A brother of dreams-sumani

Brother Ghislain, a Beninese born Comboni missionary is currently an intern at New People. He is also working on and finalising his second Master’s thesis. His vocation as a Comboni Brother is intricately woven into the fabric of his dreams. In this edition of New People, he gladly accepted to share his intriguing vocation story. His story and journey of faith stands as a testament to the adage that dreams do come true.

I am Ghislain Dagbeto, a twin, and my counterpart is Ghislaine Dagbeto, my twin sister. Born on 10th October 1990 in Parakou, Benin, to our parents Pauline Ode Louis and Ceslestin Dagbeto, our family journey took an unexpected turn as our parents separated soon after our birth, leaving our courageous mother to raise us single-handedly.

Life with our mother was challenging, especially when she faced significant setbacks in her business, resulting in a period of hardship that taught me profound lessons about the true meaning of life. Our struggles were shared, forging a bond that emphasized the resilience of the human spirit.

In my formative years, I initially resisted invitations to attend church, shedding tears at the mere mention. However, a pivotal encounter at the age of twelve, just outside our home, changed the trajectory of my life. A charismatic renewal brother, a model of peace, became a source of inspiration. Powerless to decline his call to return to my Christian life, I became actively involved in my parish, Saint Joseph of Allaga, until my mother, concerned, intervened and prevented my church attendance for five years.

Discerning the vocation

I obediently complied, nurturing a hope that God would pave the way for me after completing secondary school, securing a scholarship for further studies and granting me the independence to follow the desires of my heart. Academic pursuits were challenging, studying by kerosene lantern due to the lack of electricity. Despite the difficulties, God answered my prayers, and I excelled in my baccalaureate exam in 2011, earning a scholarship to study social service at one of the schools of the Faculty of Health and Sciences in Cotonou. In 2011, results at national level were not good. Therefore, passing with honours for me was a unique blessing from God.

Upon completing my training, I aspired to advocate for the vulnerable. However, during my third year of study, I began feeling the signs of God’s call towards the consecrated life. A religious sister in my class and the announcement of the aspirant group during Mass stirred a persistent question within me – why not me? This led me to join the vocation group at my parish, Our Lady of Charity of Godomey.

In 2014, Comboni Novices introduced me to the Comboni Missionaries.  I was captivated by the life of Saint Daniel Comboni, seeing him as a model social worker. Initially considering the priesthood, a transformative dream during discernment altered my course. In the dream, while traveling with my mother, we got lost at night. A benevolent stranger welcomed us into her home, offering meals, drinks, and accommodation as if she had anticipated our arrival. This dream revealed a powerful image of brotherhood, shaping my decision to become a Comboni Brother.

The religious brother, as St. Charles de Foucauld, the universal brother, believes serves anybody as his own brother or sister regardless of his/her background, tribe, region, country, or continent. For he believes that we are all brothers and we have the same Father who goes beyond the biological family (Mt 23:8). This is what I decided to become and dedicate my life to.

Fulfilling the dream

Expressing my desire to my vocation director, Fr. Canisius, in January 2015, marked the beginning of a two-year journey. Prior to this meeting with Fr Canisus, I had not met any religious brother in the mission. During this period, I worked at the National Hospital of Psychiatry in Cotonou, gaining experience as the assistant to the head of the social service and the donation manager. This role further solidified my commitment to brotherhood, as my relationship with abandoned patients sparked inquiries from colleagues about familial connections. “Are these patients your relatives”? some of my colleagues wondered.

On 5th September 2016, I entered the postulancy in Lome, Togo, studying alongside priest candidates. I pursued a master’s degree in International Management at ESGIS, a school of science and management. Additionally, I had  embraced a trusting and formative experience under the guidance of Fathers Bernard and Anicet my formators. The two were brothers to me. This period became instrumental during moments of vocational crises.

On 30th August 2019, I entered the novitiate in Cotonou, delving into a spiritual journey where encounters with God and Saint Daniel Comboni were profoundly transformative. Taking my first vows at Cotonou’s Fidrosse Parish on 8th May 2021, marked a significant milestone. I was subsequently sent to the Comboni Brother Centre in Nairobi for the last stage of basic training as a Comboni missionary brother.

Upon my arrival, initial disappointment arose due to confusion surrounding this stage of Comboni Brothers’ formation. However, I was redirected to pursue a second master’s degree in social transformation. If all goes well, I will embark on my first mission after defending my thesis on sustainable development. Grateful for this enriching journey, I have evolved into a versatile social worker, international manager, development project manager, and social transformer – a testament to my dream of being a polyvalent man of God ready to serve society in various capacities.

In conclusion, my dreams continue to drive my vocation as a Comboni Brother, propelling me forward with purpose and determination, ready to follow wherever the Lord leads me.

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