Below is an article published by Agenzia Fides about an Italian SMA living and working in the Brésillac’ Centre – the SMA House of Formation in Calavi, Republic of Benin.
“At the beginning of January 2022, I moved to Calavì, Benin, to the Brésillac’ Center where some of the seminarians of the Society for African Missions attend the International Year of Spirituality (Novitiate), while others undertake studies in philosophy and theology”. Thus, Father Giovanni Benetti begins to recount the experience that he is living among the young seminarians of the Calavì Center, on the outskirts of the large city of Cotonou, in the south of the country.
“I find myself in the midst of many young people who, together with the formation staff and the friends of the Center, nurture an atmosphere of fraternity and simplicity”, writes the missionary.
Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Togo, Ivory Coast, Angola, Liberia, Zambia, DR Congo, Benin, India, are the home countries of the thirty-seven seminarians currently living and studying in the ‘Brésillac’ Center. There are five SMA priests on the formation team, of whom one is from India, two from Nigeria, one from Poland and Fr Giovanni himself who comes from Italy.
“I am involved” continued Father Benetti, “in the spiritual accompaniment of our seminarians, through the preparation of retreats, formation courses, and through participation in the meetings that organise and plan the formation programme.
Depending on the time I have available, I also try to offer pastoral service, especially on Sundays, in some of the neighbouring parishes. There is plenty of work to do here in Calavi and it demands a great sense of responsibility, since the vocations and the lives of the seminarians, future missionaries of the SMA are at stake. They expect an authentic Christian witness from me and from the other Fathers. This requires humility and calls on formators to share the problems and immerse themselves in the personal journey of these young people on their way towards the priesthood and missionary commitment without borders.
“Of course, here as everywhere, not everything is rosy. The water, for example, is not
drinkable, so it must be filtered or boiled. Unlike Nairobi, where I have been since 2021, Calavì’s tropical climate is harsh and Anopheles Mosquitoes are present and very active; you try to fight them with mosquito nets and repellents. However, even so – I clearly say this work and mission is an adventure worth living because it helps me to grasp what is really essential in life and to understand what is less important. I ask the Lord to help me be a reflection of his love, here in this place and wherever his Spirit takes me. My desire is, above all, to share with simplicity the precious gift that I have received from Him: the faith, which gives flavour, serenity and meaning to life”.
(Agenzia Fides, 17/3/2023)