Fr. Andrew Lee

"A new beginning, in which Christ will keep me with Him forever”

Born in South Korea, he moved with his family to Vancouver. At 13, he entered the diocesan seminary, and then came the encounter with St. Charles Fraternity. The story of Andrew Lee, one of the fraternity's new priests ordained on June 24.
Paola Ronconi

"I was born and raised in South Korea. My parents converted to Christianity, and they baptized me as a child." Still with those baby eyes at age 30, Andrew Lee was one of the seven priests of the Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo who were ordained in Rome on Saturday, June 24, along with five new deacons.
His father was an airplane pilot. In the late 1990s he began to feel that the world was getting smaller for his children. "For my sister and I, he saw a life outside our country," Korean culture was too "closed" to be a stepping stone. From that came the idea to move: "We went to live in Canada in 2002, when I was 10 years old. I was attending church here, the Korean Catholic parish in Vancouver. One year they organized a retreat for altar boys at the Benedictine monastery in the city. It was love at first sight. I was just 12 years old, but the communal life of the monks struck me." Long dialogues began in the house and his father tried to make Andrew understand that "you have to find happiness, I cannot explain it to you." And that visit had kindled an intuition in him: he could be happy right there in the monastery. His mother was a little worried about not seeing him again. But Andrew was not discouraged. At 13 he entered the diocesan seminary entrusted to the Benedictines.

Years pass, maturity came. The boy decided to continue that path in the major seminary. In his second year, there was the week-long retreat, in silence, with an "outside" preacher. "A monk friend of mine had started reading Fr. Giussani's books in 2008 and wanted to meet someone from CL. At that time Fr. Vincent Nagle had just returned from his mission in the Holy Land." Who knows how, they contacted him, and Nagle made himself available to go to Vancouver. The theme of the retreat was: "If Jesus is the question, what is the answer?" "I do not remember what he said to us in the lessons anymore, but I remember, after seven years of seminary, that I wanted to try to go on mission that summer. So I talked to him about it: what do I do? Where do I go? ‘ There is one thing you have to do: pray and beg.’ I remember only one thing of that moment: I had encountered Christ again through Vincent. It was really Him who was taking me back and I wanted to follow Him!" To the extreme: "If Nagle had brought the Lord to me in such an exceptional way, I wanted to be formed where He had been formed. ‘Where are you from?’, I asked him. ‘I belong to the Fraternity of St. Charles, if you want you can come to Rome’ ... Quite far away."

Andrew began to read Giussani’s The Religious Sense, but it was difficult for him to understand. He decided to contact Via Boccea, the headquarters of San Carlo. "I met Vincent Nagle. I would like to meet the Fraternity." The email response was from Fr. Francesco Ferrari, rector of the Roman seminary: "Dear Andrew, I am happy. Fr. Antonio Lopez is now in Washington. Contact him." "I wrote a letter to him telling him about myself. His response was: 'Contact Fr. Pietro Rossotti in the U.S.'" Other letter, another response with question, "Do you know CL?", I knew nothing. They introduced me to the movement in Vancouver, a very small community, people where faith and the rest of life were one. I attended the CL Fraternity Exercises with them and went to the Western Canada vacation."

In March 2015 Andrew finally flew to Rome where he met the superior general Fr. Paolo Sottopietra and the rector Fr. Francesco Ferrari. "If I wanted to change seminary and life, it had to be then. I went to the bishop of Vancouver, Monsignor John Michael Miller. I told him everything I had experienced in those months: 'I would be happy to stay in Canada, but I cannot live with the regret of not having verified whether Rome is the way for me,' I told him. He knew the movement. And his answer was decisive: 'You want to become a priest for the Church, so go where you think is best for you.'" Andrew began his journey with St. Charles.

He felt the need to get to know more about CL and so he went to the Meeting and on vacation with Giorgio Vittadini and Fr. Antonio Anastasio.
It was 2017. Andrew’s 11th year of seminary was beginning: "I had lived half my life in the monastery, so I needed to spend some time ‘in the world’. I spent two years in the parish Santa Maria in Domnica in Rome, with Fr. Sergio Ghio, and I also became a teacher in elementary school and a professor of religion. I got to know the reality of Gioventù Studentesca (high school students), and the university students. Two beautiful years for my growth." There was no fixed path, the same for everyone, everyone has their own story. The next step was to go to the Saint Charles house in Eastleigh, England. When the pandemic broke out, he was able to take online Theology classes even from abroad. The journey was coming to an end.

Read also - Davide Prosperi's message for the St. Charles ordinations

"Each stage reminded me of the main reason I had entered the monastery in Vancouver as a child: a fascination with communal life. I had always moved to search for a home where I could stay forever. Moving so far from where I grew up was a big risk on my part and on the part of St. Charles." Gradually that promise was being fulfilled: "Jesus speaks through reality; He perfectly understood my desire."
From Canada, Andrew's mother follows all his steps with quite a lot of apprehension: to Korean mentality, Communion and Liberation gave the impression of a religious-communist sect... But then Mr. and Mrs. Lee went to Rome: "What can we say: you are happy!" his father told him, "And I am happy you're here. Sooner or later we will die, but you will have many brothers to live with."

"I have been waiting for ordination for 16 years. On the one hand, there is a great peace, I have had so much time to get to know Christ and verify this path. On the other, I am a little worried about speaking the words of Jesus, in bringing Jesus into the sacrament."
For his prayer card, Andrew has chosen Psalm 27: "One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life."
"Saturday will not be the end of the marathon, but a new beginning, in which Christ will keep me with Him forever."