Waegwan Abbey

Saint Maurus and Saint Placidus Abbey, Waegwan, Chilgok, North Gyeongsang, South Korea is a Benedictine monastery of the Congregation of Missionary Benedictines of Saint Ottilien. Established in 1952 by Korean monks who had survived the dissolution of the Territorial Abbey of Tokwon and Holy Cross Abbey in Yanji, the monastery is currently home to 131 monks. Fr Blasio Park is the current abbot.

Waegwan Abbey
왜관수도원 대성당.jpg
Waegwan Abbey in 2008
Waegwan Abbey is located in South Korea
Waegwan Abbey
Location within South Korea
Monastery information
Other namesSt Maurus and St Placidus Abbey
OrderCongregation of Missionary Benedictines of Saint Ottilien, Order of Saint Benedict
Dedicated toSt Maurus and St Placidus
DioceseRoman Catholic Archdiocese of Daegu
Founder(s)Fr Timothy Bitterli, OSB
AbbotBlasio Park
PriorAnselmo Park
LocationWaegwan, Chilgok, North Gyeongsang, South Korea
Coordinates35°59′20″N 128°24′12″E / 35.988832°N 128.403246°E / 35.988832; 128.403246Coordinates: 35°59′20″N 128°24′12″E / 35.988832°N 128.403246°E / 35.988832; 128.403246


With the rise of Communism in China and North Korea, the monasteries of the Congregation of Missionary Benedictines of Saint Ottilien in Tokwon and Yanji were dissolved. A number of the monks — Germans, Koreans, and Swiss — were interned in labour camps, where some were executed. Twenty-six surviving Korean monks fled to South Korea. Upon hearing that they had formed a nascent monastic community in Busan, Archabbot Chrysostomus Schmid of St Ottilien ordered Fr Timothy Bitterli, a Swiss Missionary Benedictine who at the time resided at St Paul's Abbey, Newton, to relocate to South Korea in order to assist the community of Korean monks.

Bitterli arrived in 1952, and met the Korean monks in Daegu. Soon after, the community purchased property in Waegwan, where a monastery was completed in 1955. By this time, several German and Swiss monks who had been served at St Benedict's Abbey, Tokwon, and Holy Cross Abbey, Yanji, returned to East Asia to continue their missionary apostolate.[1]

By 1956, the monastery had been raised to a simple priory under Bitterli's leadership. On February 17, 1964, the monastery became an abbey. At this time, Fr Odo Haas was elected the community's first abbot. During Haas' reign, dependent houses were established in Busan and in Daegu. In 1971, Haas was succeeded by Fr Placidus Ri, who thus became the first ethnically Asian superior of a Missionary Benedictine monastery. Under Abbot Placidus, a new abbey church was constructed in 1975, and the monastery's printing and publishing endeavors were expanded and modernized. Additionally, Abbot Placidus oversaw the expansion of Waegwan Abbey's foundation in Seoul, which was enlarged from a study house for clerics to include a retreat center and a branch for the Waegwan Publishing House. In 1985, monks from Waegwan were sent to the Philippines to assist the fledgling monastic community in Digos.[2]

Apostolic WorkEdit

  • Printing — Since the days of Yanji and Tokwon, printing has been a major apostolate of the monks. Early on, no more than a handful of titles was printed annually. By 1990, each year an average of fifty new titles and sixty reprints were being printed. Waegwan Publishing House has published works of poetry by Kim Chi-Ha and Lee Hae In [ko]. Effort has also been directed toward producing books on the themes of social justice and human rights.[3]
  • Catechesis — In the spirit of the Missionary Benedictines, monks from Waegwan have played an important role in catechetical work. In addition to producing relevant audio-visual resources, in January 1986 the monks began a catechetical correspondence course. Within three years, the course had been completely computerized and more than 104,000 catechumens and interested Catholics had been enrolled.
  • Education — The monks of Waegwan have also been involved in education. Established in 1969, a theological institute in Taegu offers a comprehensive two-year program for sisters and laypeople. Monks must pass through the institute before making profession. Sun-Sim School, Waegwan, the middle school and high school administered by the monastery since 1955, has nearly 2000 pupils,[4] though government education policies precipitated the closure of an attached minor seminary in 1983.[5]
  • Retreats — Three different retreat facilities are directed by the Abbey of Waegwan. A large retreat house at the abbey itself serves around 2300 retreatants annually. Every year, a retreat house in Busan receives around 8000 guests. An additional retreat center exists in Seoul.
  • Social Work — To assist industrial workers, the monks founded a "workers' house" in the industrial city of Kumi in 1974. Here, monks teach courses ranging from marriage-preparation and traditional Korean culture to pottery and calligraphy. Instruction on Catholic teaching on social justice and labour rights is also provided. The abbey's endeavors in carpentry and agriculture employ large numbers of laypeople.[6]


Many of the monks of the Abbey of Waegwan are occupied at a number of dependent monastic foundations. One of these, St Joseph's Monastery, Namyangju, was elevated to a simple priory in 1998. Another, the "Newton II" community at St Paul's Abbey, Newton, succeeded the dwindling population of the original monastery, and was elevated to a simple priory in 2004.[7]


As of May 18, 2011, 111 solemnly professed monks (46 of them priests) were members of the monastic community at Waegwan. At this time, the abbey also included 17 temporally professed monks, two novices, one oblate, and ten postulants.[8]

Abbot Fr Simon Petro Ri is the current superior of the monastic community. He was elected and confirmed on August 23, 2001, and received the abbatial blessing on September 11, 2001. Abbot Simon is the fourth Abbot of Waegwan. Abbot Simon is assisted in his duties by Fr Polycarp Kim, prior, and Bro Andrea Jeon, subprior.[9]

Superiors of Waegwan[10]Edit

Name Position Reign
Timothy Bitterli Prior 1951-1964
Odo Haas 1st Abbot 1964-1971
Placidus Ri 2nd Abbot 1971-1985
Martin Ri 3rd Abbot 1985-1995
Simon Ri 4th Abbot 2001–2013
Blasio Park 5th Abbot 2013–present

Monks of Waegwan[11]Edit

Year No. of monks Priests
1960 62 26
1970 92 33
1980 93 41
1990 108 44
2011[12] 131 46

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sieber, OSB, Godfrey (1992). The Benedictine Congregation of St. Ottilien. St Ottilien: EOS Verlag. p. 72. ISBN 3-88096-645-1.
  2. ^ Sieber, OSB (1992). The Benedictine Congregation. p. 73.
  3. ^ Sieber, OSB (1992). The Benedictine Congregation. p. 72.
  4. ^ Schematismus. 2011. p. 65.
  5. ^ Sieber, OSB (1992). The Benedictine Congregation. p. 74.
  6. ^ Sieber, OSB (1992). The Benedictine Congregation. p. 75.
  7. ^ Schematismus. St Ottilien. 2011. pp. 66–68.
  8. ^ Schematismus. St Ottilien. 2011. p. 109.
  9. ^ Schematismus. St Ottilien. 2011. pp. 58–59.
  10. ^ Sieber, OSB (1992). The Benedictine Congregation. p. 76.
  11. ^ Sieber, OSB (1992). The Benedictine Congregation. p. 76.
  12. ^ Schematismus. St Ottilien. 2011. p. 109.

Further readingEdit

  • Godfrey Sieber, OSB, The Benedictine Congregation of Saint Ottilien, St Ottilien: EOS Verlag, 1992. pp 72–77

External linksEdit