|Fr. Steven Kwon , LC|
There are times when fact is stranger than fiction,
and when real life stories sound like something out of
a novel. My story began when I was just a
boy. I had never ever thought of becoming a priest
and I would never have known the Catholic faith if
God had not surprised me through a childhood friend who
gave his life in order for me to know, love,
and serve Christ. It was his example that converted me
to the faith.
The phrase that Jason, my best friend, said
to me when he was dying in my arms was
“You know what, Steve?” I said, “What?” Jason said, after
breathing deep, “The greatest thing to do in life is
to give one’s life for a friend”. After that Jason
died in my arms at the age of nine…
where the story begins…
Even though my family was not Catholic,
I grew up in a good environment with Catholic friends
who practiced their faith with great enthusiasm because they were
part of a charismatic group. Because of them, I was
able to gain some knowledge of the Catholic faith.
should I begin? I was not Catholic when I was
born because my parents were married civilly. My father was
not Catholic and he was not willing to educate us
children to the faith. My mother, on the other hand,
was Catholic but respected my dad’s decision. As a result,
we were baptized when I was 11 years old and
my younger brother James was 8.
I was in 4th grade
and I was having a great time with my friends.
We went to summer camp every summer, in the winter
we would go skiing at Banff and Jasper, in Alberta.
I had many friends but the best friend I ever
had was Jason Hanson. He was born in Los Angeles,
California on July 22, 1975. We went to the same
school and we were on the same soccer team. He
came from a huge family with 4 brothers and 3
sisters, and was the youngest of the boys in the
family. His whole family was charismatic. His father was a
welder and his mother was a housewife. They were a
very kind-hearted family, and they treated me like their own
son whenever I came over.
Something surprising happened after a soccer
game in which Jason and I were playing for the
state championship. We were winning with a two goal lead
with one goal made by Jason and the second goal
made by me with an assist by Jason. We won
the game, and afterwards, Jason invited me for lunch near
While we were walking to a 7/11 grocery store,
Jason asked me a question, “What are you going to
be when you grow-up?”
I told him, “I’ll probably become
a medical doctor and become a great dad of 6
or 7 kids”.
Jason with a smile, said to me
“But are you happy?”
I told him, “Yeah, I’m happy!”
|Fr Steven on the day of his ordination to the diaconate. He is currently working apostolically in South Korea.|
Then Jason asked me again, “I mean are you really
I told him, “Well, not really”.
Jason then said,
“I think I can help you find the cure for
your unhappiness but I will show you that afterwards”.
we arrived to the 7/11 grocery store, we got separated.
All of a sudden, a 19-year-old young man ran in
with a gun and started to threaten the girl behind
the cash register. It was the young girl’s first day
at her job. The young man threatened to kill her
if she did not give him all the money. The
young girl was so nervous that she kept pressing the
wrong buttons to open the cash register. The young man
with the gun became very nervous and impatient, and when
he saw me, he pointed the gun directly at me.
I was frozen stiff like an ice cube. I felt
so useless that I felt faint. If he pressed the
trigger, I would be a goner.
Then, I saw my
best friend running towards the young man from behind and
I thought, “What are you doing? You’ll get killed!”
could do anything, I saw Jason leap into the air
and hit the young man from behind. Since Jason was
of small stature, he fell to the floor, merely startling
the gunman, who turned around and shot him with two
bullets in his chest and ran out without the money.
could not believe what I saw. In a matter of
seconds, my best friend was dying there on the floor.
All the things that we did together from the day
I met him until now flew through my mind in
a flash. Jason called out for me, “Steve, Steve, where
“I am here”, I said and I ran towards
him and held him in my arms saying, “It’s going
to be OK, you’ll be fine, just hold on”. I
shouted, “Get me an ambulance!”
The young girl at the cash
register said with tears in her eyes, “I called the
police and an ambulance. They are on their way!”
held Jason and he looked at me with a smile
and said, gasping for air, “You know what, Steve?”
Jason said, after breathing deep, “The greatest thing
to do in life is to give one’s life for
a friend”. After that Jason died in my arms at
the age of nine…
It was here, after this harsh experience,
that I felt my faith and priestly vocation strongly; it
was here that I felt God close to me, calling
me to follow his footsteps. I continued growing and when
I was 14 years old, I got to know the
Legionaries of Christ. It was the mother of my friend
Jason who put me in touch with one of them,
Father Brian Wilson, in 1988.
In the summer of that year,
I was planning to go to a summer camp, and
Father Brian suggested I go to the summer program at
the apostolic school in Center Harbor, New Hampshire. I changed
my plans and accepted the invitation. At the end of
the summer of 1989, I decided to stay and study
at the seminary, where the atmosphere of prayer, community life,
and study helped me to mature and make a definitive
decision to follow the path of the priesthood.
Jason showed me
the true path through his example as a friend and
as a brother. He really taught me how to love
with real love, with self-giving for the good of others.
As Christ says in the Gospel, “I have come to
this world not to be served but to serve”. This
is what a priest is called to do and that
is exactly what God wants me to do after this
tragic incident that has marked my soul and enabled me
to accept God’s call without any conditions or fear. It
is like jumping off a high mountain without knowing what
to expect at the bottom. But God knows and I
want to be his follower.
Father Steven Kwon was born in
100 Mile House, British Columbia (Canada) on October 26th, 1975.
He went to Catholic elementary school at Our Lady of
Fatima in Edmonton, Alberta, a school that no longer exists.
His 7th grade year was spent at Elenor J. Toll
Junior High School in Glendale, California. From 8th grade through
high school, he attended Immaculate Conception Apostolic School in New
Hampshire and Cheshire. On September 15, 1993, he entered the
novitiate in Monterrey, Mexico. He did his humanities studies at
Cheshire for two years and then worked with youth for
four years in the United States and Canada. He studied
his Master’s degree in philosophy and a bachelor’s degree in
theology at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College in Rome, Italy.
He is currently working with youth in Seoul, South Korea.