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Archives Sharing the ‘joy and universality of the Church’

Nov. 6, 2019

By Darcy Fargo

Deacon Severinus Torwoe said he knew very early in his life that he was called to the priesthood. On Oct. 26, he became one step closer to that vocation, having been ordained a deacon.

“At the age of 8, I got my call,” he said. “As the priest was celebrating Mass, I just felt like I was the one celebrating.”

Deacon Torwoe, 49, was born in Ghana, the youngest in a family of 10.

“We were all brought up as Catholic children,” he said. “I have a brother who is a religious brother, a nephew who is a Redemptorist priest and another nephew in seminary.”

Deacon Torwoe said his family was not “financially sound,” and he couldn’t attend secondary school.

“I went to vocational school,” he said. “When I become a priest, I thought it would be good to be able to sew and make vestments, so I studied that for three years.”

After completing his vocational program, Deacon Torwoe re-focused on pursuing his vocation to the priesthood.
“I joined the Franciscan Friars of Africa in Ghana,” he said. “I took first vows in 1995. They sent me to high school. I also studied dress making, since they wanted me to continue with what I had already been studying. I was the only male with 35 girls, since I studied home economics.”

His bishop would later send him for more advanced studies in sewing and fashion design.

During his time with the Franciscan Friars, now Deacon Torwoe noticed that residents of his neighborhood didn’t have access to Mass and the sacraments without traveling a significant distance.

“People were not getting services, and families did not have resources,” he said. “I organized them, so they could have a church service nearby. I did that with permission of the bishop and pastor. That church has become Christ the King Catholic Church. So, I established a church.”

Later, he went to another village as part of a national service program. There, he also noted that families – including many elderly residents – could not travel the required distance to attend Mass. He founded another church, St. Luke’s.

Later, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal arrived in Ghana. While there was initially discussion of merging that group with the Franciscan Friars of Africa, the merger was never realized.

“I discussed with one of (the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal) that I wanted to be a priest,” Deacon Torwoe said. “He talked to director Holy Apostle seminary (in Connecticut). I came here as a brother among the brothers to be trained as a priest.”

After completing his studied, Deacon Torwoe returned to Ghana. There, no further steps were taken toward his ordination.

“At end of my studies in 2017, I went home hoping to be ordained a deacon,” he said. “Nothing was done, no pastoral assignment given to me. I didn’t want to stay idle. I spent my time trying to help street children – ages 8-15 – who were living in a public marketplace. They had left their families and were on their own struggling to survive. I tried to reunite them with their families and tried to help them and support them with what little money I had.”

Then, when a new bishop arrived in his diocese, he severed ties with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the community with which Deacon Torwoe had been affiliated.

“Since I had done my seminary formation here in the states, I applied to director, asking him if I could come back to Holy Angels Seminary to continue my studies and discernment and look for a diocese. I came back in 2018 to do post-master’s in theology and look for a diocese.”

It was through another priest he met that he became aware of the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

“I met a priest from Haiti, and he introduced me to this diocese,” Deacon Torwoe said. “I met Bishop Lucia, and he connected me with Bishop LaValley, who interviewed me.”

He said he saw unique challenges in the diocese that made him want to serve here.

“One thing interested me most: I went to the diocesan website, and I could see you have so many churches – 120 churches – but only 50 to 60 priests. Out of the priests, most are senior citizens and taking care of three, four or five churches. It moved me so much. I told myself, ‘if these priests are getting to retirement age and still taking care of three to five churches, my services are needed here more.’ Bishop LaValley also asked me, ‘why Ogdenburg? Why not other big diocese in cities?’ I told him this is what motivated me – not enough priests, and the priests are aging.’”

Deacon Torwoe has been living in Ticonderoga and serving in a pastoral role at St. Mary’s Church there. As part of that role, he’s been training youth to be altar servers, preparing families and individuals for baptisms and bringing communion to the sick and nursing homes.

“It’s very beautiful here,” he said. “People are loving and nice to me. I like the fraternity of priests. I like that the lay faithful want to associate with you and know you more. The weather will be difficult, but I’m not very worried. This is where God wants to be. He will give me the grace to cope with the weather.”

Deacon Torwoe says he looks forward to being ordained a priest and bringing some of his culture to the North Country.

“I anticipate being an effective and excellent priest that the Lord can use as his instrument to reach out to the people,” he said. “Looking at African culture – the liturgy is celebrated joy and gladness. I want to bring that to the North Country. I want to help the people here see the joy and universality of the Church.”

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