Natural catastrophe changed Wisvel Joseph


On Saturday, six young men professed vows with the Society of the Divine Word. This week, we invite you to get to know them. Today, we introduce Wisvel Joseph.

Age: 37

Hometown: Anse-d’Hainault, Grand Anse, Haiti

Languages: Creole, English, French and Spanish

Ministry: Though I did not have a chance to do ministry outside the SVD community, I enjoy doing my typical ministry by conversing with and assisting the SVDs at the Divine Word Residence at Techny, Ill.

Favorite book: I have many favorite books. I received great insights from the books “Ethics in Pastoral Ministry” by Richard M. Gula, S.S.; “Finding True Happiness: Satisfying Our Restless Hearts (Happiness, Suffering, and Transcendence)” by Robert J. Spitzer S.J. Ph.D.; and “Seek God Everywhere (Examination of Conscience)” by Anthony De Mello.
Tell me about a time when you felt God’s presence:
God’s presence has been with me throughout my life in moments of happiness and sadness. Nevertheless, one of the most remarkable times was when Haiti experienced an earthquake in 2010. On that day, after commuting from the University Quisqueya (UNIQ) to State University of Haiti (FASCH) in the morning, I ended up going to the State University of Haiti (INAGHEI) business school to attend a French-for-business class in the evening. While I was in class, the earthquake struck. The UNIQ and FASCH buildings collapsed. Though I was pushed down from the third floor and was injured a little, I managed to walk about ten kilometers to arrive home that evening. After that situation, I began to realize that I am embedded by God’s presence, and God has a specific mission for me. Later, during my novitiate year, especially during the 30-day retreat at Bay Saint Louis, Miss., I realized that I can get fully involved in the mission with the Society of the Divine Word (SVD).    

When did you first feel the call to be a missionary?
After graduating from Quisqueya University with a bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Education, I began to work for a Jesuit middle school, high school and community college as a math, science and catechism teacher. While I was teaching catechism, one of the teachers provided me with some information about the SVDs. I was amazed by the SVD apostolates, the cultural diversity among their members and intercultural mission. Then the idea of becoming a missionary, which I have cultivated since I was in fourth grade and a member of the vocational group “Seekers of God,” resurfaced and became stronger. That is when my admiration for the SVD missionary lifestyle began. Later, I got in touch with a vocation director, Mr. Len Uhal to let him know about my aspiration of becoming an SVD.

How has living with the SVD brothers and priests at Techny inspired you?
I was fortunate to be with all of them. I learned a lot from them and enjoyed the time I spent with them, conversing, eating and playing cards and bingo. This helped me to understand, appreciate and get inspired by their work and mission in the SVD. In addition to being a more collected person, their experiences and sharing would help me to be a more patient listener and a better minister in the future.

What was the biggest challenge during this past year?
My biggest challenge this year was the COVID-19 situation. There were many adjustments that we had to make as a result, and we were unable to do outside ministry.

How did the early experience of novitiate change after the COVID-19 pandemic?
This experience helped me to appreciate more solitude and value tranquility. In other words, it helped me to become a lover of silence and go deeper into my inner self to foster genuine relationships with the SVD community and strengthen the contemplative and loving divine presence of God in my life.

What are your hopes for the coming year?
I hope that in the future, while living at the Divine Word Theologate and attending classes at the Catholic Theological Union (CTU), I will be able to continue to practice the valuable lessons I have learned throughout my previous formation experiences and the novitiate year, namely living a humble, faithful, serviceable and simple lifestyle and continuing the examination of conscience, as well as other devotionals and personal prayers.

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