Seraphina Kim, CJ, is the coordinator of Mary Ward JPIC for Korea and she studies eco-theology. In this interview, she shares with us her story, her inspirations and her feelings about the Union, about which she is absolutely convinced.
When and how did you get to know the congregation?
I was baptized at the age of twelve and since then, even though I did not know Jesus, I could feel God holding and protecting me. Before I met Jesus, I was a shy child but Jesus gave me confidence.
After graduating from university, I started teaching Chemistry. At that time, I began to feel that I had an appointment with God, and that after three years of working with students, I would discern my vocation. That appointment was always somewhere in the back of my mind. Suddenly my grandmother passed away and I started thinking it was time for me to go towards that appointment, so I took some time off to travel. My plan was to visit almost every enclosed congregation in Ko-rea. While I was visiting a convent of enclosed Domini-can sisters, I met a woman who talked to me about Mary Ward and gave me a piece of paper with the ad-dress of a CJ convent. This is how I first got to know the Congregation of Jesus. I was thinking about enclosed life, but God led me to the opposite – the CJ, the congreation most engaged with the world.
After a long wandering, I met Jesus deeply through the 8- day Spiritual Exercises, and the root of my life changed. I felt so naturally that Jesus led me to the Congregation of Jesus, and I began religious life here as a Mary Ward companion.
What inspires you about the work of the congregation? How does the vision and mission of Mary Ward interconnect with your own values and life?
I feel very close to Mary Ward for the faith she had in God. Even when she was in prison, she never doubted. I always had this question before: who am I? Since joining the congregation in 2007 I have come to know who I am, I realize how God loves me, I am vibrant, I can feel my heart beating. Now I know that if I cannot be with God, I cannot be. Just as Mary has always stood before God as she is, I am being invited to God with her every day. And the qualities of freedom, justice and sincerity which are at the core of Mary Ward’s spirit inspire my commitment day by day.
Can you share something of your life as a sister?
In our community in Seoul we are 11 sisters. In the first half of 2020, I stayed in the Philippines. At the moment, I am a coordinator of Mary Ward JPIC for Korea, and since final vows I have been studying Theology (eco-theology). After my first vows I had been a chemistry teacher in Daejon, Saint Mary’s Girls’ High School. This school’s motto is “A woman who will devote herself to justice, truth and love” It still remains as a loud echo in my mind. Education, Ecology, Women, Youth… I would like to serve in areas where these things related to God.
What are your feelings/thoughts about the union? How do you see the union of the IBVM/CJs benefitting the network moving forward? Which are the challenges?
We have been discussing the union in our community and at first, some of our sisters had a lot of concerns about it. For example, we are already very busy with the normal activities and we don’t know how time- consuming the whole process will be. However, as time goes by, we are letting go of prejudices, worries or vague expectations and we try to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us all.
Two Mary Ward Congregations, which are similar, but have taken different journeys, will look at each other as if they were looking in a mirror
In the process towards unity, we think our own mission and identity will become clearer. We will listen more sensitively to the sound of the Holy Spirit to discern how God leads us in this time. On a personal and communal level, I think this journey in itself will purify us. Two Mary Ward Congregations, which are similar, but have taken different journeys, will look at each other as if they were looking in a mirror. Even more, we will be revealed as we are, in both our strengths and our weaknesses. And I believe that through this, we shall experience more deeply the touch of God who is working in a new way. I also think this journey will beautify us. I see us sitting in a wider open circle as companions, as in that iconic painting of Mary Ward. Although we are different God has given us this precious opportunity and we will not waste it.
At the external level, do you think there will be a difference in the perception of the congregation after the Union? And after the canonization of Mary Ward?
It happens that since last year, I have been meeting with a group of women who had some things in common. As women, we have experienced concerns and frustrations about how we should speak and act in the church. When I introduced Mary Ward to them, they were deeply impressed and said that Mary Ward, who has been an example in church history that women can do great things even in persecution, is a great hope for them. (Mary Ward is not very well known here in Korea).
This experience makes me think that if she is canonized, it will give inspiration and hope to more people, especially women, for their own mission. I think that when we are united and, even more, when she is canonized, more people will have the desire to know her and our congregation.