On Friday, March 12, John Lee, the seminarian at St. Mary Seminary from Korea who was here during the summer for his seminary internship at St. Malachi was formally admitted by Bishop Quinn to Candidacy for ordination as a deacon and priest for his home archdiocese of Daegu, South Korea along with five men admitted to Candidacy for ordination for the Diocese of Cleveland.
There is an instruction as part of the rite, which reads, in part:
Our brothers here have already begun their preparation so that later they may be called to ordination by the bishop. Day by day they will learn to live the life of the Gospel and deepen their faith, hope and love. In the practice of these virtues they will gain the spirit of prayer and grow in zeal to win the world to Christ. Urged on by his love and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, they have come here to declare in public their desire to bind themselves to the service of God and of humankind.
John Lee has been reflecting on the Admission to Candidacy and wrote a personal reflection about his journey and what this means to him. He shared it with me and gave me permission to share it with others. What follows is his reflection:
Today is the day.
John Lee, a child of God from Korea, will be officially accepted as a candidate for the priesthood.
When I was in the 2nd grade, I started to serve Mass as an altar boy. A priest celebrating Mass looks very holy and wonderful at that moment, and it was then that I decided to become a priest. The parish priest was an ideal person to me because he was very faithful to God, smart, handsome, sang hymns beautifully, and played ping-pong very well.
However, today I do not see priests in the same way I did when I was young. Since I entered the seminary ten years ago, I have lived with all different kinds of priests. Most priests are good, but I realized that they are also weak human beings. I saw some priests making mistakes, sometimes neglecting prayers, hurting parishioners’ hearts by their imprudent words and actions, and even falling into clericalism.
Unfortunately, I realized that I myself at times do not do what God expects me to do. Too often, even though I decided to follow the Lord, I expected Him to do my will. What I have to do and want to do always occupies the first place. During Friday morning prayers, we hear the repenting voice of David say, “Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. In your compassion blot out my offense.”
Priests and seminarians are called to holiness. To be good priests, we need to change our words, hearts, and actions day by day. At this special moment as I step forward toward the priesthood, I ask God again to have mercy on me as I renew my decision to follow the Lord. At times that means carrying my cross.
During the afternoon, I will walk the Stations of the Cross and reflect on the way the Lord accepted his sufferings. When the evening ceremony’s excitement begins, I will keep my mind on faithfully following the Lord and bearing my cross. Please, congratulate my classmates for accepting their vocations on this special day, and pray for them also to bear their cross faithfully.
Although it has been almost 35 years since I was admitted to Candidacy for ordination, reading John’s reflection stirred my own memories of youthful dedication and idealism necessary and appropriate for preparing for ordination. It is a vivid reminder that any vocation – marriage, vowed religious life, priesthood, diaconate, lay ecclesial ministry – is both a calling from God and also one requiring personal choice and ongoing commitment.
A church vocation especially is also the call of the community. Let us support John, his classmates (both here and in Korea) and all who are preparing for ministry with our prayers – and the example of faithfully living our Christian vocation. Let us also keep our young people, who are called to discern their vocation in our prayers.