Father Ignatius Shin, C.F.R. still thinks God may have gotten the wrong guy. He’s even told him so—many times. He had been working as a pharmacist in Southern California making good money. He had his friends, parties, loved his San Francisco Giants and 49ers, and was engaged to be married. He admits he didn’t think about God much, if at all. And that was a problem for his mother whom he describes as a “devout Catholic.” He has one sister, Maria, and a brother, Thomas.
“She said my marriage would not last unless God was in the picture,” he recalled. “So she promised she would never bother me about God or religion again if I went on a pilgrimage to dedicate my marriage to God.”
More or less agnostic, Father Shin, 42, packed his bags and headed on pilgrimage to his native Korea. Though he had been to Mass growing up, he didn’t remember most of the rites or prayers.
“All I said was God if you truly exist reveal yourself to me because I want to get to know you but I just don’t know you at this point,” he recalled “It was as if a light bulb went on in dark room. I must have received the Holy Spirit.”
God had much more in mind for Ignatius Shin. Soon after, he began to sense an increasingly persistent and unexpected calling to the priesthood.
“I just kept hearing this voice,” he said. “It kept repeating every time I was about to receive Communion. ‘Go feed my sheep.’ At first I thought it was just one of those passing thoughts. But it just kept repeating. I never had any aspiration to become a priest. In fact, after this conversion-encounter experience I remember sitting in front of the tabernacle every morning before Mass telling God, look you got the wrong guy. Leave me alone. What’s up with all this? I started to inquire, what’s going on? And a priest mentioned that I might be receiving the calling. I said, ‘But I don’t want to be a priest!’”
One night he decided to put the seemingly absurd proposition to his mother. His fiancée had gone to the ladies room when he turned to his mom over dinner and told her of his yearning.
“My mom had never brought up anything about me becoming a priest,” he recalled. “Like I say I hadn’t been leading a very good Christian life. I said, ‘Mom don’t get carried away with this but I’ve got this sense I’m meant to be a priest.’ Either way I said, keep it to yourself because I’m not sure about all this. When my fiancée came back into the room, my mom turned to her and said, ‘Would you be willing to give up my son to God?”
His fiancée’s response was even more astounding. She said yes.
After the next year and a half of “fighting with God,” as he called it, he finally gave in. With about a week to go before his ordination he admits he still doesn’t fully understand it.
“You know up until recently I’ve been very apprehensive,” he acknowledged. “I just felt, ‘Lord, are you sure you know what you are doing?’ Because despite this awesome office that God wants to bestow on you, interiorly you know you are still dealing with the same broken person that you have dealt with all our life. But recently I started getting really excited and I don’t know what triggered it. All I know is I’m so happy about what God is doing in me and what God wants to do in me. Hopefully I’ll be faithful.”
Father Shin will celebrate his first Mass on Sunday, May 24, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Adalbert’s Church in the Bronx. Father Bonaventure Rummell, C.F.R., will be the homilist.