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It gives me satisfaction that my priestly service has influenced many. I remember with great joy the visit I made when I was a parish priest to an old lady who was gravely ill, who used to live very far from the parish — a three-hour mule ride. It was a very rainy season and access to the village was very difficult. The village catechist and I covered most of the road on foot, since it was difficult to ride on mule. She was not expecting us, due to the weather. When we arrived, she could not believe it; she shouted with joy and felt relieved from her sickness for a time. The joy of that woman, in her final days of her earthly life, was exceptional for me and it touched me deeply.

I also think often about young Bedilu. He was 12 when I met him, living with his mother, Kelemua. Bedilu was born with a degenerative condition. He could not talk, and while he could stand and walk in his younger years, he eventually became bedridden. One day Kelemua came to me from her faraway village and asked me to go with her to visit her beloved son. I asked why, and she cried and cried.

Together, she and I went by car and entered the house where Bedilu was living. Seeing him and the place they lived — a small hut — broke my heart and I could not stop crying. I was very much impressed by the dedication and joy of Kelemua for serving her child.

I gave her what money I had, promising to support her and her son. I immediately wrote a letter to one of my friends in Italy explaining the situation, and before long I received funds to build a decent house for them. We bought a proper bed and other household goods — even a cow, for milk. Within a few months, the life situation of the family changed. Although doctors informed us that his condition could not be reversed, and only palliative care was possible, Bedilu and Kelemua had a greatly improved quality of life for years.

When he died, it was devastating for all of us who were involved in his life. His mother’s heart was broken, and we accompanied her in her grief. Kelemua’s strength and courage will remain with me forever.

These days, after morning prayers and the liturgy, my daily routine is mostly office work. We organize formation programs for laity, youth, couples, priests and religious men and women. I meet different people in my workplace and in society and I try my best to reflect on the values I have cultivated.

My role at the national office is to plan all pastoral formation — which has opened a very demanding chapter in my life. As the majority population of Ethiopia is very young, so is the majority of Catholic faithful. These young Catholics need solid faith formation that can help them tackle contemporary challenges.

In order to respond to the growing pastoral needs of the local church, we need to build the capacity of priests, men and women religious and lay faithful. It is especially important to involve lay people in the ministry of the church; the faith is transmitted through their life testimonies, by walking together hand in hand with all those who are involved in the mission of the church. With the consent of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia, we implement programs to promote such formation. This is our day-to-day commitment in realizing the pastoral mission of the church in Ethiopia, working with the limited resources at our disposal.

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