Pastoral Ministry in a Korean Parish
A nice advantage of having the Maryknoll Initial Formation program partly take place in Chicago is that the city here is diverse, and there are many opportunities to become engaged in just about any type of ministry to which one feels called. After spending a few years overseas on my Overseas Training Program, I wanted to continue to live out that missionary calling here in the United States.
I was ordained a transitional deacon last August, and this period of diaconate service is an important one in becoming fully ready to accept the great honor and great responsibility that comes with being an ordained priest. So I wanted to spend this diaconate period working within a community that is diverse and would provide a sort of missionary experience even while here at home. Fortunately for me, I asked and was granted permission to serve as a deacon at the Korean Martyrs’ Parish, located just west of downtown Chicago. The parish was originally a project of the Columban Fathers, and now is staffed by Korean priests who have originally come from Korea. The community, which is around 99% Korean, has been amazingly welcoming and it’s been a pleasure to serve with them as deacon over these past six months.
Besides being the youth minister for the parish, organizing the young adults’ groups on various activities, and helping teach catechism class to the younger children, I assist at both Korean and English masses on the weekends. The most challenging part of this ministry? Every Sunday at the early morning mass, I proclaim the Gospel to the community…in the Korean language. What makes this especially challenging is that, in fact, I’ve never studied Korean a day of my life! And yet, just by interacting with members of the community, spending time with them inside and outside of Church, and by having a willingness to make connections with the people, I’ve picked up enough Korean to get by. My reading skills are not perfect, but good enough to preach the Gospel each week. Ultimately I owe it t the grace of God, for helping open my lips to be able to worthily proclaim His Word!
I had many, many memorable experiences overseas while studying as a Maryknoll seminarian and now as deacon. It’s been wonderful to be able to bring that experience home and still work in an environment that is warm, friendly, and above all, completely welcoming. My ordination to the priesthood is very rapidly approaching, and as May 20, 2017 continues to approach, I continue to discern my role in the mission of Christ and discern what the Lord is asking me to do. Yet as I wait these last few months in anticipation, excitement, and definitely with a little nervousness, I have faith that the Lord, through the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, will allow me to exercise my priestly ministry in a way that is most pleasing to Him. Should I be given the opportunity to return to Asia — which is indeed my hope — and the opportunity to continue to serve with the Korean people either here or in Korea itself, I know the experiences I’ve had during these years of seminary and diaconate will turn out to be invaluable. All I’ve learned will not only help me to live more fully as an instrument of God’s hand, but will also, God willing, allow me to make a positive impact on the lives of all those I meet while serving as an ordained member of the Church.