meet our parishioners
In our Community Corner, church members share their experience at Saint-Esprit, and their stories about where they come from, and what brought them to us.
Guillaume Kossivi Ahadji
Where are you from – what is your nationality? Do you have any family? What line of work do you do?
I come from West Africa, very specifically from the south of Togo. And so, I am Togolese by nationality. My family consists of my wife Philippine and three children – Jonathan, Johan and Josué. My boys are 15, 13 and 10 years old, respectively.
I am a printer and graphic artist by trade. My training is in advanced offset printing techniques, reproduction and management, and in specialized sales techniques in the graphic industry. I received my training in [the former] West Germany and Quebec, Canada, which means that I speak French, English and German. My current work consists of printing all types of basic documents. I am also a specialist in printing newspapers, magazines, advertising flyers and brochures, school books and many other types of documents. I’d like to let everyone reading this interview know that I am currently looking for similar work in my field, or other work in New York City. When did you first come to Saint Esprit and why? What brought you to Saint Esprit?
I discovered Saint Esprit for the first time in January 2005, thanks to a mystery of God. One day while riding the subway, I spotted a directory for the French-speaking community in New York, that someone had left behind on the seat. I looked through it, and found an announcement for the French Church of Saint Esprit. It had been quite a while that I had been looking for a French-speaking church, and I decided to go the following Sunday. I was welcomed by Reverend Massey, who made an enormous impression on me. And I sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit. I have been coming to Saint Esprit ever since, because the presence of the Holy Spirit is definitely and truly here. What do you do at Saint Esprit in terms of activities?
I’m a member of the Vestry, which means that I participate in the discussions and decisions concerning the temporal affairs of the church, such as finances, buildings, and the like. But I am also involved in reading the lectionary on Sundays and, from time to time, with leading the Prayers of the People. You can also find me at the church entrance on Sundays, welcoming people to worship. I also organize our annual Afrique Fête, which celebrates African cultures and realities. What do you like best about Saint Esprit?
I most like the warm welcome and the diversity of nationalities and cultures that make up our Saint Esprit community. And, I will never forget all the people of a certain age and dignity who have such a great love of the French language, and who come early on Sunday mornings to French classes and participate in Saint Esprit’s activities! What do you like to do in your free time when you are not at church or work?
Most of the time, I spend my free time in bed catching up on my sleep, while thinking of how I can bring my family in Togo to be by my side…my big project is to bring them to the United States so that we can be reunited as a family. Is there anything that you would like to communicate to the wider Saint Esprit community?
I would like to ask the community of the French Church of Saint Esprit, both near and far, to remember my family and me in their prayers and to help me one day to be reunited with my family. Once again, thank you and may God bless us all.
It has been eleven years since I first came to Saint Esprit. I was born in Japan and was not raised as a Christian, so it has been a very unusual encounter on both sides.
In 1999, I first met brothers from the Taizé ecumenical community at the Cathedral of St. John, the Episcopal Diocese in Providence, Rhode Island at a retreat weekend. This experience forever changed my Christian faith and ideas. Since then, I have been addicted to going the Taizé community in France annually, and the gospel peace and joy I found in their example. So, my search for a similar experience in the New York area began. I then met Fr. Massey, and learned of the existence of Saint Esprit. At that time, I was just enthusiastic to recreate a Taizé-style prayer on weekends. I never imagined that I would join the congregation and the Episcopal church, establish an altar guild and cemetery committee, and be asked to serve on the Vestry.
I was so inspired by my experience at Taizé, that at times I imagined I might try to go and live there. But there was no chance of that happening, because Taizé is a community of monks and I am a woman. Then, in 2005, I received an email from Taizé at the time they lost their founder, Brother Roger Schütz. It contained a quote from Pope John Paul II, from his visit to Taizé in 1986. I was shocked that the Pope’s message seemed to speak so clearly to my own desires.
"Like you, pilgrims and friends of the community, the pope is only passing through. But one passes through Taizé as one passes close to a spring of water. The traveler stops, quenches his thirst and continues on his way. The brothers of the community, you know, do not want to keep you. They want, in prayer and silence, to enable you to drink the living water promised by Christ, to know his joy, to discern his presence, to respond to his call, then to set out again to witness to his love and to serve your brothers and sisters in your parishes, schools, universities, and in all your places of work. The Church needs your enthusiasm and your generosity. You know, it can happen that your elders, after the difficult journey and the trials they have undergone, fall prey to fear or weariness. It can also happen that institutions, because of routine or the deficiencies of their members, are not sufficiently at the service of the Gospel message. Because of this, the Church needs the witness of your hope and your zeal in order to fulfill her mission better.
Do not be content to criticize passively or to wait for persons or institutions to become better. Go towards the parishes, the student organizations, the different movements and communities, and patiently bring them the force of your youth and the talents you have received. If you remain within the Church, you will of course at times be upset by divisions, internal tensions and the sorry state of its members, but you will receive from Christ, who is the Head, his Word of Truth, his own Life, and the Breath of Love that will enable you to love him faithfully and to make your life a success by risking it in a joyful gift for others.”
I also read a reflection by a Taizé brother on John 21:15-17, about how Peter was depressed after he disowned Jesus three times. When the risen Jesus meets Peter again, however, he questions him not about what he has done, but about what is deepest and truest in him, about his love. He knows that this has not disappeared within Peter, in spite of everything. After each question, Jesus entrusts Peter with a responsibility. This weak and sinful person is loved, and called to respond. I am Peter, I think. Or everyone might be Peter. Anyone who takes on responsibilities in the communion of the church has to discover this. To accept responsibility never means to play a role, or to show that we are strong and holy. Whoever accepts responsibility does not pretend to be better than others. The question they have to answer is not: “Are you strong, will you be capable?” but “Do you love me? Can you love?” That has been my policy when I am in the church or even at work.
If you love someone, you want to take good care of them. Love is understanding, kindness and consideration. I love Saint Esprit, its Rector and its people, so I have tried to give my best care to everyone. I am not always certain what I need to do, or how to approach people sometimes, but I am sure God will always show me a way. I am hoping to continue to serve as one of the members of the church for a long time.
I'm originally from Congo Africa. I grew up in Paris, France. I am a French citizen and I moved here a few years ago to realize the American Deam! I'm a happy mother of 3 beautiful kids,sadly, I just lost my husband. I am an ultrasound Tech, but I do run a not-for-profit organization that promotes the Congolese culture in NY through events to help Congolese women to gain financial independence.
It's kind of funny the way my family got to Saint-Esprit. We were driving on 60th street, and came to stop at the traffic light just in front of the church. My husband and I were very curious about this little French church in the heart of Manhattan, so we went online to check it out. The Junior Warden picture was so inviting, and we were looking for a place to worship our God, so we came to the service that very Sunday. The Reverend and members welcomed us as if we were family... I will always remember that warm feeling in a cold October day! Since then, I try to give back that warm feeling to all members and first time comer, by greeting, caring, and listening. I volunteer to any task in order to help others feel welcomed and special. I try to bring my contribution in activities as, hospitality, cleaning, family life, events planning, and French classes.... During my free time, I like to spend quality time with my kids, teach them about African culture, play, go out, practice sports.
To the Saint-Esprit community, a big thanks for being so caring to others. We are members of the body of Christ, let's remember, why we gather every sunday. Let's help our Reverend and Vestry to keep up the hard/wonderful work they've been accomplishing.
If you would like your testimony as a parishioner of Saint-Esprit to be on this page, please, contact us.