On May 26, 1968, the Hebo (Eritrea) Mission of the former Province of Naples, harvested the first fruits of their second missionary presence which had begun in 1947: 8 priestly ordinations. Now, they were not the first Abyssinians ever ordained since there were already two other priests before them: Abba Teclehaimanot Tesfu and Abba Fessehatsion Barnabas, both who had entered the community as priests. These eight newly ordained confreres, Abba Tsegai Berhe, Abba Semereab Michael, Abba Teclezghi Bahta, Abba Rufael Mehari, Abba Yohannes Ghebrezghiabiher, Abba Ghebremeskel Fesseha, Abba Weldemariam Zerayohannes and Abba Kiflemariam Asghodom, were received into apostolates even before the construction of the house of Hebo, the first House of the Mission.
After their initial formation at Hebo and Asmara, they were then sent to the Internal Seminary (Novitiate) at Naples from 1961-1963. Having completed the Internal Seminar they returned to Eritrea to study philosophy and theology with the Cistercian monks of Asmara, the same group who would later found the “Asmara Catholic Theological Institute”, a theological institute that would educate many of their successors from all the dioceses and religious communities. Before priesthood ordination they studied for two years in the United States of America to improve their formation. At the end of this experience they returned to Eritrea and were ordained priests on May 26, 1968 in Hebo. This was a great event for everyone, providing tremendous impetus to our Mission.
On July 6, 2001 Abba Semereab Michael moved to the Priests’ house. He was 64 years old. Unfortunately Abba Semereab died of massive and fulminant cardiac arrest. This was a tremendous loss for the SJJ Vice-Province at the time because Abba Semereab was a very intelligent and dynamic person.
Without exception, all these men have given their all and continue to do their best for the mission, for the Church and for the poor. These confreres, while so different in nature and character, have distinguished themselves by their fidelity to the Lord and the Congregation in their generous service to the poor. They have always worked hard: caring for the children who lost their mothers during childbirth, involving themselves in the aftermath of the many wars that have afflicted their people. Above all they have labored in the education sector, the engine for any development in society. These days, a few of them may have been forced to slow down their running pace simply because their legs are tired and they need rest. Let us pray to the Lord that they continue to be authentic fathers of the SJJ Province, a province that they helped to build with their sweat and tears, and even their blood. In addition we pray for all their spiritual children, the young and not so young confreres of this Province, so that they too may imitate the fidelity, integrity in life, and generous service not only of St. Justin de Jacobis, our province’s Father, but also that of these exemplary confreres, missionaries worthy of the name. Amen!
Fr. Zeracristos Yosief, CM
Italian to English translation by Dan Paul Borlik, CM
Western Province, USA