Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed in many ways, but we thank God for His abundant goodness and our being able to celebrate another August profession ceremony. On Aug. 1, five young men who are in formation for the priesthood professed the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Today, we introduce Kodjo Emon SVD.
Name: Kodjo Emon SVD
Hometown: Lomé, Togo
Languages: English, French and Éwé (my mother language)
Ministries during novitiate:
Caring for the elderly priests and brothers at Techny
Cooking for the homeless at Pho Tam, a Vietnamese restaurant
Minister of Care at St. Norbert in Northbrook, Ill.
The Fire in These Ashes: A Spirituality of Contemporary Religious Life by Joan Chittister OSB
Tell me about a time when you felt God’s presence:
God is always present to me in all I do. I mostly feel this intimate presence of God when I am reading the Scriptures because in the words of God, I feel as if God has something specific to tell me at a specific time of my journey—this year especially during times of doubt and trouble. I also felt the presence of God during deep silent meditation.
When did you first feel the call to be a missionary?
Early, at 15 years old, I admired a lot the Divine Word Missionaries who were working in the parish where I grew up and served as an altar boy and catechist. Their community life and closeness to the people of God have touched me. Since then, I have been eager to learn and know more about missionary life, to learn what it really means to be a missionary outside of one’s home country. After high school and three years of study at the University of Lomé, I decided to join the Divine Word Missionaries in Togo. After my come-and-see program, I was admitted to Divine Word Seminary “Postulat du Verb Divin” in 2013.
How has living with the Divine Word brothers and priests at Techny inspired you?
Living with the Divine Word brothers and priests at Techny this year has brought me hope and trust in my vocational journey. They give me hope—hope to continue my formation as I see how devoted they are to their spiritual lives in praying as a community every single day. I can see that there is a spiritual fire that they are passing on to the next generation of which I am a part.
They have sowed in me a sense of trust in God. Through this community, I have grown in trust in God and learned how to rely totally on God. During this year of novitiate, I have multiple ministries. The first one is in the Techny community with the elderly priests and brothers. During this ministry, I have come to know more about one of them, Father Frank Drzaic. He is a gentle, kind and funny person. Not only does he touch my life with his kindness, but his spiritual life and devotion to the Virgin Mary inspire me. He asks me to say an “Ave Maria” with him every time I visit him.
What was a joy from your novitiate year?
In the list of the many interesting books that I read throughout this year, The Fire in These Ashes: A Spirituality of Contemporary Religious Life by Joan Chittister OSB is most appealing to me in the sense that it discusses the fundamental quest of religious life and spirituality. Somehow, the universal human quest is the searching for God, someone to hold on to or look on to. I understand through this book that religious life as Sister Joan stated is another way of life that helps to seek God in all I do. She writes, “The spiritual quest seeks God in everything and everywhere.” Keeping in mind this principal quest, the thirst for God is the key point that stirs in me a shift from the “do” era to the “be” era. As a religious, what is important and the focal point of my life is who I am and not what I do. This author inspired me during this novitiate year and helps me in the process of my discernment.
What was the biggest challenge during this past year?
During this past year, some days have been more challenging than others, but as far as I am concerned, my biggest challenges happened during the time of the lockdown due to COVID-19 and the ministry with the dying in the community. When a Divine Word Missionary is on his deathbed, we take turns keeping vigil so that he is not alone. During the lockdown, not only were my ministries canceled, but I missed encountering other people outside. I also had a demanding service to render to the community as a food server. But I understand the quarantine as an important action to mitigate the spread of the virus. Concerning the vigil with the dying in the community, it was very challenging for me because it was my first time spending time praying with a person who was dying. In my culture, young people are not allowed to stay at the head of a dying person.
How did the early experience of novitiate change after the COVID-19 pandemic began?
My early experience of this novitiate year was very active, dynamic and interesting in the sense that I had the opportunity to minister outside of the Techny community and go to some of the surrounding parishes for Sunday Mass. My goal was to get to know parishes, see what life is like in parishes on Sundays and take note of some of the activities they do in parishes in addition to Masses.
What are your hopes for the coming year?
My hope is to successfully pursue theological studies and live out my Christian call in total self-sacrifice and self-giving for the sake of all.