Fr. Oswald Baptist: a sharing of vocation and missionary life
Monday, July 3, 2017
First of all, I thank God from the deepest of my heart for the gift of my life and I offer Him this life-giving gift in return. My name is Oswald Baptist Abakar Abushaka, originally from Wau Diocese in the South Sudan. I am a Comboni missionary priest. I come from a small South Sudanese ethnic community called Golo from an area called Abushaka, eleven miles away from Wau town on the road towards Raja.
I belong to a very large family of 14 children: 10 boys and 4 girls of the same parents. In the orderly manner amongst the brothers and sisters, I am the tenth child. My parents were very devoted Christians in their lifetime and both are now resting in peace.
I was born on 13 July 1970 in Aweil. In 1973, my family moved to Wau where I started my primary school, and later I attended the Intermediate school. When I was 15 years old, my family sent me to Khartoum in order to continue my studies there.
I came to know about St. Daniel Comboni, the founder of the Comboni missionaries, and the Comboni Family from my early age, mostly from my mother. She used to narrate to us quite often after supper about the Comboni Missionaries: fathers, sisters and brothers. I can actually say that my mother was my first vocation promoter. She would tell us about the life-style of the Comboni Missionaries, their commitment, and how they were devoted and hard-working men and women of the time!
Later on, I had the privilege to meet some of those hard-working men and women. Amongst them I just mention two names: Bishop Agostino Baroni and Bishop Edoardo Mason. Then, I had the chance to serve at the altar when Bishop Mason celebrated the Holy Eucharist. I was in fact 11 years old and an altar boy. That was in 1982 on the occasion of his last visit to Wau since he was amongst the Bishops who served in Wau.
My maternal uncle, His eminence Gabriel Zubeir – the retired Archbishop of Khartoum - helped me to deepen my knowledge about the Comboni Missionaries. He has always had a high esteem for St. Daniel Comboni and the Comboni Missionaries.
I would like to share with you how I came to knock at the door of the Comboni Missionaries and when I felt the desire to become a Comboni missionary. At the beginning, I wished to study Law and was really committed to my studies to fulfil that dream, but later when I sat for the Sudan certificate examination, that dream faded away. Something came to my mind to abandon that career and to choose to become a Comboni missionary.
In 1995 I started to be accompanied for one full year as an aspirant and eventually joined the formation house called Postulancy for a period of three years during which I studied Philosophy. After that, I went to the Novitiate, another formative stage, this time in Uganda, and finally to the last formative period called Scholasticate, in London, UK. There I studied Theology and made final preparations for the Religious Vows and admittance to the Holy Orders.
For my first missionary experience I was assigned to the Republic of Chad, in Africa. Before going there, I went to France for four months to learn the French language. I had also the privilege to spend six months in the Republic of Togo before reaching Chad, my final destination. I spent the last eleven years of my missionary commitment working in Chad.
In Chad I worked in the Diocese of Lai, first as the assistant parish priest and later as a parish priest for four years. Then, I was transferred to the Diocese of Doba as the director of the Diocesan Catechetical Centre for the formation of Christian communities’ animators. There I had the grace to experience one of my most wonderful missionary services.
In 2013, I was asked to leave the Southern part of Chad, where I served and lived for nearly seven years, to go and open a new mission in the extreme north-east of the country in the Vicariate Apostolic of Mongo. The vicariate borders with the Sudan on the east and with Libya on the North. There I spent my last four years of missionary life.
These eleven years of evangelisation and missionary life in Africa gave me many joys and also challenges. It has moulded me and prepared me to be open for other future missionary endeavours.
Actually, I think that it depends on how each person qualifies or defines the joy they feel or the challenges they face. As for me, right from the beginning of my vocational journey, I came across very many wonderful people: friends, relatives, Christians and non-Christians.
I spent my first eleven years of missionary life with the people I met in an almost total serenity and joy. I shared community life with very good missionaries, living and working side by side. I met also very good lay people who expressed to me their satisfactions and friendships with sincerity to have encountered someone like me in their lives. For that I am so grateful for this first missionary life’s experience: I really enjoyed and am happy about it.
We are loved and called by God to live and enjoy what He has called us to be and do. Challenges may come our way but God is there at our side and will help us to overcome them. So, let us not be afraid and answer God’s call with joy and enthusiasm.
I pray and hope that this brief life-sharing experience of my vocational journey and missionary life may stir in many young people the desire to become missionaries and be ready to embrace the missionary mandate of the Lord to go out into the whole world and announce the Gospel to those who do not yet know the person and message of Jesus Christ.
Fr. Oswald Baptist Abakar Abushaka, mccj