Fr. Pierre-Paul Dossekpil shares his experiences as a volunteer and his hopes for a WYD in Africa.
At the age of 45, Fr. Pierre-Paul Dossekpil is experiencing his first WYD in Lisbon. A volunteer in the communications department, the Togolese priest bears witness to the missionary joy that reigns in the streets of Lisbon and in the hearts of pilgrims.
Fr. Dossekpli was ordained in 2014 for the Society of African Missions — a congregation founded in Lyon, France, in 1856. He’s experiencing his first WYD at the age of 45 as a volunteer in the communications department. He says he has been delighted to discover the atmosphere of faith that reigns among the thousands of young people who have come to give their time to ensure the smooth organization of the gathering.
“I’m particularly happy to be here, because I’ve worked in environments where there are many young people in difficulty. Seeing so many young people gives me hope, with the conviction that our youth will get better,” says Fr. Pierre-Paul in the aisles of the Press Center set up in the center of Lisbon.
“Christ works many wonders”
The 45-year-old Togolese, who has lived in Benin, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Nigeria, works in an association supporting children in difficulty on islands off the coast of Tanzania. “This experience on islands is similar to that of people who live in situations of confinement, who see no prospects in the world. Living on an island can isolate you from the rest of society and give you a feeling of abandonment,” he explains.
Despite all these difficult situations, the missionary notes that “Christ works many wonders.” In his various apostolates in Africa, he has seen “different sufferings among young people, different struggles,” but also this common thirst to “live in peace with one another,” he stresses.
A vocation that listens to young people
For two weeks, the WYD experience has given him the opportunity to pursue his vocation of listening to young people and introducing them to Jesus. “I’ve already met a lot of young volunteers from many different countries who are experiencing healing and conversion. One young man confided in me that he was a little lost, afraid for his future. However, this service of a few days as a volunteer, in which he feels recognized and loved for what he is, makes him want to live again,” he recalls.
In particular, the Togolese religious testifies to having been deeply moved during a Mass celebrated with the volunteers in Fatima. He says it gave him the opportunity to live an experience like those lived by Jesus in the Gospels. “During Communion, a young volunteer who couldn’t receive Communion, and perhaps hadn’t been baptized, came up to me. He asked for my blessing and then stooped down to touch my feet. This expression of faith really touched me in my life as a priest,” he recounts.
“I wish for all young people to let themselves be touched by the Holy Spirit. When I see all their capacity for imagination, all their extraordinary talents, I tell myself that friendship between us and with God can save our world!” says Fr. Pierre-Paul enthusiastically.
So, when will there be a WYD in Africa? The Togolese religious hopes with all his heart that “Providence” has plans in this direction. “Many African countries are capable of organizing WYDs, logistically speaking, such as Kenya, South Africa, and the Congo, which have a magnificent Christian greenhouse for forming groups of volunteers. It will take a lot of organization and availability, but it can be done! One day, sooner or later, it will happen,” he says, moved by the thirst for Jesus that drives the new generations.