By Justin Chung ’19
This is the third in a series of priest interviews conducted by Justin Chung. Justin is a junior at Bellarmine College Preparatory and an active parishioner at Holy Korean Martyrs Parish.
Father Steve was born in Korea and raised in the Bay Area. His life as a priest consists of being the Parochial Vicar for Spanish ministry at Saint Lucy Parish in Campbell, working as a religious studies teacher at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, studying to attain his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in education at USC, and working to build a new Catholic high school in the southern part of Santa Clara County.
Before he had this array of opportunities, Father Steve was a student attending Palo Alto High School. “[In high school] there were two sides for me: for the first two and a half years I wasn’t the best person. I was very selfish and egotistical. But, I had a transformation during Confirmation so I was much better afterwards.”
Father Steve’s experience during Confirmation enabled him to discern his identity as a person and the need for change. Towards the end of his junior year, people asked the major he wanted to pursue. Father Steve felt unsure. “One thing I realized was that I was kind of a selfish person and that I wasn’t the person I wanted to be, so I felt that God was calling me to be selfless.” Distinguishing his need for change was the first step for him to find his vocation.
Although his parents wanted him to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, Father Steve felt open and curious about priesthood. “I thought about what the priesthood and was like, ‘Well, this is something very different and radical’…the concept of serving God sounded very interesting and at the tender age of 17 I was like, ‘Let me figure this out.’” Immediately after high school he became a seminarian. “It wasn’t like I sign myself away, it’s more of, ‘I feel like God is calling me towards this let me try it out.’” It worked. After finishing college and committing to priesthood, Father Steve became the youngest priest ever to be ordained in the Diocese of San Jose.
Over time, Father Steve’s priesthood has been filled with ups and downs and twists and turns. As to what fulfills and sustains him as a priest, Father Steve says that “my relationship with God certainly does. Just like in any other vocation there are good and bad moments but the one thing that is steady is my relationship with God. Once a month I have a spiritual director who guides me in my path and points me towards the right direction.”
A key aspect that I am able to take away from my conversation with Father Steve is that I must make the choice to be vulnerable in order for God to do His best work in my life. For example, Father Steve’s experience throughout his Confirmation allowed him to understand his values and identity as a person. Hence, he was able to realize his shortcomings as an individual growing more open towards change, allowing God to work in his life. Similarly, this openness and small amount of faith is what I need in order for God’s grace to guide my life and ultimately lead me towards my vocation as a Catholic.
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20