Father James Griffin was the pastor of St. Margaret of Cortona Parish in the Bronx, New York, during most of the eight years I attended the parish elementary school. He was young, enthusiastic, kindhearted and a real joy to be around. In fact, he was so beloved by his parishioners that upon his leaving for another assignment, they gave him a brand-new Oldsmobile! I’ll never forget when I heard the news – I couldn’t believe the parish had raised enough money to buy our pastor a new car!
Recently, I thought about Father Griffin and our parish gift to him, as I was exchanging emails with Father Obidi Gildas, a parish priest in the Ivory Coast in West Africa. Our emails focused on details for his project on MISSIO, raising funds to purchase a pickup truck. Pastor of St. Theresa's Parish in the Diocese of Bondoukou in Ivory Coast for the past three years, he visits and serves a flock scattered among 28 “outstations” across many miles of dirt roads. In the clear weather, Father Obidi makes the journey via motorbike. During the rainy season, however, the roads become impassible, and those much-needed visits are virtually impossible. A large 4x4 truck would help him to continue his ministry no matter the weather.
I learned a lot from those emails with Father Obidi, and I’m not just talking about the weather seasons in the Ivory Coast. His MISSIO project, like so many others in the Pope’s missions, address very practical realities. There’s a lot of suffering and need in his diocese, Father Obidi acknowledged. His parishioners are subsistence farmers with little access to electricity, health services and, in some cases, clean water. He can’t even begin to address these challenges and needs unless he is present. The truck is his path to presence – plain and simple. “It is my great joy to share information with you,” he wrote in our first electronic correspondence. Yes, Father Obidi, who celebrates 10 years as a priest this year, was enthusiastic, in the most practical of ways.
In addition to his role as MISSIO project leader, Father Obidi also serves as one of our prayer partners. He offers Mass every Thursday and Saturday for MISSIO supporters.
“MISSIO shows the universality of the Catholic Church,” said Father Obidi. “On MISSIO I too discover the realities of the church in other areas of the world and see that love and charity have not borders. It’s wonderful!”
Father Obidi posts regular updates on his MISSIO project – like these images from Palm Sunday at the end of March, as well as of him on his current not-always-easy ride, his motorbike. And while you’re there, you might share his project – or contribute to getting his new wheels on the road.
March 25, 2018 - Palm Sunday with Father Obidi in an Ivory Coast village.
Father Obidi's current not-so-easy ride.
P.S. The practical reality – and need – of mission travel is confirmed in this video of MISSIO National Director,
Father Andrew Small, OMI on a visit to the Pope’s missions in the Philippines.
Hi there! I'm Patty from Team MISSIO! I left my life in the for-profit sector some 15 years ago to join the Pope's missions and haven't looked back since. My love of the Mission Church was inspired by my grandfather, an avid reader of both National Geographic and MISSION Magazine. I draw inspiration each and every day from the missionaries I meet who live their lives in service of the Gospel. Sign up for "Patty's Picks" - and I'll see you to share more soon!