Parochial Vicar, Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose, California
“When you go through seven years of seminary, you think you know what the priesthood is, but there are so many graced moments I never expected. It’s so unique, so hard to explain: sharing birth, death, joy, sadness with people. It’s rich and rewarding. You don’t feel worthy to be in those situations. It’s a privileged position to be a diocesan priest.”
Ordained in 2010, Father Joe Kim is clearly happy in his vocation, but very busy. He has many responsibilities in a large, multicultural parish in the Silicon Valley. He celebrates Mass in English, Spanish, and Korean in his parish and surrounding parishes. He hears confessions. He works with the parish youth group, teaches religion classes in the parish school, visits hospitals, does baptismal and marriage preparation, pastoral counseling, assists with community services and outreach programs, among other ministries.
What is the greatest challenge in a large, middle- and upper-middle class parish where nearly everyone works in the hi-tech industry? “To give them the opportunity to serve, to be generous in giving both money and time. Right now, there’s a new parish opening on the poorer side of town. Our parishioners are helping with that. Also, since they work in a very secular environment, they need avenues to express their faith. We provide lots of small groups—for men, for mothers, for retired people—to share and express their faith.”
How does Father Joe manage to juggle so many activities? “I have to start the day with an hour of prayer. If I don’t, the day isn’t successful.” Father Joe acquired the daily holy hour habit while he was in the Priestly Discernment Program: “My two years there were exactly what I needed. My director back then was Father Gus Donegan, TOR. He’d say, ‘Joe, prayer is a relationship: to pray always means to be always in a relationship, and you have to develop that relationship.’ I still quote him all the time.”
A commitment to prayer wasn’t the only thing Father Joe acquired from the Priestly Discernment Program. “The philosophy and theology I learned at Franciscan gave me a framework and context for everything I learned afterward: a good foundation that I still work out from. I’ve kept my old notes from those days, and still use them at times.”
Since this article was written in 2012 for the Priestly Discernment Program newsletter, Father Joe has become pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in San Jose, California, and is working on completing a doctorate in sacred theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome.