African priest shares ministry and gifts to Webster

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Jenny snarski
Catholic Herald’s Staff

The history of the vocation of each priest is personal and irreplaceable. For fr. Francis Adoboli, the first international priest of the Diocese of the Superior of Africa (Diocese of Accra, Ghana), the priesthood was love at first sight – although it took many years and mysterious moments for the call to take hold. fully reveals.

The fifth of seven children, he said the Adobolis were not a family loyal to the church at first. Bro. François remembers that his father “never missed” the service of Good Friday, because he was culturally linked to the mourning of those close to him.

When asked how he discovered his priestly vocation in a family that did not practice religion, he replied: “That’s the whole mystery… When I look back, I attribute so much to God.

This includes the inspiration his mother had just before Francis entered elementary school. The Adobolis lived in a compound house, or a complex of terraced houses. On Sundays, many did not go to church. Those who did attended a variety of denominations.

He vividly remembered the day his mother told the children they would go to church, even though they didn’t. After preparing them, his instructions were to follow their neighbor, Mr. Osei, and his family to the church they attended.

While Fr. Francis never found out why she chose Mr. Osei or whether she even knew which church he attended, he clearly sees that providence was at work. Even though he didn’t find out he was a Catholic until he enrolled in church school, the impression the boy’s first Mass gave was his own kind of acquaintance.

“I saw a white man who was in high places. He wore white clothes and I did not understand the language, ”said Fr. François remembers. “I saw smoke in the church, and this smoke was more beautiful than the smoke coming from my mother’s kitchen,” he added, acknowledging that without experiencing African cuisine outdoors, it would be difficult to capture the striking impression made by the solemn sweetness. smell “church smoke”.

The boy made his own impression when he was baptized at the age of 10. In Ghana, children are usually named after the day they were born or a family member. From the moment he started following the Oseis to church and heard one of their children called Francis, the name “came and lived in my heart,” the priest revealed.

“I thought to myself, when I get baptized, this is the name I will use,” and so it was. On the day of his baptism, he told the priest and his parents that he would henceforth be called Francis.

High school was not a supposed progression for Adoboli children. A student had to take a common entrance exam and then pay for secondary education. Only one was within the reach of the fifth child of a working-class family.

François’s brothers attended primary school but then had to work to help the family; her only sister hadn’t even been able to go to primary school, just like their parents, Fr. François explained.

The first year he took the exam, but unfortunately his parents could not find the funds. He wanted to try a second time, but Francis knew more that his academic efforts would be needed. He asked for the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary, visiting the church daily and praying the Rosary.

When Francis received “very, very high marks” on the exam, he shed both tears of joy – that God had heard his prayers – and tears of sadness that, like the previous year, he did not. may not be able to go.

Francis learned that his exam scores were eligible for a scholarship, but these were only awarded to registered students and upfront fees would always present a challenge. Francis’ parents were “extremely satisfied”, but the young man, not seeing how to find funds, decided to refuse the scholarship.

It was only after walking the five kilometers that Francis realized that it was Sunday and that no school office would be open. To his surprise, the director was there and his resolve was renewed.

The principal, American missionary priest, Fr. Thomas Potts received the young man, but refused his request. Francis was confused and clarified his refusal of the offer, but the priest, looking between the young man and his candidacy, simply said, “No. “

The priest met Francis’s parents the next day and arrangements were made for the deposit. This fall, when Fr. Potts came to the morning assembly to announce the winners of the government scholarships, won by “their extraordinary performance on the common exam,” Francis was overcome with emotion.

“Can you imagine where my heart was? He asked with a smile. “My heart was literally in my mouth. “

Tears started after his name was finally called out, and Fr. Francis remembers nothing else after receiving the letter of reward. The scholarship has been extended to every five years.

“My mother was crying, shedding tears…. We all cried and cried and cried – tears of joy, tears of gratitude. We just didn’t know how to thank God for such a great favor He had done to the fifth child – who, for the first time in the family, had been given the opportunity to access secondary education.

As a scholarship student, Francis also began to be a boarder at the school. It also exposed him to the students in the seminary section of the high school with whom he shared the meal and prayer time. It didn’t take long for another prayer, another question, to arise in the young man’s heart: “Could it be that God is calling me to be a priest?”

