Fr. Clemy Mikozama: “There’s no problem that I am a Catholic and my family are Protestant”


Friday, May 31, 2024
He comes from a Protestant family where he learned to love the Word of God. Reading the life of Monsignor Daniel Comboni opened the doors to his desire to be a missionary. The Congolese Comboni missionary, Father Bienvenu Clemy Mikozama, talks to us about his vocational journey.

I am the fourth in a family of five children. They called me Bienvenu, “Welcome” to express my parents’ joy at having their first son. Instead, Clemy is the combination of two prefixes: Cle, from Clémentine, my mother’s name; and My, from Mikozama, my father’s name.

I was born in Brazzaville, the capital of my country, Congo. My family is a Protestant. I grew up in a context where the Word of God was at the centre of family life. In the morning and afternoon, we prayed as a family. We had to recite Bible verses by heart which encouraged us to be close to the Word of God. My mother insisted that I participate in prayer. She could let others fail if they apologized, but I had no right to do so. Every morning, she knocked on my room to tell me it was time to gather in prayer.

Once I finished my high school exams, I tried to attend medical school, but I couldn’t. In fact, my goal had always been to become a doctor. Since my uncle lived in Paris, I asked him to help me travel to France. The visa process was going quickly, but one day everything changed. One of my friends, who was a Catholic and wanted to become a priest, brought me the book “Saving Africa with Africa.”

When I read the life of Saint Daniele Comboni, my heart began to burn with enthusiasm. However, I thought that being a Protestant prevented me, but my friend told me that it was not an obstacle and introduced me to some Catholic nuns. With one of them, I began the first of my vocational discernment meetings.

One day I decided to talk to my father about my desire to become a Catholic priest. My father didn’t refuse, even though he didn’t like the idea. My mother did not object either, but she suggested the option of becoming a Protestant pastor. I don’t know why I was so determined, because I had no idea of priestly life in the Catholic Church, but the testimony of Comboni’s life triggered in me a strong desire to pursue this missionary intuition.

As a Protestant, I was proud, and I still am when I talk about my roots in the faith, which is why I say that Saint Daniel Comboni is the only reason why I changed my religious confession. My regularity in the activities of the Catholic Church and the dialogue that my father had with the nun who accompanied me also helped me to be consistent in my desire to be a priest.

In April 2011, I met the Comboni Missionaries in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC. Brazzaville and Kinshasa are the two closest capitals in the world and although they have cultural similarities, they also have some differences. When I returned home after five months of learning about the Comboni charism, I was convinced that I wanted to begin my training.

However, my passport was issued late and I had to wait a year at home before I could start my first philosophy course. Of the 10 young people who had begun vocational discernment, I alone remained. That period of waiting at home wasn’t easy because; my parents wanted to change my mind. But I didn’t give up, the decision had been made on my part. I would become a Comboni priest and missionary.

In 2015, I entered the postulancy of the Comboni Missionaries in Kisangani. Three years later I went to Chad for the novitiate. During the novitiate, I appreciated going by bicycle to visit the Christian communities and experiencing the generosity of the people who supported us, especially during the months in which we were a small community of novices. I took my first vows in May 2018. That same year I left for Ghana to study theology. There I found a very welcoming and proud people. Leaving the French-speaking context for the first time, I had some initial problems with the language, but it was a rich and wonderful experience.

In 2022 I returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo to carry out my missionary service before my priestly ordination. The DRC is the Comboni province to which I belong and here I have had very beautiful and enriching experiences. One of these was that of the host families who considered me as their son due simply to our common bond of faith.

The missionary experience in the DRC left its mark on me. I have been visiting Christian communities since I was a postulant and I do so with pleasure. Being with people, listening to them, learning from them and bringing God into their hearts is the greatest joy of a missionary.

I was ordained a priest on February 11th this year. I am the first Comboni missionary from the Republic of Congo. Missionary life is a wonderful adventure lived in Christ. Life is so precious and we must live it fully and with dignity.

Comboni Missionaries