Fr. Francis Kim, OFM

Fr. Francis Kim, OFMFr. Francis Kim, OFM, born in Korea, made his first profession in the Order of Friars Minor in 1989. He wrote this essay while he was serving his internship year in campus ministry at Siena College and looking forward to solemn vows.

I grew up in a Buddhist society. Our hometown was very primitive — no electricity, no bus, and very small. But when I was in fourth grade, a Presbyterian church was established in our hometown. I heard about Jesus Christ and about God and creation. And it really struck me, it came through deep inside, I feel like God is watching over me.

Whenever we went to church and sang, and I heard the Gospel, it gave me goosebumps. After I left my hometown, I went to Seoul. Then I was in military service and went through the Vietnam war for almost two years. And I saw many, many horrible things, just like in the movies, except worse. And at that time I really felt God.

I worked in Iran and was there during the revolution when Shah and all Americans were kicked out in 1979. When I came to America at the end of that year, I went to school and had a job in Massachusetts.

I went to visit a Korean Catholic community in Boston. My first impression from the Korean priest there was all that time something was missing. It wasn’t the right life. I talked with the priest and felt like my eyes opened.

At that time I read a book called “With God in Russia” by a priest who had been imprisoned in a Russian concentration camp for about 15 years. All that time, his faith in God was not doubted even once. I went to Catholic instruction classes, and was baptized with the name Francis because my birthday is Oct. 4, his feast day.

After I picked the name Francis, I had to know him more. I read “Seven Storey Mountain” by Thomas Merton. Then afterwards, “Little Flowers of St. Francis” and “The Wisdom of Poverty.” And I was drawn immensely to the spirit of Francis.

My mind was divided between “I am going to try this way” and “get married.” Before I could make the decision, I had to meet Franciscans. About 1984, I got the number of a Franciscan church, St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, and Br. Richard McFeely came from East Boston and we met. I felt so comfortable with him, just like an old friend.

The friars suggested I go on a pilgrimage or to Jamaica or Philadelphia for volunteer work. So I chose St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia. The first night before we served the homeless people, the director told us, “When you go to serve the people, think about them as Jesus coming to dinner here.” That really struck me, and I never forgot that.

Every minute I was so occupied by myself all my life up to that point. At the soup kitchen, some people are really aggressive, some are drunk, and I was so afraid: could I really serve people with my whole heart? I didn’t want to just do something artificially. And I was afraid of rejection.

But when I heard, “Think about Jesus,” it opened my whole mind and heart. Rich or poor, I had thought it was a big difference, but it really isn’t.

I entered the Franciscan affiliate program in 1987. All the friars in the province whom I met by person or by story touched my soul, especially my classmates and all the formation directors.

My first ministries were teaching religious education and working in a hospital and nursing home. As a novice I especially focused on being a friend to the children. I spent two summers in parish ministry, started working with a Korean group of the Secular Franciscan Order in New York City and completed first year of theology at Washington Theological Union in May 1992. On my one-year internship at Siena College, I work full time in campus ministry.

As I prepare for my solemn vows, I have no doubt that Holy Name Province is the place where I belong, the place for the rest of my life after long time wandering.

— This essay was written in 1993 when Br. Francis was serving his internship year in campus ministry at Siena College. It appeared in the March 1993 issue of The Anthonian magazine.