On Aug. 8, seven young men professed first vows at Techny, Ill., and became members of the Society of the Divine Word. They come from Indonesia, the Philippines, Togo, the United States and Vietnam. During their novitiate year together, they prayed, reflected and discerned. Today, we introduce Edoh Adolphe Anato.
With great gifts come great responsibilities
The Story of Edoh Adolphe Anato
By Theresa Carson
In Togo, where novice Edoh Adolphe Anato grew up, being a firstborn son comes with great responsibilities. “After my dad, I’m the one in the charge of the family,” said the 29-year-old novice. “If my dad is not around, then people turn to me [for advice and direction].”
Hence, leaving his family to follow in the footsteps of Christ has not always been easy. Edoh is the fourth of his parent’s seven children. He first left his parents’ home at age 18 to study finance at a school that specializes in the field. Yet during those college days, he was not far from his parents’ watchful eyes because he lived with one of his father’s friends.
Edoh grew up in Lomé, the capital of Togo. He knows life in the big city, as well as the rural countryside. “When I opened my eyes I was already in Lomé,” said Edoh as he mused about the day he was born. He also spent many summers in Adame, his ancestral hometown, a small village by a river on the border of Benin. “A person could walk from one side of Adame to the other in 35 minutes,” he said.
In Lomé, he and his siblings went to a Catholic school near his father’s house. His father doesn’t go to church. His mother was Catholic but eventually discontinued going to church.
“Mom stopped going to Mass, and so did we,” he said. “Most of my friends are Protestant. I followed my friends who were Pentecostal.”
He returned to the Catholic Church in 2005. “Going to those other churches didn’t bring anything new to my life. I was searching for meaning and needed something to grasp onto—meaning to my life—so I resumed going to Mass.”
Three years later, he was confirmed and two years after Confirmation, he entered the seminary. His own parish was staffed by Comboni Missionaries, but his spiritual director gave him a booklet written by the Divine Word Missionaries.
“Everything started in 2008. I graduated with a master’s degree in finance. I searched for what to do next. The idea of becoming a priest was on my list, but I was not convinced by it because I spent a lot of time, energy and my dad’s money on a degree in finance,” he said.
Edoh also mourned his mother’s death the year before. As a university student, he thought he would complete his degree, marry, have a family and contribute to the family of his birth. “As a junior in university, I wished to take care of our mom because she did wonderful things for us,” he said.
After graduation, Edoh discussed his goals and aspirations with his spiritual director. He became more and more interested in exploring the possibility of becoming a religious. “I decided to see; I didn’t know anything, I looked for information about the priesthood and religious life. In 2009, I said okay.”
He knew nothing about the Society of the Divine Word except what was in a booklet that his spiritual director had given to him. He began attending meetings in 2009 and entered the seminary in West Africa in 2010. “I decided to do something different. Make it more exciting. I knew nothing about the SVDs except what was in the booklet.”
That journey became even more exciting after his postulancy. He learned that the novitiate in Ghana was full, so he and two of his classmates would venture to the United States for novitiate.
“I love numbers, figures, and graphs. I didn’t take language learning seriously until we were told we were coming to the United States,” he said with a smile.
He spent the 2013-2014 school year at Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, and can now add English to his mastered languages of Pla, Ewe and French.
Leaving his homeland marked a major step for Edoh. Because of the distance, He no longer has regular contact with his family, but he stays in touch with his father and informed about his siblings, some of whom have moved to Ghana and South Africa.
How did he feel about coming to the United States? “It was exciting and confusing. We had heard about the United States a lot in the news. We didn’t know the people or what we would find here. Will we be welcome? How will people feel about our coming to the United States? I was surprised that people were friendly,” he said.
He said that people at Epworth were especially patient when he was learning English and that getting to know some of his fellow novices during that time has helped. He has known Akizou Kamina for four years. He has known Binh Tran, Peter Do and Fransiskus Santoso since his Divine Word College days.
“It’s a blessing to be with these guys, to be in the house. The ambiance in the house is cool,” he said.
For his ministry, he taught courses at the Life Learning Center, which is run by the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters in Chicago’s Rogers Park. For the first semester at the center, he concentrated on computer skills; during the second semester, he taught English-as-a-Second-Language.
“What is interesting is when they [the students] share their stories,” he said. “They are devoted to their success. They are encouraging too.”
He also appreciates the encouragement that he has received from his fellow novices and the Divine Word Missionaries.
“Mutual support is essential,” he said. “It keeps you going. These guys support and challenge you to give your best of self to the mission.”
That comradery will continue as he and his novitiate-mates move to the Divine Word Theologate in Chicago’s Hyde Park and attend Catholic Theological Union.
Article posted: August 11, 2015