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Abba Woldegabriel Kahsay

A Tribute To Abba Weldegebriel Kahsay

Our  late  father Weldegabriel Kahsay born in  HALO( ሓሎ) near Engal  in Agrelekoma tabia(ጣቢያ ዓገለኮማ) in the national state of Tigray ,Ethiopia on March 28, 1941. From 1960 to 1961, he attended  basic  Catechism in AWO’s St. Michael’s  Parish. From 1962 to 1964, he attended  second  to fourth grade  in Nativity of Mary school in Alitena. From 1965 to 1966, he studied at Tsinseta Mariam  in minor seminary  Adigrat. After attending high school from 1967-1970, he graduated Tsinseta Mariam  in minor seminary Adigrat.

From 1971 to 1973, studied for three years  philosophy from 1975-1976, he served his noviciat year  with one of his fellow classmates  in Ruba Shia (ሩባ ጭዓ) ( in Agrelekoma tabia(ጣቢያዓገለ ኮማ ) . From 1977-1980, he studied four years of Theology in major seminary Adigrat. On April 20,1980, he was ordained with his six classmates by his excellence Bishop Sebhat-Leab Worku

. From 1981 to 1983, he worked as director of Nativity of Mary secondary school in Alitena.  In 1984 to 1987, he was working  in  Tsinseta secondary high school in the same position. In the middle of 1987, he went to Ireland for a short religious training program .From 1988  to 1991, he was director of  Blessed Abba Gebremicheal school in Mekelle.

In  1991-1993, Father Weldegabriel went  to Rome for further study at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas and  obtained  his Masters degree in pastoral theology.

From 1994 to 1999, he served director of Abba Gebremichael  school in Mekelle for the second time.From1999-2002, he was coordinator of  Adigrat Diocesan Catholic Secretariat- Mekelle branch. From 2003-2007, he came back to work in  Adigrat diocesan catholic secretariat as coordinator as well as spiritual father of major seminary in Adigrat. From 2007 until the last day of his life , he was professor of this major seminary and spiritual counselor to many seminary students. At the same time, he used to work as a model teacher — in the local high school in Adigrat.  He taught moral ethics in Tsinseta secondary School as a model teacher up to the last day to be fallen in the aid of others then finished his earthly pilgrimage falling down the chalk he was teaching from his hand suddenly and mute. N.B. He has got stroke while he was teaching in class moral ethics in Tsinseta.

With the passing of our late father, let it be noted that he was a member of the Bishop Consulate and the  spiritual adviser of priests. He was the leader of all of the Catechism study groups and individual students always went to him for counsel.  He was also the writer and publisher of five religious and moral textbooks; these were concerning the topics of sacraments, matrimony, and moral ethics.

He was the spiritual father of numerous congregations throughout the Diocese in Adigrat.

He was in the hospital from March 26, 2014 till April 1, 2014 suffering from a stroke. After six days, he passed away and the community mourned. He served for 34 years as part of the priesthood and made his transition at 73. Father Weldegebriel  will be remembered long after his passing for the many good works in the spiritual advancement of other religious figures as well as a kind, honest, and dedicated spiritual counselor to all. Finally, the church, family and all the community should celebrate his life remembering his many good deeds.Since he was the most outstanding priest with his good friend Father Teum, the Diocese has lost two great leaders in the past month and they will be deeply missed. The remaining priests must follow his example and continue with administering counsel from a wise positiion following Father Weldegebriel’s model. Death may come like a thief in the night, but Father Weldegebriel’s efforts and contributions will live on in the other priests he taught.

In  retrospect  let me share the words of  Jon Donne

As the poet John Donne says,

“Death diminishes us, because we are so inter-linked but when  the bell tolls, it  does not tell us that someone we know  and cherish has passed away. The bell is tolling for the, calling us to keep our destiny in perspective.

Abba Woldegabriel Kahsay whom the Lord called back to Himself was a man who lived very intensely. Almost a kind of recluse, and distant from officialdom, he lived simply, was totally committed to issues pertaining to education and gave himself fully during the time he worked in schools. Pupils, no doubt energized him and kept him on his toes. He in turn guided and gave them a good base and offered them opportunities to learn, grow, and blossom. They say that once a teacher, always a teacher.

When Ethiopia liberalised education and leaned towards discouraging religion in schools, Abba  Woldegabriel became restless.

