The Comboni Mission Center in Kitchener, Ontario has a new priest, Fr. Shane Degblor. He was recently assigned to the North American Province. Here is his story:
I am Fr. Shane Degblor. I was born in 1967 at Sasieme in the Volta Region of Ghana in West Africa. I am the youngest of four children, three boys and one girl.
The first time I felt the call to become a priest was during my catechism class at the age of 12 with Fr. Cuniberto Zeziola. Fr. Cuniberto was one of the first Comboni Missionaries who arrived in St. Theresa’s Parish in Abor, Ghana in 1974. Every day after school, Fr. Cuniberto used to come to Sasieme Local Authority Primary School to teach us catechism. He grouped more than 70 candidates from the school who wanted to receive the Sacrament of Baptism, and I was one of those candidates.
One day, I came before all the other candidates for class. When I entered the classroom I saw Fr. Cuniberto reciting his vespers. Even though I could not hear clearly what he was saying, I saw him making the sign of the cross many times during his prayer. The image of the sign of the cross I saw him making remains with me all these years whenever I sign myself before, during, and after prayers.
After my baptism and first communion, I immediately became a Mass servant. But when I was in the junior secondary and part of senior secondary, I was divided between becoming a priest and becoming a doctor.
Eventually I decided to become a priest. I was ordained on Oct. 17, 1998 at the Risen Christ Church in Adidome, Ghana. I decided to become a priest in order to respond to the strong desire that I felt during catechism class; that is, to be like the one who taught me catechism and baptized me – Fr. Cuniberto.
After my ordination, I worked in Paroisse St. Michel in Boda, Central African Republic, and then in Paroisse Marie Mere du Redempteur in Lome, Togo.
In all these years of my missionary life I have experienced many joyful moments. Some of these experiences I spent with youth faith journey groups, leaders, and seniors both sick and physically weak living in their homes.
I spent a week with different youth movements in a joint annual retreat camp. The summer camp retreat time was divided between prayer, Christian formation, recreation, and visits to places of interest. It was the first enriching encounter which I had with all the youth of the parish since my transfer from the Central African Republic to Togo.
I can vividly remember the voices of the youth during prayers. This is because the moments of prayers and daily Holy Mass celebrations were moments animated by songs, which were accompanied by a boy playing the piano. There were more than 70 boys and girls age 17-25 who attended this retreat. During the last two days of the retreat we visited the West African cement factory that operates in Tablibo. It was the first time they came together as one youth group from many different communities.
It was during this annual retreat that the need for unity among the youth was proposed. We journeyed together until my transfer, a faith journey which the youth continue today.
Our Christian life is a journey that has a meaning only when it is lived with other Christians. It is then that Jesus joins us, walks with us and teaches us (Luke 24: 13-15, 27). This is because baptism incorporates all baptized into one family making us the children of one heavenly Father. In our prayers, we all address God as our Father. In making our journey together as one family, Jesus presents himself among us. Did he not say, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am among them?”
I am now living at the Comboni Mission Center with Fr. Tom Vermiglio in Kitchener, Ontario. The community of Kitchener has two realities: a parish community and a mission center. Being the Assistant Pastor of St. Joseph Parish, I collaborate in the activities of pastoral care to the parishioners and in the activities of the mission center.
The context of Kitchener, and for that matter, all of North America is new to me, but the content remains the same: the Good News.
To all those who want to become a missionary priest I say, it is a beautiful and happy experience to work for and with God and neighbors. A missionary priest’s life is not challenge free but a missionary priest is not alone. He himself is also a member of a mission territory. It is by walking together with confreres and the people with whom you are sent that you are a missionary priest.
Today your mission is here. Tomorrow the place and people of your mission may change, but the message is always the same: the Good News. It is by doing your best every day that you can be the Good News as a missionary priest.