Catholic Vancouver May 09, 2019
Rejected and tested by seminary, deacon prepares for ordination
By Felix Min
Deacon Felix Min was ordained a transitional deacon (one of the final steps before priestly ordination) at Holy Rosary Cathedral Dec. 8. Now, as he looks toward the priesthood, he shares his vocation story.
If you asked me how I know I am called to the priesthood, my answer would be: “I don’t know all of the reasons, but I know God has given me the desire to become a priest.”
I came to Canada by myself about 17 years ago; I was 15 years old. That tells you how old (or young) I am. I was baptized after I was born, but my family never practised the faith in Korea. When I came to Canada, I stayed with a home-stay family and they were Catholic. My home-stay mother was very devout in her faith, and I was formed slowly by her good Christian life.
A few years later, my family immigrated to Canada. God’s providence placed me at St. Andrew Kim Parish in Surrey, and I joined the youth group in Grade 10. It helped me grow leaps and bounds in my faith.
But from Grade 11 until I was 23 years old, I faced many challenges. I used to play the violin and was planning to continue play music after graduation. However, I was never good in school and this lack of aptitude hindered me from going to any of the universities I applied for. I didn’t even have a proper high school diploma.
I felt hopeless and confused, and began to experience an identity crisis. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to go to school. I thought I could never be successful. In that confusion, I started working here and there, not knowing exactly what I wanted for my life.
However, the Church was always there during my years in the workforce. As I worked in customer service for an electronics company, I began to ask some deep questions. Why do I exist? What should I do with my life? How can I feel satisfied?
At the beginning of 2009, I decided to commit myself to spending at least half an hour in prayer every day and to go to daily Mass. Interestingly, the more I spent time in prayer, the more I was attracted to the priesthood. It was quite mysterious how God was planting that desire in me.
One evening, I was sitting in the living room in silence and deep prayer, when I heard a very clear, inner voice say: “I will give you what you want if you desire it enough.”
I didn’t exactly know what it meant, but I knew that my desire to become a priest was growing and it grew stronger and stronger.
In 2010, I applied to the seminary. Unfortunately I wasn’t accepted, largely because I didn’t have a high school diploma. It was devastating. God, however, gave me the desire to persevere. For some reason, I couldn’t give up. I started going to night school and worked hard to get my diploma. The following year, I applied again, and here I am now: a deacon!
Even after being accepted to the seminary, the journey wasn’t always smooth. During my first three years, I was asked by some of the faculty to discontinue and find another way of life. I asked God to give me the grace to persevere, and as I was entering my last year of philosophical studies, the faculty finally told me that I could continue with my formation. It was a miracle!
Another significant thing took place that year, my fourth in the seminary. I was in the chapel, praying and asking God to reveal to me what I desired most. Then an inspiration came and I found myself saying: “Lord, what I desire the most is what you desire for me. If you desire that I become a priest, you will make it happen. Do as you will.”
Since then, my discernment has shifted from searching for what I want, to what God wants.
I learned several lessons through all of this. First, it is okay to feel lost. I have been lost many times in my journey, but the key is to never give up on prayer. Sometimes we might think just because God does not give answers right away, we should give up praying. But if you look at Isaiah, you’ll see that he felt like he hadn’t achieved anything, but God, in silence, was there to honour him and strengthen him the whole time. God speaks in silence. Spend some time in silence to listen to him.
Second, there are many significant people whom God places in our life. While praying in silence, we can think of all the people who influenced us in a positive way. When we look back, we can find many heroic examples of faith, like St. John the Baptist who helped Israel prepare to receive Jesus. Had I not met the people in my life, especially those who were close to me, like my home-stay mother, I would not have been able to persevere in my journey.
Finally: We should not be afraid of taking the risk of trusting in God. In our difficulties, it is not up to us to find our own way; God who stoops down to strengthen, help, and guide us. Have courage. Don’t be afraid.
I am very joyful and grateful to God for calling me, and I definitely feel inadequate in many ways. But, I know God will be my help in my future ministry and I feel confident that God will work through my weaknesses and shortcomings to do great things.
Deacon Min first shared this testimony at Christ the Redeemer Parish in West Vancouver in the summer of 2018. He is now continuing seminary studies toward ordination for the priesthood this year.
Want to read more about vocations and vocational discernment? You might like this article about the changing landscape of seminary studies, this story about Sister Cecilia's misconceptions of cloistered life, or a personal testimony from a young woman trying to discover her calling on a mountaintop.
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