Inspired by a 19th century missionary to China, Father Joseph Youta Djiba from Togo was ordained in Taiwan on Feb. 18 for the Chinese province of the Society of the Divine Word congregation.
John Hung Shan-Chuan of Taipei, from the same congregation, presided
over the ordination at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Kaohsiung, southern
Archbishop Peter Liu of Kaohsiung and Father Frank Budenholzer,
the Divine Word provincial, concelebrated.
The Divine Word Chinese province covers Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong and mainland China.
Djiba, 34, was born in Togo, the West African country where a quarter
of its 7.5 million population are Catholics. He was serving as a deacon
at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Kaoshiung before his ordination.
was colonized by Germany and France respectively until its independence
in 1960. Catholicism was introduced to his Siou hometown by German
missionaries a century ago.
The new priest is the youngest son of
a family with eight children. His eldest brother Gregory Djiba is a
priest in Togo's Atakpame Diocese.
Father Youta Djiba said that
he told his parents of his wanting to be a priest when he was 15 but his
father rejected it because there was already one priest in the family.
Togo tradition, the youngest son inherits the wealth of the family
while having the duty to take care of the parents for the rest of their
The young man gave up the idea and continued his studies.
After graduation, Youta Djiba worked as a secretary in the largest
cotton company in the country.
"My boss was good to me and I was
well paid. But I was not happy," the new priest told ucanews.com in
Mandarin, a language he learned at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan.
"There are many social injustices in Togo. Some people are very rich and some are very poor," he said.
was an altar server from the age of 10 to 22. I served at many funeral
Masses. This prompted me to think about the meaning of life. I wanted to
save the world and do good deeds. The most important of all is to save
souls," he continued.
His university principal, a nun, asked him
to think if the secretariat work was what he desired. He sought counsel
from his parish priest and finally decided to join Atakpame Diocese
after his brother.
However, Youta Djiba left the diocese to join
the Divine Word congregation within three months, having read the
biography of St. Josef Freinademetz, a 19th century Tyrolean missionary
St. Freinademetz first arrived in Hong Kong in 1897 by
boat and converted some villagers in northeastern Sai Kung. Then he
moved to preach in eastern Shandong province in China.
Chinese name, Fu Rouse, the missionary was popularly known as "Mother of
the Lunan Mission" for his pioneer missionary work in Shandong. He died
in China due to an epidemic disease in 1908 and was jointly canonized
with the Divine Word founder, St. Arnold Janssen in 2003.
Currently, there are 5,000 Divine Word members serving in 70 countries around the world.