28072020 Richaud PierreSince I announced that I was going back to Africa to serve at the SMA Seminary in Lomé, I received many comments. Some were very positive while others were reserved: "You are courageous to go back after 19 years of break with the African climate." When the SMA General Council asked me for this service, I had first said 'no'. It is important and exciting to accompany young people who will become missionaries at the footsteps of venerable bishop Melchior de Marion Brésillac. Living in the company of young people is just as important.

I had never accompanied future priests, it is not improvised, it requires a minimum of skills that, in my opinion, I did not have.

Then I was offered training sessions at Châtelard (Lyon) for a year. It was getting more serious and so I said yes, but Covid-19 did bring some disruption to the program that was done, but all the same, I appreciate what was done. And I am happy to be able to embark on this service of the Mission. I am aware that it is a great challenge that I am going to face.

Were the members of the General Council aware of all these difficulties? I am sent to a country where I have never worked. Of course, Cotonou and Lomé have many similarities, but there are also differences, starting with the local language. I am sent to do a job that I have never done. I have a lot to discover at the school of the young confreres who run the Seminary. I am sent to Africa. At over 70 years old, can we get used to the climate and the heat? Will health hold? This is probably the biggest challenge. But it is energizing to have to face challenges like this. Am I presumptuous? Maybe. I may be seen returning to Lyon at Christmas with serious health problems. However, I hope that my return will be as planned after a full academic year. But maybe also I'll be ready to repeat the experience for another year or two. I am ready for all the solutions. In 1964, when I left my diocese of Puy to start the great Seminary in Chamalières, it was the desire to spread the gospel in Africa and to the Africans that inspired me. That desire is always the same. I think I've been true to that vocation wherever I've worked. At 150, Cours Gambetta, now MIM, I lived the service of confreres in that spirit. My presence at the Secours Catholique with the migrants corresponded well to this vocation. Today, I am being asked for a service for the Mission in Africa, and I must respond now. Difficulties have always existed. They existed for venerable Bishop de Brésillac, they existed for all the young missionaries who, in the nineteenth century, left bidding farewell to their family, they exist for the young who today accept to answer the Lord’s call to be missionaries, they also exist for me who could have hoped for a much more secure position in one of our communities in France. But the service of the Lord asks us to go further. Going to Lomé today, for me, is to allow young people to go further in their commitment to follow Christ.

                                                                                            Pierre RICHAUD