Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reported that the Community of St. John was recently asked by an archdiocese in Ethiopia to head the local youth ministry, despite a lack of familiarity the brothers have with the country's 80 languages.
Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel of Addis Ababa asked the community – which was founded in France– to provide chaplains who would set up a youth ministry program for the archdiocese.
Br. Iovane, who is one of three brothers who went to Ethiopia, told ACN that one of the biggest challenges has been learning a new language.
The brother said he along with the other two have spent three hours a day learning Amharic, the country's official language, but one of 80 spoken in Ethiopia. He then explained how the language has similar roots to Hebrew, with an alphabet that has as many as 277 different characters.
Despite the difficulties of learning the complicated language, the new youth chaplain said that any challenges pale in comparison to the higher calling of the work he has been sent to do alongside his community.
“You have to know why you’re here. If you are here on mission, then it’s (God’s) will to spread his word to the end of the earth, as it says in Matthew’s Gospel.”
“You have to speak the language to communicate with the young people – it’s not a question of whether it’s difficult or not,” he added. “What matters is that it’s what the Lord is calling me to do.”
“When you switch on the light sometimes it doesn’t come on, when you turn on the tap sometimes no water comes out, but this is not an issue compared to the mission we have from the Lord.”
The three brothers arrived shortly after the archdiocese conducted a survey asking the youth what they wanted from the Church, with the results showing that they desired more formation in the faith. In response, the brothers have organized interactive teaching sessions, concerts, festivals and other community youth events.
Speaking on the fervent faith of the Addis Ababa Catholic youth, Br. Iovane said they “have a faith, a sense of adoration through liturgy that is just amazing, I’ve never seen that anywhere else – and I’m not talking about Eucharistic Adoration – what I mean is while singing at the entrance of Mass they are connected to God, worshiping God in a personal context.
“If they build a life on that faith they will triumph.”