This question seemed new, but also brought back that first memory of Mr. Osei’s church – the priest, the tongue, the robes and the smoke.

“I fell in love,” said Fr François.

Knowing that he should speak to the director of vocations at the school, François had not quite found the courage when he found himself literally called. One afternoon in the dining room, a final year student announced a list of those summoned to meet with this priest individually.

At first, Francis did not know if he had been taken for a “rascal” student who had picked oranges or mangoes in the priests’ residence. To his surprise and pleasure, no reprimand came.

“Francis, you know the priesthood is written on your face,” said the man.

In a whisper, Fr. Francis added: “I couldn’t believe it… What I wanted! What I dreamed of, but I didn’t have the courage to ask.

At that point, Francis was transferred to the seminary section, without even having applied. He described it as an almost prophetic experience, because the priest had “discerned my vocation to the heart”. Returning hurriedly to his dormitory to put away and move his things, the young man reached for a mirror to try and see the “written words” the director of vocations had.

When he visited his home at the end of the term, he shared the news and acknowledged his desire to be a priest.
Both parents, reassured that this was what their son wanted and felt called, gave their blessing and promised him their prayers.

“Love him and cherish him,” his mother told him.

Bro. François stated: “God is great. God is a responding God. He is a God of surprises.

He added that if they said no he would not be sharing his story for this article.

Over time, he “became aware of the number of potential seminarians who had been arrested by their parents. Very good Catholics, very good Catholics, but they want other people’s children to become priests.

“God being so good – July 13, 1991 – 30 years ago, I was ordained a Catholic priest by the bishop who confirmed me,” said Fr. François shared. I have never stopped thanking God for this day.

Wisconsin is not Francis’ first international mission, but it will be the longest. He arrived in America on March 19 of this year and stayed with a fellow Ghanaian. Emmanuel Asamoah-Bekoe at La Crosse, who helped him adjust to American life, learn to drive and get a license, among other things.

On the weekend of July 4, Fr. Francis first masses in the Webster parish group.

“Before I was ordained, I told myself that anywhere in the world my services were needed… I would make this place my home. I would not be selective or selective – as long as it is missionary and apostolic work – and I will do it with all my heart, ”he said. “When I arrived, oh, I met some great people. Beautiful people.

He deeply appreciated their efforts to help him and get to know him; had felt their sincere interest in him and their gratitude for his ministry.

Bro. Francis’s last thoughts were how happy he is, how “extremely grateful for the gift of the priesthood” and how important a role parents play in following this young man’s calling.

“If a child tells you that he feels called, support him in his discernment, pray for him,” he pleaded. “Children are a gift from God – not your property. “

African priest next in long line of blessings

A glance at the directory of priests serving the Superior’s diocese provides insight into how the region depends on missionary priests.

Chris Newkirk, who heads the Diocesan Office for International Priests, shared highlights from a recent conversation with Bishop James P. Powers.

The shortage of priests within the Superior’s diocese has been “experienced for a long time”, she declared. This resulted in the long history of using priests on loan from other American dioceses, including religious orders such as the Franciscans and the Precious Blood Fathers.

According to Newkirk, Bishop Powers noted that the diocese “has never been self-sufficient in the total number of priests to serve in its parishes.”

Relations of the diocese with international priests began in the late 1980s and early 1990s under Bishop Raphael Fliss. He had been in contact with a bishop from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan who had requested priests in India and had developed a fruitful partnership. The Superior Diocese established the same link and personal relationships developed between Bishops Peter Christensen and James Powers with the Bishops in India.

Now a new relationship is being built through the presence of Fr. Francis Adoboli from the Coastal Diocese of Accra in Ghana, Africa.

Executive Director Dan Blank offered his own “snapshot of the excitement of the extreme blessing of these missionary priests.”

“They leave their homeland, their families, their friends, their culture, their climate, their conditions of conduct, their language…”, declared Blank: “So that we can maintain our teaching of the faith with a minimum of disruption in our parishes. “

Blank expressed his gratitude for the priests, as well as God for the prayer for vocations and the blessing of six seminarians for the year 2021-2022.

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