The idea that Civics would be the new type of value carrier did not go well in the mind of the teaching priest. I remember him storming into us (priests) at Wuqro, deploring our being sort of accomplices with godless systems that would destroy the culture and traditions of a great nation. Our effort to convince him that we had kind of tried to create classes or sessions on Ethics in order not to drown in full blown secularism did not argue with Woldegabriel.  Not for a bit. “You must teach Religion. Even i am shocked that our new school in Adigrat is not teaching Religion. This is not on.” He adamantly drummed this into our trapped heads.

I am not too sure but i had the impression that his extra studies in Europe ( Rome and or Dublin??) had further convinced him that education was key to the liberation of the human (often oppressed human being). I found his visits to us at St Mary’s College quite interesting, because this was a man who cared about the future of pupils and teachers.

Always with his clerical attire and the cap on his head, we saw him fairly regularly as he had become a spiritual guide to the teaching Ursuline nuns in Wuqro. He would once a month carefully drive to Wuqro (the car always spotlessly clean), on a Saturday afternoon, check in, and then drive up to the nuns, feed them spiritually, and he would come down to us to sleep. Then he would head back to his nest on a Sunday afternoon—obviously and almost invaluably having reminded us of the need to teach something decent in terms of values, making sure we kept secularism and consumerism at a distance. He was surely aware of the easy temptation of
our generation want amass wealth and endlessly consume.

Many pastors and theologians believe that suffering is a crucial element in the journey to becoming human. Abba Woldegabriel seems to have had his share of suffering:

First because God had called him to the priesthood a little later in life in comparison to the many who heard the voice while much younger. You know that I am sure God is never late since He is time. So, either God called him whenever he thought it was the correct moment, or Abba himself heard the voice calling at a time he was ready. Perhaps, this is why Woldegabriel tended to see things in a much more sophisticated and wise way? He often communicated his opinions in silence.

Secondly, he was what many locals would, informally, have referred to as African—because he was generally a lot darker than the majority of the locals. That, at some point can have its own subtle fatiguing costs, believe me.

I know Woldegabriel did not only do education work. He had other ministries. On one occasion, having left Blessed Gebremichael School in Mekelle, which he passionately loved, he took up a new appointment in Adigrat. Was it pastoral co-ordination, if I remember well. As he was
beginning to get used to the place, and the office, he came up with this idea or even joke that he possibly needed a personal secretary.

The two of us bumped into each other at the Daughters of Charity, Adi-Haqqi, Mekelle. I was not searching for a personal secretary. As one of sisters, very characteristic of the Vincentian hospitality was fretting around, looking for some bread for us, putting the kettle on, Woldegabriel mentioned to the rest that he wondered if one of them would be willing and would agree to be his secretary.

My guts told me instantly that there was going to be a huge row. It happened.

A young nun immediately quizzed: “And how much will you pay?”

The priest said, “Pay? Sisters work for God, and for heaven and so why (do you) think and worry about salaries?”  As a young and vibrant nun was preparing a rather and tough response, Sister Margaret Coyne protested from the kitchen.

“Remind him that nuns also have water bills to pay.” Roared the highly experienced and qualified hospital administrator, Sister Margaret.

“Yes, of course you are right, Margaret.” The younger nun chipped in. It was an honour for me to witness this changing evolution of communication, between clerical power, service in men and women, religious; and also to watch the points of intersection between young and not so young.

Silence followed Margaret’s intervention. That was the end of the secretary hunting trip and mission of Abba Woldegabriel–at least as far as the DCs’ at the Adi-Haqqi convent was concerned.

Before long, we were having our sipping hot mugs of tea. Conversations changed, and laughter followed.

There is no doubt that this Woldegabriel was close to God’s heart, and his mature convictions led him to serve and live intensely. I know he cared and had sleepless nights when he knew of children who could not access education properly. It is possible that these intense worries ruined his physical health, because he had health concerns for a long time.

May he now rest in God’s immense Love so that he can let go and intercede for us all.

Jesus says that there is only one Father: and that is God.

So, Woldegabriel Kahsay, as your people say in musical language, Irobinya, nagga tikke!!! Nagga tikke. Good > bye and rest in peace, peace which only the Father can give”. (By Abba Aloysius Beebwa)

The world is fortunate that Father Weldegriel Kahsay passed the torch to priests he taught. If they follow his good deeds and moral compass he shall not have died in vain.

May he rest in peace!

Girmay Niguse
Denver Colorado
September 10,2014

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