Can I do this with my heart? he asked
By ARTHUR JONES
The young Korean immigrant who became a Catholic and took Francis as his name didnt know who St. Francis was -- but Kims birthday (Oct. 4) is the saints feast day.
Then I learned about St. Francis from a book. Several books, he said. Id never met a friar. A year earlier, hed never met a Catholic. Until a Korean Catholic lady loaned me a book, With God in Russia. I was so amazed, especially about the lives of priests. Id never imagined that someone could live without family, without spouse, because of God.
After baptism, Kim was increasingly curious about Franciscans. A colleague in Worcester, Mass., where he worked as a maintenance mechanic while studying mechanical engineering, had been a Trappist. One lunchtime they found a St. Francis Church in the Yellow Pages.
Kim called. The parish wasnt Franciscan, but they gave Kim a telephone number for the Franciscans on Bostons Arch Street. He called and went to meet his first Franciscans. It was 1985.
At Arch Street, The brother made me very comfortable, Kim said.
Kim went back to Worcester to think. Later he contacted the Franciscans vocations office, and they suggested he spend some vacation time at a Franciscan mission.
He arrived at the Philadelphia soup kitchen during the citys 1986 garbage strike. It smelled terrible.
In the kitchen theyre making lunch. Its hot, the guys sweating, no shirts, wearing shorts. There were flies everywhere because of the garbage. I said, Excuse me, is this the Franciscan monastery? They said, `Yeah. Id never seen that kind of place, those kinds of people. People swearing and messing with the chairs. I was so scared. I thought, This is my summer vacation. After lunch Im going back home.
But after lunch he talked to two of the brothers. One a former lawyer and the other a former college professor, shared their lives. I shared mine. I felt so ashamed. Dedicating their lives for this? I began to see how selfish I was.
After lunch, too, director Fr. Kevin, prayed for us volunteer students. The people you are serving are like Jesus, he said. That strikes my heart. I remember and try to do that serving dinner that night. I was still scared, scared not for myself but for, Can I do this with my heart? I didnt want to do it without my heart, he said. When I first served dinner I felt something new I dont know how to describe. Whether it was joy. A very precious experience.
He stayed all week. Then I got to know the friars, some sisters. Giving their lives for the people. That was my whole reward.
He was ordained in 1996.
National Catholic Reporter, June 16, 2000