By Theresa Carson
Father Edoh Adolphe Anato SVD, 35, who was ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, grew up in a leadership role. Over the years, his view of how to lead has changed.
A son of Togo in West Africa, Father Anato is a middle child but an oldest son. He has three older sisters and three younger brothers. In accordance with his cultural traditions he, as the eldest son, has a say in his siblings’ life decisions.
Since earning two degrees in finance in Togo, he has lived in two cultures different from his own. After college, he joined the Society of the Divine Word. In 2013, his superiors chose him to do his novitiate in the United States. In 2017, as part of his formation process, he fulfilled his Cross-Cultural Training Program (CTP) in Panama, Central America.
After learning the Spanish language, Father Anato became involved with parish ministry, teaching catechism and confirmation classes, training altar servers and planning youth ministry.
In January 2019, he attended World Youth Day in Panama City.
“Right away Panama felt like home,” he said.
He was assigned to Dolega in the interior of the country and helped to serve some 40 mission stations.
“Once I opened myself up to the experience, it was enriching, especially in the outstations,” he said.
One experience in particular moved him. His pastor sent him to a village to bury a child.
“When I was growing up, we didn’t give babies names before they were born,” he said. “Each time I had an opportunity, I prayed for that baby.”
They held the funeral at the church, which comforted the family, and because the unborn Panamanian child was named, he could pray for the baby by name.
“I miss the people,” he said. “There’s a lot of energy, the way they participate and engage in the life of the Church. We have a group of lay missionaries [in Panama] that the SVDs have supported for a long time. We cannot talk about the SVDs in Panama without mentioning them. They are very organized. They visit the sick, distribute Communion and lead the Liturgy of the Word when priests are not available.”
After completing his CTP, he was able to visit his family in Togo. He noticed changes not only in Lomé, his hometown, but also changes in himself.
“I understand things differently now,” he said. “Friends got married. I have to be mindful that they have wives and children, and they are mindful that I have parish responsibilities. Through an accumulation of life experiences, I am now able to see things through a different lens.”
He mentioned his family as an example. Instead of dictating decisions, he said he now listens to each family member and they have discussions before decisions are made.
“Each person has a different point of view,” he said. “For the sake of the family, we have to find common ground.”
He adapted again when he returned to the United States. He came back shortly before the COVID pandemic took hold. His transitional deaconate, like those of his confreres, has been characterized by Zoom meetings.
His adventure continues after ordination. Since one of his first languages is French, he has been assignment to the Amazon Region in Brazil and will be involved with the formation of new ministries in French Guiana in northeastern South America.
To read more about Father Anato, check out the 2015 article about him at: www.divineword.org/news/feature/edoh-adolphe-anato/