Diocese sponsors Korean-American vocation conference

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The reluctance of parents to encourage their children to enter religious life is the biggest challenge facing Father Joseph Kim in his role as director of vocations and seminarians in the Diocese of San Jose, Calif. "The sense of children being a gift from God is a conversion that needs to take place," he said. "It's a challenge that needs to change."

Father Kim said that God has a plan for each of us in heaven, so that we will live forever with Him. "The way to heaven is through the family," he said.

Father Kim, who was ordained in 2010, is believed to be the youngest vocation director in the country. He was one of the speakers at the first Korean American Vocation Conference held Aug. 20 at St. Paul Chung Church in Fairfax. The conference was sponsored by the Vocations Office of the Arlington Diocese, led by Father J.D. Jaffe, and the Office of Multicultural Ministries, directed by Corrine Monogue.

Northern Virginia has the fourth highest number of Korean-Americans in the United States, according to the Korean American Priests Association.

The theme for the day was "Come and You will See," which was inspired by a similar event begun in Seoul, South Korea, in 2009. The initiative helps teenagers determine their calling - whether it's the single life, marriage or religious life - through a series of workshops.

"This conference is modeled after a conference in Korea, so it's bringing a little bit of home here," said Father Jaffe. "We are helping them see what God is calling them to be."

In addition to Father Kim, other speakers included Little Sister of the Holy Family Martina Koh; Missionary Sister of St. Charles Borromeo Myrna Tordillo, assistant director of Asian Pacific Islanders Affairs at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Father Amos Lee, a priest of the Archdiocese of Seoul who is studying canon law at Catholic University; and Father Won Kyoung Sung, parochial vicar at St. Paul Chung.

Father Jaffe, who was the celebrant and homilist at the opening Mass, said he was placing all of the intentions for the conference in the hands of the Blesssed Virgin Mary.

"Our Lord challenges priests to do a whole lot more, to give more and to help others to carry their heavy burdens," Father Jaffe said. "Every one of us is called to be a light in the world. We are all called to be bright, shining lights for Christ."

Father Jaffe said that a vocation is a call from God to share His mission in the world. "Holiness is not out of reach," he said. "We need others to help us carry these burdens." Most of us achieve holiness through matrimony, he said, while others become holy by entering the religious life.

"Each of us is called to be a unique witness of God," Father Jaffe said. "I ask you to consider praying and building up a culture of God."

Jason Huh, a 51-year-old attorney, said he wanted his two teenage boys to look at all the options they have before them. "I remember arriving here from South Korea in 1974, and the Catholic Church providing for the Korean community," Huh said. "I am grateful for that." Now he hopes that this event will help guide his children.

Father Jaffe said he was "ecstatic" with Saturday's event and the turnout was better than projected. "We were probably right around 175 attendees," he said. "The speakers were excellent and engaging, and their messages were very well-received. The day had a good feel and energy to it."

Monogue said she was overjoyed with the turnout and feedback. "Many of the faithful were so appreciative of the opportunity to have a day like this, with the caliber of speakers that were available," she said. "There was joy, appreciation and excitement for future engaging conferences such as this one."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016