Ergete Tesfaye, 51 years old, former culinary chef, of Ethiopian origin,
has been ordained to the priesthood for the Foreign Mission Society
on June 11, 2011, in St. Kevin parish, Montreal,
after which he will go to work in Kenya.
I was born in August 1959 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I am the seventh in a family of nine children. I was baptized and educated in a Catholic family where values and Christian principles are deeply rooted. After my Elementary and Secondary education in Addis Ababa, and while civil war raged in my country, I came to Canada in 1978, and Quebec has become my second home. Like many newcomers, I experienced the difficult process of adaptation, but still, I managed to complete my education by studying at a CEGEP (DEC in Social Sciences) and at the University.
To earn a living, I worked in a restaurant for several years, first as a dishwasher, then as an assistant cook in restaurants in the Complexe Desjardins. Later, I went into business with other partners, and for 4 years, we managed a small Ethiopian restaurant in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. This helped me to improve my skills in the field of cooking by enrolling in a vocational school. After my graduation as a professional cook, I worked in different places: a restaurant, a private club, a golf club, and later on, for a caterer who prepared kosher meals for the Jewish community.
During all those years, the gift of faith received at baptism and supported by my family and the Church has guided my life. My faith has been a source of hope, inspiration and perseverance throughout my pilgrimage. For several years, I was a member of the community of the Loyola chapel where I was able to sustain my faith and also strengthen my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was also a member of the Social Justice Committee of Montreal.
Later, I began to get involved in the parish of St. Kevin, a lively multi-ethnic parish. It was for me a very good experience. On Good Friday, I would participate in the Meals for the Hungry that were supervised by Development and Peace. My involvement in various activities at St. Kevin awoke the call to the priesthood that I had felt since I was a teenager.
At the suggestion of Father Francis McKee, then pastor of the parish, I began attending an evening vocational program at the Major Seminary. These evenings were helpful in my discernment about the priesthood. However, I was always confronted with a question: in what way did the Lord want me to serve as a priest? I learned about the Society of the Foreign Mission when Jean-Yves Isabel, p.m.é., came to celebrate Mass in St. Kevin parish and told us about the Missionary Society. Later on, I had the chance to visit the Central House of the Society in Pont-Viau with a group from the parish. This took place while I was searching to know where the Lord wanted me to be. During my visit to the Central House of the Society, I felt immediately at home and that was the beginning of a new stage in my journey.
I moved to the International Missionary Formation Center (IMFC) at the end of August 2005 to experience a year of discernment and formation. That was for me a year of blessing and of transformation. At the time when this formation year came to an end, my desire to grow towards the Kingdom of God and my dream to be a partner in building this Kingdom became clearer and stronger.
In 2006, I was able to experience missionary life in Honduras. That is where I made the connection with another missionary activity in which I participated at the age of 17 years in a mission in Ethiopia. That is how the Lord was moulding me.
From 2006 to 2007, I studied philosophy at Concordia University.
In June of 2007, I left for Kenya to continue my theological studies for three and a half years.
The Society of the Foreign Mission chose me to work in Kenya.
At the announcement of my vocation, the reactions were astounding, especially those coming from the people who had known me. They would say: "This is not a surprise."
Here is the reaction of a friend who exclaimed: "You're sick or something? You'll give up your field of expertise? "
In retrospect, I think I am not giving up anything. As professional chef, I have dressed many tables. One of those was missing me: the eucharistic table...
Dare I say that there is a continuity between the hotel trade and the altar one...
I thank the Lord to have led me in the right direction. I also thank the Foreign Mission Society for its hospitality and the opportunity to realize my vocation. ■