VANCOUVER—He was abandoned by his parents. He faced loneliness, emptiness, and an existential crisis as he tried to come to terms with his past. Yet, this future priest from the Ivory Coast says his life has been full of miracles.
“I’m grateful to the Lord for his work in my life because I see that it is a miracle of God that I am standing in front of you,” Deacon Guy Zidago told 230 supporters at the Ordinandi Dinner Feb. 7.
“God came into my life when I was in a very critical moment. There are many people out there right now who are suffering a lot and are in crisis. They need someone who will come and announce to them the good news, that God loves them, that there is a way out.”
It’s that miracle that put Deacon Zidago on a path to the priesthood. But it wasn’t an easy road at the start. His parents split when he was born and his mother, a world-travelling businesswoman, left him with his grandparents. He grew up believing they were his parents.
“One day, a man appeared. They introduced me and told me that man was my father. My little world broke down. My suffering started there.”
Deacon Zidago moved to live with his father, then a complete stranger, and his feelings of isolation and suffering grew. He began to hate himself and his father and question why his mother had left him.
Some years later, he received more tragic news. His mother had died. At the funeral, “that day, for the first time, I saw my mom. That was another cross in my life. I was asking myself, why does God allow all of these crosses, sufferings, in my life?”
Suffering from a deep sense of loneliness, Deacon Zidago began to look for fulfillment in material things, thinking a big house, a good job, a wife, and a bank account would satisfy.
“One day I went to church, and there at the end of Mass, there was a woman making an announcement, and she said: ‘God loves you the way you are.’ I thought: That’s ridiculous. How is it that God can love me when I am despising my life, my parents, my history? How can God love me in that reality? Maybe she’s crazy. Or she has something that I don’t have.”
The announcement was about a series of lectures by members of the Neocatechumenal Way. Deacon Zidago decided to give them a chance.
“There, somehow, God gave me an answer, that my life was not a mistake,” he said. “Once someone comes to put light in your life, you see everything clearly. This is why sometimes we need glasses, if we don’t see well. That is what the Gospel did for me. The good news that I received is that God loves me the way I am.”
That announcement from the pulpit changed his life. “God can make me happy. Happiness is not in a perfect family. That was my problem: I wanted a perfect family. But what fulfilled me, what made me happy, is God.”
But the Church wouldn’t let him stop there. He was told to reconcile with his father.
“For me, that was a major thing. Me? Go and ask my parents for forgiveness? I thought I was the victim. I thought they should come and ask me for forgiveness.”
But, he obeyed. “As I was asking forgiveness from my father, for all the judgment I had for him, my father told me: ‘Son, stop! I should be the one asking for forgiveness. For all these years, I did not take my responsibilities.’ Seeing my father crying for the first time, I thought: This is a miracle. This is the work of God. This is a concrete sign of God in my life, to see how God can rebuild my life and transform my relationship with my father, how God gives new life. This is the power of the Gospel.”
He also went to his mother’s grave and there asked her for forgiveness and a blessing. He then entered a Redemptoris Mater seminary, run by the Neocatechumenal Way, in pursuit of becoming a priest and serving those who feel as empty and abandoned as he did.
“Even though I did not know my mother, the Church is my mother,” he said. “Today, I’m here because somehow people all the way from Mexico and Europe left their comforts and went to Africa, to the Ivory Coast, to announce to me the good news, God’s Gospel.”
Then, he added: “God is now giving me many fathers! Rectors, formators, bishops. This is fantastic. This is the work of God.”
Deacon Zidago is expected to be ordained sometime in 2018.