Fr. Adrien Gesse, O.M.I.
The Lord brought me to His vineyard through song,” recalls Fr. Adrien Gesse, O.M.I. As a young man growing up in Africa, Fr. Adrien was a chorister and loved singing. The sermons of his parish priest and his love for the poor moved young Adrien to dedicate his life to those in need.
In 1981, a Belgian sister – whose brother was an Oblate – told him about the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and their mission of serving the world’s poor. Inspired, Adrien started pursuing his vocation to become a Missionary Oblate priest. On July 25, 1993, he was ordained.
Today, Fr. Adrien is passionate about speaking out for the rights of the people of his country. His passion can be heard in the tone of his voice and it can be seen in his clear, steady gaze as he tells listeners about the people of Congo and the years of suffering they have endured.
“Our people have been impoverished for almost 40 years,” Fr. Adrien says, and his voice gets stronger and louder with each word. “The former president of Congo (Joseph Desire Mobutu) worked for his own good. He became rich while the people became increasingly poor. Most people live on less than the equivalent of $20 a month. Their schools have been abandoned, and the hospitals are in very poor condition.”
As Assistant to the Provincial for the Missionary Oblates in Congo, one of Fr. Adrien’s tasks is to visit parishes in Congo and the United States, sharing information about the needs of Oblate missions and inviting others to support these much needed ministries.
“In Congo, we have many natural resources. But in Congo, people are suffering and dying because of
those resources,” he continues. Fr. Adrien explains
that for many years, foreign companies have collaborated with members of the Congolese government to benefit from the country’s resources.
In recent years, rebel fighters in Congo, as well as in neighboring Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi have been involved in brutality in an attempt to take control of some of the resources.
“How many women of Congo have been raped?” Fr Adrien asks, his dark brown eyes intent on his listeners. “How many children have been orphaned? Far too many to count,” he replies, without hesitation. In fact, since 1997 when the country experienced a change in government, more than four million people have been killed in massacres.
Fr. Adrien is looking for ways to help the people of Congo meet their basic needs. He is especially concerned with helping the poor people of his village find jobs and fair wages for their work. Recently, Fr. Adrien has even helped establish the first Oblate Fair Trade Initiative in Congo, so that Oblate supporters can purchase some of the crafts made by the impoverished artists in his village. He hopes that this initiative will allow some of these impoverished artists to lift themselves out of the destitution that they know all too well. “Some of these artists have many children and they make a meager living by creating ancient cultural works of art. We Oblates want to help them help themselves through their God-given talents. Our ministry takes us very close to the poor, because for Oblates, reaching out to the poor is our special charism,” explains Fr. Adrien.
Since the Missionary Oblates began working in Congo in 1931, they have established churches, schools, and a seminary. Nearly 150 Oblate priests, brothers, and seminarians live and work in Congo teaching in schools, training future Oblates, and staffing parishes – many of which are in very rural areas.
“Our people have suffered, but we have hope,” Fr. Adrien says. “The Church and its people are the most important source of that hope. Together, we can help people be more aware of their rights and help them care for themselves.”
DID YOU KNOW?
That you can help the poor and impoverished in Congo through the Oblate Fair Trade Initiative...
Fr. Adrian has helped facilitate our first Oblate Fair Trade Initiative in Congo. By selecting one of the beautiful handcarved prayer boxes that were made by the Congolese people in the Oblate missions, your donation will help provide direct funds to support their families. These unique boxes are available by calling our Toll Free Number 1-888-330-6264.