Togo Priest Becomes Chaplain To French-Speakers
Published: August 2, 2012
ATLANTA—Two parishes will host the new ministry to French-speaking Catholics in the Atlanta Archdiocese.
Father Daniel Agbeko Gbadji will be the spiritual leader of the community, part of the multicultural face of the archdiocese.
“We have to show people our capability and our desire to be gathered as a big Francophone group. We must emphasize our spirit of unity and our ability to serve God with our different spiritual gifts and charisms in order to build the church,” said Father Gbadji, who was recently appointed chaplain to French-speaking Catholics.
Nearly 30 countries in Africa use French as a national language, along with a handful of nations in the Americas. A 2007 survey by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate for the archdiocese found that two of the five African countries most represented in the archdiocese, the Ivory Coast and Cameroon, are French-speaking.
The new outreach comes on the heels of a strong presence at the annual Eucharistic Congress, where French-speakers attend a special worship service with lively displays of faith.
Father Daniel Agbeko Gbadji (Photo by Michael Alexander)
The new chaplain, Father Gbadji, 39, was ordained in 1999 for the new Diocese of Kpalimé in Togo after study at John Paul II Major Seminary in the West African nation. Since ordination, he has been a pastor and the diocesan director of religious education. He has also guided charismatic prayer groups and regularly celebrates healing Masses.
He was the primary speaker at this year’s Eucharistic Congress Francophone track.
On June 18 he was appointed to the chaplain position, a new post, for three years by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.
Father Gbadji said his priorities are to celebrate the sacraments for the community and organize opportunities for prayer and worship.
“I have also to listen to them and to take care of them like a shepherd so that I can find them some appropriate answers to their problems, sufferings and anxieties. Prayer is therefore necessary,” he said.
The Francophone Catholic community will have Masses at St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro, on the first and third Sundays and at St. Patrick Church, Norcross, where French Mass is already celebrated, on the second and fourth Sundays. Confessions will be heard before Mass. There will also be regular times of Eucharistic adoration, prayer and worship, as well as a healing Mass every first Friday, rotating between the two parishes. He will reside at Holy Cross Church, Atlanta.
Father Gbadji said the community is open to all Francophone Catholics. And while the current bylaws are the efforts of the French-speaking peoples from Haiti, Togo, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and other African natives, the mission is to serve all.
Already, many people, including Haitians, Canadians, Americans and Africans, participate in French celebrations at St. Patrick Church and the goal is to continue that, he said.
“That is very wonderful,” he said.
Without any difference of race, ethnicity and citizenship, all have to be the witnesses of the faith in the archdiocese, Father Gbadji said.
“For Christianity has no citizenship,” he said.
Baptism draws all people to God, he said; however, there are differences in the liturgy. Faith is shown in different cultures and traditions with multicultural expressions.
“We like worshiping God with our whole being. Basically, essentially and traditionally, Africa is a continent of faith. There is more life in our celebration,” he said.
The Francophone Catholic community will have Masses at St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro, and St. Patrick Church, Norcross.
In Jonesboro, starting in September, on the first and third Sundays at 2:30 p.m. French Mass will be celebrated. And on the third Friday, from 8 to 10 p.m., there will be Eucharistic adoration, prayer and worship.
In Norcross, where French Mass is already celebrated, the Mass will be on the second and fourth Sundays at 2 p.m. And on the first, third, and, if necessary, on the fifth Sundays, from 8 to 10 p.m., there will be a prayer service.
A healing Mass is to be celebrated every first Friday, rotating between St. Philip Benizi and St. Patrick from
8 to 10 p.m. All are welcome. Confessions will be heard 30 minutes before Mass.