By Clement Baffoe, SVD
As the saying goes, “They who do not know where they are coming from would not know where they are going.” This saying indicates that once in a while it’s worth pausing and reflecting on where you have come from. I look back not because I have nostalgic feelings for the past, but because it helps me to appreciate God’s grace in the past and to help me to reorder my future.
It has been exactly one year since I was ordained a priest. On that fateful day of Nov. 28, 2020, I was full of mixed feelings. I was happy that God had found me, even though unworthy, to work in his vineyard. At the same time I was afraid and felt very much inadequate. I think this feeling of inadequacy has always reminded me to be humble. I wasn’t called because I merited it but because God wanted to glorify himself through me, a broken vessel.
When I arrived in Townsville [Australia] at the beginning of this year, my first shock began at the airport. Having arrived in a jumper [a sweater] from a cold morning in Melbourne, the humidity outside the Townsville airport taught me I was in a different environment.
I was warmly received by the people of God and by Father Dave Lancini, the former pastor who retired shortly before my arrival. Fr. Dave’s presence and guidance in the early days was a huge blessing. Even though the task ahead looked daunting, he kept encouraging me. He shared many things with me, but the one that stood out was when he said, “Clement, always be there for the people and don’t stop smiling.”
What has the experience been in this first year of my priesthood? It’s been a time of great learning. I have tried to unlearn some things and learn new things. I have experienced love from parishioners and many non-parishioners. I have laughed with families at baptisms and weddings, and also I have cried with families at hospitals and funerals.
I have been privileged to share in people’s sacred stories around meals. I have equally been privileged to celebrate many school Masses and liturgies. These have been opportunities for encounter as I get to share stories with our beautiful students.
My first year of the priesthood has been a ministry of presence. That is, being where I am most needed at any point in time.
I have experienced challenges in this first year as well. Some of the challenges have been my inability to celebrate my Thanksgiving Mass after my ordination with my family and my inability to be around my father in his last days and for his burial. Whereas these have been some of my challenges, they have also helped me to understand what the priesthood is about. It’s about letting go of some of my comforts in order for God’s will to be done.
As the first year of my priesthood ends, I am encouraged to look to the future with hope. In the coming months and years, it’s my hope that God will continually use me for his purpose. It is my soul’s desire that God always visits his people through my ministry of breaking his bread, through confessions and even through casual encounters. Please when you say your prayers, remember me in that sacred space of yours.
Director’s Note: Father Clement Baffoe, SVD, a missionary from Ghana now serving as the assistant pastor at the Ministerial Region of the Good Shepherd in Townsville, Australia, wrote this reflection after completing his first year as a priest in November 2021. Even though several months have passed since his first anniversary, we believe you will appreciate his reflection on his vocation and first year of ministry.
*This article is courtesy of the Divine Word Missionaries Mission Center in Techny, IL.