Newly professed member Wisno Elie


Six young men professed vows with the Society of the Divine Word this year. We invite you to get to know them. Today, we present Wisno Elie SVD.

Name: Wisno Elie SVD

Age: 38

Hometown: Delmas, Haiti

Languages: Creole, French, English, and un poquito of Spanish

Ministries during novitiate: Holy Spirit Life Learning Center in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood and working at Divine Word Residence with Brother Matt Connor SVD

Favorite book: “All Souls’ Rising: A Novel of Haiti” by Madison Smartt Bell, “How We Love” by Milan and Kay Yerkovich, and “Ethics in Pastoral Ministry” by Richard M. Gula SS.

Tell us about a time when you felt God’s presence: There is no specific time I felt God’s presence because He has been walking with me since the beginning of my life. I felt God’s presence through other people and his company when times are dark. One of the times I felt God's presence was in 2010 during a powerful earthquake in Haiti. I was on the third floor of a four-story building. The building completely collapsed to the ground. When I became conscious, I was under rubble. More than 500 students died that day. I would not say God loves me more than those who died, but I am here today because God has a special mission for me.

When did you first feel the call to be a missionary? I first felt the call to be a missionary when I met a religious sister from Ireland. At age 13, I encountered Sister Helen Ryder, who cared dearly for the orphans in a mission near my house. What struck me was the fact that she was not even Haitian. That made me think that if a foreigner could love and care for my people that much, how much more should I love and care for them? At that moment, I found Jesus being manifested in the faces of the sisters and the orphans, and I felt called to dedicate my life to serving God’s people. However, when I told my mother about my desire to become religious, she thought I was crazy at the highest level because this was not her dream for me. She said, “Wisno, you will not give me grandchildren?”

At the age of 19, after completing my high school studies, my vocation to religious life faded to some extent. I decided to go to a university to study civil engineering and, after that, find a job and have my own family. However, I still maintained a deep prayer life and participated in different parish activities, such as being a reader, choir member, and member of the Liturgical Committee.

My vocation was once more awakened by the encounter with Mr. Len Uhal, one of the SVD vocation directors, as he described the life of the Divine Word Missionary. I was impressed by the rich diversity of cultures and languages in the Society of the Divine Word and the community life, and especially by the adventurous invitation to bring God’s Word to a new culture, to live and work with people of various backgrounds, and to care for the marginalized of society.

How has living with the SVD brothers and priests at Techny inspired you? Living with the Divine Word brothers and priests at Techny was like I was at a school of missionary experience. I learned a lot from their mission experiences—those who stayed in the United States and those who went to other countries. The joy of living with them there is that they are always delighted to see a new generation that will continue to preach the Gospel.

What was the biggest challenge during this past year? The biggest challenge for me last year was the political instability and natural disasters that gnaw at my country. Like the Ukrainians who are so proud of their country and want peace, it is the same for me. I feel very close to the poor and marginalized people, those at the bottom of society. Whenever I see the poor suffer or exploited, it deeply hurts me as a human being and a Christian. I want a better life for the poor in my country. They are suffering from natural disasters and also from political instability. When they face these issues, I feel their pain as if it were my own.

How did the early experience of novitiate change after the COVID-19 pandemic? The pandemic did not really affect my novitiate year. Everything was as normal as usual.

What are your hopes for the coming year? I already spent one semester at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) before going to the novitiate; I had attended all of those courses on Zoom. Now, I hope to attend most of my classes on the campus and to interact with other students.

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