Portrait of a Togolese country priest
Much appreciated Father Paulin Silvère Koumodji has earned a reputation for being a no nonsense priest very demanding of his parishioners
It is 6 a.m. on the morning of Sunday Jan. 28 at Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Abobo, 35 kilometers northeast of Lomé. Father Paulin Silvère Koumodji, who has been parish priest for nearly ten years, is ringing the bells.
Within an hour, he celebrates Mass. Soon after, he begins his visits to the meetings of the local church groups and movements, offering them encouragement. Ten hours later, he is still at work, leading a catechism program.
“This is how I spend my Sundays,” he explains.
Alternating fortnightly with his curate Father Joseph Tsivanyo, each week he celebrates Mass at two of the five chapels of his remote parish.
Born June 20, 1962, Father Silvère completed his primary and secondary education in science before undertaking university studies in Lomé.
Later he began a long journey that took him to Ivory Coast and Ghana.
His vocational path to the priesthood was strewn with so many obstacles that it turned into a kind of personal “stations of the cross.”
Nicknamed the “parachutist” because of his vigorous and rapid lifestyle, he faced a series of illnesses and misunderstandings.
“During one exam while I was at the major seminary, I fell seriously ill and failed six of the 13 subjects. Even so, I still managed to achieve an average of 20 out of 20,” he recalls.
He faced more difficulties before being admitted to ordination. Nevertheless, he says he remained at peace throughout his ordeal.
“My classmates were astonished to see me in the major seminary choir at their ordination to the diaconate even though I was not admitted at the same time as them,” he said.
Eventually ordained as a priest at the age of 40 on Feb. 22, 2003, Father Koumodj initially worked as director of social work in Lomé, serving for five years before his appointment as the second parish priest of Abobo.
Currently, he is also both diocesan and national chaplain of the scouts and guides.
A lover of music, he was formerly a member of the St. Casimir’s choir in Lomé. As well as singing, he is also a composer who has published two albums of Christian-inspired songs.
As parish priest, he has earned a reputation of being very demanding.
“Father Koumodj is courageous but sometimes too rigorous,” said Emmanuel Mawugbe, an 80-year-old parishioner.
“What I particularly admire about him, however, is that he systematically condemns mistakes and poor behavior by the faithful,” he adds.
“He does not appreciate any lack of effort and often scolds us,” confirms high school student, Sabine Vossou.
Dominique Koudoli, principal of the local private Catholic school, says he has a “good working relationship” with Father Silvère, who “regularly monitors the school’s activities.”
“In spite of my encouragement, I sometimes have the impression that my parishioners lack the will,” the priest says, as if to confirm what the parishioners are saying.
“They need to fight to overcome poverty,” he adds.
Charles Ayetan, Abobo
Source : la-croix.com