Catholic Vancouver Jan. 12, 2018

Gospel set teen in crisis on path to priesthood

By Agnieszka Ruck

Deacon Guy Zidago shares a laugh with well-wishers at a reception at Rosary Hall after his ordination Dec. 29. (Photos by Angelo Siglos / Special to The B.C. Catholic)

VANCOUVER—A seminarian from the Ivory Coast has taken a big step to becoming a priest half a world away from the country where he first heard the Gospel.

Guy Zidago, who became a Catholic in that African country in 1998, was ordained a deacon in Vancouver Dec. 29.

“It’s been a long journey, a journey of faith," said Deacon Zidago.

The new deacon recalls having no Christian upbringing and teenage years full of angst as he struggled with a broken relationship with his father and never knowing his mother. He sought out the meaning of life in success, money, and relationships, but it was after hearing the Gospel that the young man realized what he was missing.

He was baptized in 1998 and one year later joined the Neocatechumenal Way at his parish of St. Pierre et Paul in Divo, Ivory Coast. He spent seven years in discernment before entering the seminary in 2007. The Way sent him to Guam for his studies, then to Vancouver.

Deacon Zidago was ordained five days after Christmas in the sight of priests, seminarians, and members of the Neocatechumenal Way at Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver.

“It was great. I am happy to become a deacon. For me, it was a great experience! I’m overwhelmed.”

Deacon Zidago lays prostrate during the ordination at Holy Rosary Cathedral Dec. 29.

The new deacon was moved by the words of Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, as the archbishop ceremonially presented him the Gospel during the ordination rite.

“He was saying: ‘Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practise what you teach,’” the deacon recounted.

“For me, this is beautiful. It was the key point of my ordination, to hear those words.”

The Gospel is a major part of Deacon Zidago’s past, and of his future.

“I have to be an icon of Christ to the people of God,” he said. “When they see faith, they are attracted to the Word of God. For me, that will be the biggest challenge of the diaconate, to become that icon. I can only do that if I have a relationship with Jesus Christ and the Scriptures.”

Ordination as a deacon is the last major step before a man becomes a priest. Deacon Zidago is not sure yet when his day will come, but expects it will be in 2018.

Deacon Zidago at Holy Rosary Cathedral.

As he starts his ministry as a deacon and prepares to become a priest, he plans to draw on inspiration from his pastor, Father James Hughes at St. Patrick’s Parish in Vancouver.

“When I was sent to live here, with priests who have a good spirit, the spirit of fraternity, of friendship, I was touched by his way of carrying his ministry,” he said. “He lives his priesthood with joy.”

Father Hughes helped Deacon Zidago into his diaconal vestments during his ordination.

“Whenever I vest myself in the dalmatic, I remember that particular moment. But most of all, I remember that the spirit of the diaconate, of being called by God, is to be joyful.”

Deacon Zidago is expected to become the fourth seminarian from Redemptoris Mater (a Neocatechumenal Way seminary) to be ordained a priest. Those already ordained are Father Davide Lanzani, Father Francesco Voltaggio, and Father Giovanni Schiesari.

A dinner to celebrate the upcoming ordinations of Deacon Zidago and Prince George's Deacon Ken Anderson will be held Feb. 7 at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver.

Archbishop Miller lays his hands on Deacon Zidago.
Deacon Zidago kisses a stole as he receives his vestments from his pastor, Father James Hughes.