The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

His hearing might be impaired, but Chan listens to God

Published: May 12, 2016   
Joseph Chan

FORT SMITH — A 2013 car accident almost ended Joseph Chan’s life, but God had other plans for the seminarian. Throughout his two-week coma and lengthy recovery, which included 18 surgeries, Chan remained determined to follow God’s will. While in a coma, he dreamed of a dense white cloud in the sky and saw a hand piercing the cloud reaching out to him.

“God came to me,” he said. “I prayed to be enlightened by God’s will.”

Responding to God’s call, Chan continued his seminary studies online while undergoing extensive physical and occupational therapy, returning to St. Meinrad in January 2014, 10 months after the wreck. On May 28, one year later than he had originally planned, Chan will be ordained a priest.

“I still do physical and occupational therapy on my own,” Chan, a former physician in Fort Smith, said. “When I returned to St. Meinrad, what helped me most was participating in our prayer life — the liturgy of the hours, Eucharistic celebrations and our daily holy hour. The Benedictine seminary has a beautiful campus, very isolated, with lots of opportunities to meditate and contemplate while walking around the grounds. St. Benedict’s Rule tells us to ‘listen, your Master is speaking.’ I kept this foremost in my mind as I discerned where the Holy Spirit was leading me.”

In the summer of 2015 Chan worked as a deacon at St. Bernard Church in Bella Vista and also assisted at two parishes near St. Meinrad during his final year in the seminary. His experience as a sacramental minister, assisting at liturgies, funerals and proclaiming the Word has heightened his desire for the priesthood.

“It inspires me that when we are ordained to the priesthood we are really acting in the person of Christ and I look forward to being a vehicle, to be as Christ,” Chan said.

He said he prays for the grace to be a joyful priest, trusting that whatever he has started will be perfected according to God’s will. He is looking forward to whatever aspects of ministry he is assigned to by his pastor and hopes that God has prepared him to minister to whatever populations he encounters in his new parishes and will provide him with whatever skills he needs to reach his parishioners.

“It will take a year or so to really get to know the people in my new parishes,” he said.

Before his ordination to the diaconate, Chan wrote that he was grateful for his hearing and vision impairments, which taught him to listen and see with his heart, and for his memory impairment so that he would seek God’s wisdom. Taking up his cross with a grateful heart, he sees his own suffering as Christ’s invitation to sanctity.

“Joseph is a center of serenity,” Sister Bernardone Rock, OFM, his music professor, said.

Dr. Joseph Chan

• Age: 51

• Parents: Circuncision and the late Modesto Chan

• Parish: St. Boniface, Fort Smith

• Seminary: St. Meinrad Seminary, Indiana

• First Assignment: Associate pastor, Cathedral of St. Andrew, Little Rock and St. Patrick Church, North Little Rock

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