Maryknoll Society is doubly blessed to ordain two new priests who would go to mission in Hong Kong
[googlefont font=“Cormorant Infant” fontsize=”20″]by Maria-Pia Negro Chin, photos by Octavio Duran, OFM[/googlefont]
When Daniel Siwoo Kim from Cerritos, Calif., and Peter Latouf from Detroit, Mich., became the Maryknoll Society’s newest priests, they received a special mandate: to show all people that “the merciful love of God is available to every human heart.”
That is what Bishop Frank Joseph Caggiano of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., reminded them at their ordination Mass on May 20. “May your priesthood be a source of blessings for you and the whole world,” said the bishop, who was the ordaining prelate.
As Father Kim, 34, lay prostrate before the altar at Our Lady Queen of Apostles Chapel in New York, he began to get a headache, but this brought forth a realization. “I think that priesthood is not going to be comfortable,” he says. Father Kim explains that for the Holy Spirit to help you become what God created you to be, you need to be a little uncomfortable.
He adds that he was in awe at the immensity of what they are called to do as priests: to be Christ to people.
“There is a special vocation when one goes overseas and ministers in a language that is not your own, among a culture that is not necessarily your own,” says Father Latouf, 33. But he felt reassured and at peace in his missionary calling the moment Bishop Caggiano said he found both men worthy to be ordained and the congregation said “Amen” and applauded.
The new missioners also felt the assurance and support of their fellow priests when the bishop and over 50 veteran Maryknoll priests laid hands on them during the ceremony, calling the Holy Spirit to be with them.
After the Mass, the young priests offered their first blessings to their loved ones in front of a statue of Our Lady of Maryknoll. Their families could not have been happier.
“I’m proud of him,” says Inyoung Kim, Father Daniel’s father. “He is generous, a kind person and has a lot of love inside.”
Remembering the faithfulness of his late wife and their involvement in their Korean parish in California, Inyoung said that he was not surprised Daniel wanted to serve God among different cultures. He recalled a visit from a Korean cardinal who asked the children who wanted to be a priest and 9-year-old Daniel raised his hand. “That kind of calling, this is the best job for people to follow Jesus,” the elder Kim adds.
Father Latouf’s parents also shared their support, pride and love for their newly ordained son. Ronald Latouf said he would remember this ordination for the rest of his life and added that he felt blessed to gain a bigger family in the Maryknoll Society.
Being a priest is something her son wanted to do ever since he was an altar boy in the Archdiocese of Detroit, says Father Latouf’s mother, Donna, who is a Detroit police officer. She says she encouraged and supported his vocation 100 percent, in part because she wanted him to feel supported as he made such a decision—something she did not have when she was joining the police force 32 years ago.
Father Latouf said he felt this unconditional acceptance his whole life, adding that the seed of his vocation was always there and Maryknoll allowed him to combine his spirit of adventure with his love for God, the Church and the sacraments. But, he admits, answering the call was scary.
“I didn’t always know that I was making the right decision, but once I found the courage to say ‘yes’ and take that next step, I realized more and more that this was indeed my true vocation,” he says.
During his formation, Father Latouf visited Kenya, Tanzania, Bolivia, and completed his overseas training in Taiwan and mainland China, while also helping Maryknoll Father Gerard Hammond in his ministry to tuberculosis patients in North Korea.
Drawing from the Maryknollers’ example, Father Latouf says that a missionary priest is someone who learns that being “fearless” does not mean that concerns go away, but rather it means to “learn to trust in the plan and the care of our loving God.”
Relatives and friends from Michigan and California, as well as Chicago, where the priests completed their theological studies and pastoral work, joined them on this happy occasion.
One of them was Mariana Rim, who represented the members of Father Kim’s Bible study group in the Diocese of Orange, California. “He was really inspiring to all the group members and then he announced that he was going to the seminary, and since then, we have been praying for him and with him,” she says.
At a time when many young people do not say “yes” to the call of a religious vocation, Father Kim says becoming a priest is countercultural. But, he adds, that is what Christian discipleship is all about.
Father Kim says that prayers and the community around him sustain him and inspire him to serve others. As a seminarian visiting the missions, he saw firsthand the injustices in the world and the needs of the poor. His experiences in East Africa and Nepal, and his overseas training in China and Taiwan reinforced his calling. “In unison we can make a tremendous difference,” he says.
During the Maryknoll Sending Ceremony following their ordination, both priests were sent to mission in Hong Kong. Father Kim said he and Father Latouf felt a deep connection with the first Maryknoll priests who had a similar sending ceremony before beginning the Society’s first mission in China in 1918.
Father Kim was moved when he and Father Latouf received their missionary crosses, he said, adding that the cross will remind him of his roots as a Maryknoller and his own mission.
That is, Father Kim says, “to go out and be heralds of Good News, as Bishop Caggiano said. To be the best that I can be and to inspire others to do the same.”
At the sending ceremony, Father Alfonso Kim, former Maryknoll regional superior in Asia, congratulated the two new priests and encouraged them to follow the example of the Virgin Mary and to trust “in the promises of the Holy Spirit, and thrive in that trust.”
He also encouraged them to be shepherds who live with the sheep and spread love, peace and joy, as Pope Francis says.
“Today we send you to walk new roads with strange sounding names in lands of different cultures, with people of different histories and strange languages,” Father Alfonso Kim told the two new priests. “There is also wisdom, new mentors, new friends, and deeper ways of prayer with those people.”
The sending ceremony reminded Father Latouf that he is in for a lifetime of work.
“Maybe for a few moments all eyes and the focus and everything was on myself,” he says. “But very quickly things were turned and they said, ‘No, Father Peter, this priesthood is not just for you; you’re a priest of God but your mission is to serve the people.’ ”
Editor-in-Chief Lynn F. Monahan contributed to this article.
Featured Image: Fathers Peter Latouf (l.) and Daniel Kim give their first blessings after ordination on May 20.