Father Luke Anatole Welemu, a Malawian missionary dialogues with us about his vocation journey.
I am the last born in a family of three brothers and two sisters. I come from Dedza district located in the Central Region of Malawi. My siblings and I grew up and did our basic education in Dedza. I am privileged to have come from a staunch Catholic family. Thanks to my parents, at a young age, I assimilated the gospel values. Sadly, early last year, my beloved father died. I believe that he is resting in peace and continues to pray for us.
During childhood, I thought that passing through the minor seminary was a prerequisite for the priesthood. Similarly, aspirants for priesthood had to look and possess exceptional qualities. Consequently, as an ordinary village boy, I disqualified myself. Yet, nobody was surprised when my brothers joined the minor seminary. They had many attributes for priesthood life.
My two brothers did well in the minor seminary. However, after completing senior school, they left the seminary for other vocations and studies. In retrospect, I think it was God’s will. Apparently, my brothers’ exit from the seminary ended the dream of having a priest in our family. The most qualified for the priesthood had chosen other ways of serving God.
Initially, my first dream was to study Agriculture. One day, an expert came to our secondary school for a career’s talk. He motivated and convinced us that he was making a lot of money through farming. He made me see sense in Agriculture. My second dream was to study Mass Media and Communications.
My third dream which materialised was to become a priest. I imagined myself being with the faithful, gathered in small Christian communities, sharing the word of God and preaching to them on Sundays about the life of Saints and Angels in heaven. The feeling was awesome. Yes, this could be me, a priest of God.
Initially, I kept the idea of becoming a priest to myself. I was afraid that people would not take me seriously. But gradually, I started sharing my dream openly with my relatives and parents. Surprisingly, my parents offered to support me though some people were not in favour. But that is part of life. Eventually, I listened to the inner voice and opted for priesthood. What followed was constant prayer over my decision and the journey ahead.
I started nurturing this call slowly. Along the way, I grappled with feelings of worthiness and not being qualified enough. It was all human reasoning. I would later discover that God had some wonderful plan for me.
Meantime, it was not clear to me yet whether I was to become a diocesan or a missionary priest. Clarity came when I found a promotional leaflet of the Comboni Missionaries. It described the works of Comboni Missionaries and the life of St. Daniel Comboni. The motto on the leaflet was, “Save Africa with Africa”. The motto hooked me. I wanted to know more about this congregation.
I wrote an application letter to the Vocations Director. Almost immediately, he replied positively. Accordingly, between 2008 and 2009, I attended a series of “Come and See” meetings. Thereafter, in October 2009, I was admitted to the Postulancy of Balaka where I did my Philosophical and Religious studies until June 2012. After Bakala, I was sent to Namugongo for Novitiate training in Uganda. There for two years, I deepened my understanding of the Comboni Institute and assimilated further the Kingdom values. At the end of it on 1st May 2014, I took the vows of Obedience, Poverty and Chastity.
Thereafter, I was sent to Italy- Naples to study Theology. I spent four years there. In 2018, upon completion I returned to Malawi for my missionary service. It is a service required now in our institute before one is ordained a deacon. The following year I was ordained a deacon. The climax of my vocation journey was the priesthood ordination on 27th June 2020 at St. Kizito Minor Seminary in Dedza Diocese.
Close to 150 people attended my priesthood ordination. It was during the Covid-19 period. Gatherings were restricted. Nonetheless, I was elated. What I needed was a bishop to ordain me and become a priest. That is what I am today, Fr, Luke Anatole Welemu, Comboni Missionary. Currently, I am serving as an assistant priest at Lirangwe Parish in the Archdiocese of Blantyre, Malawi. I am also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Education at the Catholic University of Malawi.