Vocation Story. “What I mean to be a priest”

Father Abebayehu Tefera Atara, a Comboni missionary from Ethiopia, tells us how his missionary vocation began.

I grew up in Haro Wato, in Uraga district, Guji Zone, which is in the Oromiya region of Ethiopia.

I was the firstborn of nine children. While my father was a quiet man, my mother was a teacher and a light. They both helped me become resilient in the face of the obstacles and problems I encounter in life. They gave me a lot of encouragement to concentrate harder on my schoolwork.

Even so, God has his way of handling situations in life. My profession was inspired by my parents’ devout appearance, their faith, and their spirituality.

Thus, upon completion of my studies, I enrolled in Addis Ababa’s postulancy, then moved on to the Novitiate in Namugongo, Uganda, and finally the Scholasticate in Nairobi, Kenya. Here’s what came to fruition when I was thinking about what it means to be a priest.

A life of joy, lifting the cup of blessings, and sipping the cup of salvation for me is what it means to be a priest.

Being a priest is a profound calling that invites people to dedicate their lives to a higher purpose; it is more than just a profession and job.

For me, being a priest entails more than just carrying out the customs and duties typical of religious authority. It is a path of spiritual development, selfless service, and kinship with the community and the Almighty.

Fundamentally, a priest’s role is to act as an intermediate between the religious and the secular. In addition to offering consolation in times of need and establishing a sense of community within the congregation, it entails mentoring and encouraging people on their spiritual journeys. It is an obligation that penetrates people’s lives who are looking for direction and clarity and goes beyond the boundaries of the church.

As guardians of the community’s spiritual health, priests play a crucial role in maintaining it. This entails not just presiding over worship sessions and delivering sacraments, but also listening with empathy, giving guidance, and living up to the ideals of love, compassion, and empathy. The priest may have a great influence on the human experience by the honour of taking part in life’s significant events, such as weddings, funerals, and baptisms.

In other words, a priest’s life is an ongoing process of self-improvement. It necessitates a dedication to a life of introspection and prayer. The priest’s ability to lead people on their journeys is enhanced by their constant search for a greater comprehension and connection with the divine, which also enriches their spiritual lives.

Promoting inclusion and understanding is another goal of the clergy. Establishing a warm and accepting environment where people feel free to discuss their faith, ask questions, and get assistance without worrying about being judged is what it entails. To be a source of unity that surpasses differences, a priest must embrace diversity among the congregation.

Finally, being a priest is, at its core, a holy and complex vocation. It calls for a strong sense of social responsibility, a deep commitment to spiritual development, and an unreserved commitment to living out the teachings of compassion and love.

A priest’s path is not without difficulties, but the benefits come from the positive changes they bring about in the lives of the communities they serve as well as in themselves.

Life of priesthood as I understand that it is not for oneself, but rather is for others: as Jesus said, “just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28).

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