. Phil.

In light of the development of an ecclesiology of communion in the Catholic Church in recent decades, the Catholic Church in South Korea has implemented a structure of small Christian communities (SCCs) in each parish. However, there has been a lack of real understanding and analysis of SCCs in terms of the idea of the Church as communion. Instead, they have generally been regarded as one of the best ways for evangelization and for parish renewal. This seems to be because the SCCs have been implemented while mostly focusing on the mission of the Church, without fully considering the essential nature of the Church as a whole.

This dissertation traces the implementation and establishment of SCCs in the Church of South Korea. It then analyzes this development in light of the ecclesiology of communion developed on the universal level in the teaching of Vatican II and subsequent magisterial teachings (noting Christological, ecclesial, and evangelical dimensions of the idea), and on the regional level in the documents of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC; noting especially understandings of communion as liberation, as dialogue, and as harmony).

It is concluded that SCCs in South Korea have promoted communion in the Church, especially in terms of personal communion with Jesus Christ through meditation on the Gospel, friendlier communion among the parishioners, more active participation of the laity in the parish and in the evangelization of their neighborhood. However, there are still some issues to be resolved and points to be developed, in order to find a truly inculturated model for the SCCs and proper methods of Gospel-sharing and of lay spirituality fitting for the Korean environment. The dissertation makes suggestions towards that end.

SCCs have been true expressions of ecclesial communion and centers of evangelization in South Korea. Accordingly, it can be said that with the help of the SCC movement the Church in South Korea is in process toward becoming a true local Church, a true Church-in-communion.