Pray and Stay

By Elizabeth McFarlane
Fr Pio Yong Ho Jang. Photo: Elizabeth McFarlane.

In the Hyehwa-dong Parish in Seoul, South Korea, an altar boy watched on in adoration as the Assistant Priest lifted the consecrated host.
The young boy was Fr Pio Yong Ho Jang, who now serves as Assistant Priest of St Michael’s Parish at Baulkham Hills.
“I was about 10 years old. On other days, I would often be distracted by ringing the bell at the proper time and trying to communicate with the other small altar boy,” he said.
“But on this particular day, the priest lifted the consecrated host and I felt something holy. There was a strong holiness attracting my heart. I couldn’t look at anything else but the consecrated host.
“In that moment I realised Jesus, the same Jesus in the consecrated host and the same Jesus in the person of the priest, was calling me for something.”
Fr Pio’s faith was strong through his primary and high school years, having been brought up in a Catholic family, but the pressures associated with his schooling made it difficult for him to find time to practice his faith.
“School would start at 7.30am and I wouldn’t get home until 10pm. That was my normal study load.”
Due to the pressure to succeed, Fr Pio decided to enter university rather than the seminary.
“At the time, I didn’t have enough courage to respond to God’s call,” Fr Pio said.
University proved to be a “dark time” for Fr Pio. “My faith went down and sometimes I didn’t even attend Mass,” he explained.
While Fr Pio was studying, his father migrated to Australia and he decided to follow him to Brisbane.
Fr Pio’s initial stay was short-lived due to the language barrier and the “slower and rural” nature of Brisbane.
Having gone back to Korea, after some time studying in Chicago in the US, Fr Pio acknowledged something needed to change.
“I wasn’t happy in university. I came across an article on vocation and it inspired me to discern God’s calling for me,” he said.
“I began to pray regularly and it was Our Lady who interceded and helped my discernment.”
Our Lady’s strength guided Fr Pio and taught him not to be afraid.
“Her humility directed me towards Jesus. I discerned I was being called to the seminary,” he said.
Fr Pio was 29 and despite wanting to join the seminary, he wasn’t sure if they would accept him in Korea due to his age.
“I didn’t have the humility to discern clearly earlier in life, but God was too generous and I was accepted into the seminary as an exception,” he said.
Fr Pio initially believed he would be a priest in his mother country, Korea.
“But I feel I often plan something and God accomplishes it in His own way. That is how I found myself to be a priest in Australia,” he said.
“In Korea there are many priests. I thought, should I join where Christ’s body is sore or where Christ’s body is healthy? I hesitated but eventually I decided I would join the seminary in Australia. I could speak English and I had spent time in Australia already.”
Fr Pio was ordained on 24 June 2015 in St Patrick’s Cathedral.
“This is me giving back my gift to God. I don’t think every person can live this life but everything is possible with God. He has given me a special gift to be able to live this life. I am really thankful,” he said.
When asked what advice he would give others who are struggling to discern their vocation, Fr Pio said, “Just pray. Fifteen minutes a day is like 1000 years when you are with God. Spend some time in front of the Lord through the Blessed Sacrament.”
“St Thomas doubted but I think he was eventually able to see Jesus and touch Him because he stayed with Our Lady.
“It is because he stayed, despite doubt, that Jesus appeared to him.
“My advice: Pray and stay.”

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