On May 25, Most Rev. Curtis Guillory SVD, bishop of Beaumont, Texas, ordained three men to the priesthood in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Techny. Divine Word Fathers Charles Anthony Moat Jr., Bau Van Nguyen and Victorin Oussoï have celebrated their first Masses and will travel to their first assignments soon. Today, we’d like you to meet Father Victorin Oussoï.
By Theresa Carson
Divine Word Father Victorin Oussoï knew from an early age that he wanted to become a priest. In Benin, where he was born and raised, receiving the parents’ permission for such a decision is of the utmost importance.
“My childhood is a little bit different than my Western confreres,” he said. He grew up with 20 siblings and other children.
“My father had four wives. We all grew up together. We all share the same home and meals. Our mothers worked together,” he continued. “When I was a child our home was like a boarding school because [my father] often took in orphans and his relatives’ children so they could go to school.”
His father, who served as the town mayor and as a political delegate for his party in their region, made a home for 40-50 children. Some of Father Oussoï’s siblings have followed their father into politics, but Father Oussoï was destined to become a priest. He is his mother’s fourth child of nine, his father’s sixth and an obedient son.
“I was still a kid when I wanted to go to the seminary,” he recalled. “As a kid, you have to get the consent of your parents, but my parents did not accept. After I finished high school, I still wanted to go to the seminary, but they refused my request, so I said okay, no more. I finished my public education and went on to the university.”
While working on a degree in mathematics and economics, Father Oussoï became reacquainted with a priest from his hometown parish. The elder priest inquired about the young Oussoï’s vocation, and when he learned that the young man had tried to obtain his parents’ permission twice without success, the parish pastor encouraged him to try again.
“He took my hand literally,” said Father Oussoï. “The pastor [at the parish near school] was his friend, and he put my hand in that pastor’s hand and said, ‘Take care of his boy. He has a vocation.’”
In a discernment group, he met a friend who introduced him to the Society of the Divine Word. Together, they applied for entrance to the Society of the Divine Word in 2007. After novitiate, Father Oussoï’s superiors chose to send him to the United States to study.
He arrived in the United States in 2011, began studies at the Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago and later was assigned to Germany for his Cross-Cultural Training Program (CTP). He studied the German language at Sankt Augustin and became acquainted with the Divine Word Sinology Institute for the study of Asian cultures.
He said that the peoples of Africa and Asia have much in common. “When it comes to rituals, we have almost the same thing. When it comes to understanding how the cosmos works with our lives, we have almost the same understanding,” he said. “When it comes to ancestors, we venerate our ancestors; they venerate their ancestors.”
He continued, “We have a sense of social society, not individuals celebrating individual lives. There is that interconnectedness. We are interconnected.”
For the second year of his CTP, Father Oussoï was assigned to Berlin, where he did social work with refugees from Syria, Palestine and Africa. He also worked with Sisters of Charity during the week and did parish ministry on Sundays.
During the past year, he completed his studies at CTU and served as a transitional deacon. Now that he is ordained to the priesthood, he will return to Germany for his first assignment.
“There is much connection when it comes to how we think and how we operate,” he said. “Sometimes there are certain things we do differently and that leads me to be interested into knowing more about Asian culture.”