“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.” – Fr. Joe Kim
Ordained in 2010, Father Joe Kim is clearly happy in his vocation but very busy. After four years as parochial vicar at Holy Spirit Parish in San Jose, California, he served as the Director of Vocations and Seminarians for the Diocese of San Jose and helped start the diocese’s Office of Evangelization. He is currently pursuing a doctorate at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome
Throughout his priestly ministry, Father Joe has had many responsibilities in a large, multicultural diocese such as San Jose: celebrating Mass in English, Spanish, and Korean; hearing confessions, working with parish youth groups, teaching religion classes, visiting hospitals, conducting baptismal and marriage preparation, and pastoral counseling, and assisting 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 high-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,” he says.
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.” He acquired the daily Holy Hour habit while he was in Franciscan University’s 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 gained 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 from. I’ve kept my old notes from those days and still use them at times.”