Deacon Joseph Kim Pilot photo/George Martell
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[This is the fourth in a series of articles profiling each of the seven men who will be ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Mission Church) on May 19.]
How Deacon Joseph Kim arrived to become a deacon, about to be ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, is quite a story.
"The short answer is that God really wanted me here," Deacon Kim said. "But the actual answer is a bit more complicated."
Deacon Kim was born in New York, the younger of two brothers born to Korean-American parents.
"As a child, I lived in multiple states until my family settled in North Carolina when I was in my formative years," the 31-year-old explained.
He graduated middle school and high school in North Carolina, and then studied electrical engineering in a North Carolina college as well.
After graduating college, his family transferred to Maryland, where he worked for an electrical contracting company. It was at that time that he first thought about the religious life, and decided to try entering the Capuchin Franciscan order.
For several years, he studied at the Borromeo Seminary in Cleveland, a seminary that forms Capuchin Franciscans.
"After spending time there, I came to realize that religious life was not my vocation," he said. He began plans to transfer to a diocese.
"I really had two places I wanted to go to -- either stay in Cleveland, where I have many friends, or go to Washington DC to be close to my family in Maryland," he recounted.
That summer, Deacon Kim decided to visit a friend who was studying at MIT and was a part of the US Navy.
"I hadn't been to Boston. I hadn't seen him in a long time, so I said, 'Why not?'" Just as Deacon Kim was about to arrive at his friend's house, he was called into active duty.
"My friend wasn't able to host me, but he didn't want to leave me stranded, so he called his pastor, Father Dominic (Jung), who said he would take me in," he explained.
"Father Dominic was really cool," Deacon Kim said. "He was warm and welcoming, and I ended up staying with Father Dominic the entire time I was here. We really got to know each other, we prayed the rosary together. It was great."
During one of their evenings together, Father Jung gave him the information to the Vocations Director in Boston. Deacon Kim called and spoke with Father Dan Hennessey, who suggested that Boston might be the place God was calling him to.
"Boston has always been such a dominant Catholic city, and because of the scandals of the recent past, it has shifted," he explained. "He told me that there are a lot of Catholics but not a lot of priests to serve the Catholics."
After leaving Boston, the idea kept nagging at him -- "Was I being called to Boston? I had no family, no friends, no one really, but I couldn't shake the thought," he admitted. "I recall praying and putting all my trust in God, telling him that if it was his will, he would make it happen. And he made it happen!"
In the fall of 2014, Deacon Kim enrolled in St. John's Seminary.
"I still don't know much about the history and the cities around Boston, but I definitely want to call Boston my home."
As his time at St. John's Seminary comes to a close, he realizes he will greatly miss the camaraderie he has experienced there.
"Not knowing anyone here, St. John's became my home at first because I had nowhere else to turn to, but now because there's nowhere else I want to turn to," he said, noting that he will also miss the studies.
"I find this material fascinating, so I have very much enjoyed learning at the seminary."
Deacon Kim noted that his family has always been supportive of his vocation.
"When my mother was visiting me, I heard her telling a member of the Korean parish that once I am ordained I am no longer her son, but the Church's son," he said. Their willingness to offer their son up to the Lord has been very special. It shows how much love they have for God and for the Church and for me."
Deacon Kim hopes to be able to serve the Korean community once he is ordained a priest. Although he is not as fluent in Korean as he would like to be, he has been trying to improve his fluency during his diaconate.
"But I already know from experience, that if this is something God wants me to do, he will do it," he chuckled.