On the 19th April 2015 the IMC community of Addis Abeba, together with the usual participants of our semi-public chapel, bid farewell to our two confreres, Fr Gabriel and Fr Kidane. They will depart shortly for their new missionary destination.
Fr Gabriel is returning to Colombia, having done his theological studies in Bogotá from 1993 to 1999. A native of the capital city, Addis Abeba, after his ordination on 24 Oct 1999 at S. Gabriel Parish, Addis Abeba, he stayed for one year in the country, helping out at Wongi, while he waited to go to his destination.
Thus from 2000 to 2007 and worked steadily in Colombia. Firstly he was deployed for 6 years to the mission of Cartagena de Chairá as assistant parish priest of S. Pedro Claver. There he worked mainly organising the parish activities, including the sacraments, and then visiting the more than 100 outstations scattered over a large area to follow up the campesinos from the countryside, the subsistence farmers, etc. The cultivation of cocaine is widespread, so the main problems are security or better their lack of, with endemic violence, several factions fighting each other or the military, and therefore many killings. One of the many activities of the priest is presiding over funerals! The priest has to be an agent of peace, promoting tolerance, understanding and mediating between factions.
Then he was deployed for one year to Maria la Baja, in the area of Cartagena de Indias, where he ministered mainly to the poor people of the area: especially Afro-American Blacks living from tourism. Also here the stress was on catechism, the preparation and celebration of sacraments, visiting the communities, etc. Throughout this time experiencing economic problems because they are poor, but running a number of social projects, organising womens’ associations, to counteract the inactivity of the men who do not want to get involved in parish activities. On the contrary women are very much involved in parish activities, besides being the bread-winners at home!
In 2007 he was appointed to his native Ethiopia and was dutifully dispatched to Gambo, where he was in charge of the Parish, the several schools scattered throughout the vast area of the parish, etc.
In 2009 he was redeployed to Addis Abeba to take charge of our semi-public chapel and the various activities connected to it. There are various activities that take place there and require the attention of the priest: the youth, the group of the Consolata mothers (they support each other, meet, pray together, visit the sick, visit at the time of a death in a family, etc), the administration of the sacraments, the catechism (in conjunction with the IMC seminarians). In all, much diplomacy is also required to form and then to work with the parish council.
Our chapel is part of the “Mary, helper of Christians” parish, run by the Salesians, about one Km from our place. At the parish level there are also several retreats, meetings, etc, that need to be properly planed and then implemented.
Now, he is thrilled to go back to Colombia, but at the same time he is keen on taking on new experiences, preferably in new areas. If given a chance he would like to deep himself in afro-pastoral activities hopefully in urban areas. His specialization was on Urban Pastoral – How to Evangelize the Towns. Now he would like to put into practise his studies and his own theories of some time ago, in urban and peri-urban areas, focusing also on students and people on formation. He would like to share his faith and his experience with others but he admits that he is also keen to learn and grow spiritually himself.
Also Fr Kidane is returning to South Africa, the place where he finished his theological studies in October last year. He has been a bit concerned given the situation in South Africa at the moment: the xenophobic wave of violence shows no signs of abating and the mood at the moment is rather sombre. Actually there are many foreigners in SA that are being repatriated or given shelter elsewhere. But there too the missionaries are called to give an example of tolerance and be peace builders rather than simply moan and complain about the situation.
Regarding our young missionaries we all hope that they may go to a foreign land and have a good experience, so that one day they may return, older, wiser and with lots of experience under their belt so as to revamp the IMC formation and pastoral care here in Ethiopia. If anything, they are Ethiopians, and at the moment we foreigners are finding it more difficult to obtain work permits to stay in the country.
Fr Kidane belongs to the first group of students that started at Meryvale their theology and now are ready to start their work. He will return not as a (formal) student but as an ordained priest. He already knows partially the environment, the Zulu language, and what is expected of him. That is an advantage, and the effort he put on during his four years there will now facilitate his adaptation to the pastoral field.
During the celebration Fr Kidane delivered the homily and reflected on the gospel of the second Sunday of Easter (remember that here in Ethiopia we are one week behind on the liturgical calendar – but it is not only that calendar that is behind…). The words of Jesus, “As the Father sent me so I am sending you” had a personal meaning that all applied to those about to depart.
Present at the celebration was Fr Endrias Shamena Keriba, a Comboni Missionary from Hossana in western Ethiopia. He did his philosophy studies at Gulele (Addis Abeba) and then was a colleague of Fr Kidane in Meryvale, South Africa, for the theological studies. He too has been given an assignment by his congregation – he will go to Colombia shortly. He wanted to be present at his former colleague farewell. To him too we extended our best wishes.