Church needs ‘living witnesses,’ says national performer Paul J. Kim

Using a loop machine on stage that allows him to produce live multi-track vocal instrumentals, national Catholic speaker Paul J. Kim performs original songs and covers — all while conveying a message of faith for all ages.

Kim will be in St. Cloud Dec. 1 performing at St. Peter Church and Dec. 2 at St. Augustine Church (see box below for details.)

Tricia Walz, a member of St. Peter Church in St. Cloud and the youth coordinator there, was first introduced to Kim when planning a youth trip to the Steubenville North Youth Conference this past summer in Rochester.

“I looked up all the speakers and watched some of their YouTube videos,” she said. “His instantly stuck out to me and he inspired me in just the couple minutes I watched.”

While attending the Steubenville conference, Walz noticed how the youth also responded to Kim’s message. Brandon Koski, a freshman at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, was one of the youth who attended.

Photo courtesy of Paul J. Kim

“I liked that he was really funny,” Koski said about Kim. “He helped me grow in my faith by teaching about God in a new way.”

“Seeing how passionate [the youth] were about bringing him to St. Cloud inspired us to help make their vision come true,” Walz said.

She partnered with her sister, Nikki Walz, who is the director of faith formation for St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Augustine Church in St. Cloud, to bring Kim to the St. Cloud Diocese.

“Paul has such a talent for reaching everyone of all ages, and in all walks of life. I love how honest and open he is about his own conversion and continual walk of faith,” Tricia said.

“My hope is that every person who comes will be touched by his message and equipped to live out their faith more fully and joyfully.”

In preparation for his visit, The Visitor interviewed Kim about his life and ministry. His answers are below.

Q: Tell us about your journey of faith.
A: I grew up Catholic, but just nominally Catholic at best. I tell young people I went to church for girls and donuts and that’s about it. Like many Catholics, I had so many ideas in my head about what the Catholic faith was all about, but it just wasn’t a matter of the heart. I treated my Catholic faith as something we had to do on Sundays.

In high school, I went to a Steubenville conference. That was a game-changer. In the context of that event, the host invited us to say some honest prayers and that’s where I encountered the person of Christ. It was a powerful moment. I can’t say that my life changed 180 degrees at that moment, but it left an impression on me.

In college, I was trying to major in partying. There was an emptiness to what I was doing and I knew in my heart something was wrong. As a result, I was led back to the Catholic faith. God used that time to capture my heart.

I then discerned the priesthood and religious life. Obviously, it wasn’t my call, so I came back to California and God continued to open up doors for me to share [my message] with others. It became a full time endeavor and now, thanks be to God, I’ve been in 43 states and four countries. I am also married with two children.

Q: What is the core message you will be sharing with the people of the Diocese of St. Cloud?
A: The general idea is going to be encountering Christ. For all of us, we need to take this pilgrimage from our heads to our hearts, where we are not just going through the motions, but really walking in relationship with God. It’s easy to fall into the cracks of just going to Mass and losing the passion of what it means to have Christ in your life.

My hope is to stir the hearts of the people into really meeting Jesus. The disciples were changed when they were invited to meet the Lord. It is that one encounter that changed the course of their lives. Through this little ministry that God has given me I hope I can accomplish the same thing.

Photo courtesy of Paul J. Kim

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge youth and young adults are facing in the church today?
A: Youth and young adults are a bit different. With youth, I think it is a general confusion as to why they need “church.” There are a lot of things vying for their attention. There is a cultural danger that teens find themselves in today with things like relativism, the pursuit of pleasure over God, and even spirituality in the way that it is sometimes propagated through secular media.

With young adults, it’s similar but there are different challenges when you are out of high school — you have to find purpose in being an adult. “What am I called to do?” I think everyone is trying to figure that out.

There’s a lack of community in the church for young adults. In high school there are faith formation and confirmation programs that are sort of “built-in.” What I see is a lack of resources for young adults to actually tap in and find where to serve and where to go for support, and I think the church really needs to follow up on that. I do see movement in that area. There are efforts to fill in this gap but I really do think the church as a whole needs to step it up in that regard. Otherwise we’re going to be losing people.

Q: What input would you give to Pope Francis for the 2018 Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment?
A: I think ultimately we need living witnesses. We need people today living out their Catholic faith. If anything, I think the church needs to preach the splendor of our faith in Christ, our beautiful traditions as Catholics, without watering it down. We need people leading us and shepherding us and guiding us through really difficult topics that arise in our time. I think more than ever the church needs to be clear and compassionate and loving in regards to whatever theological or moral questions come up.


Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the editor of The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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