“Good morning, Ede.”
“Good morning, Father Desjardins.”
“Ede, I have news which I wanted to share with you before it is announced in church on Sunday.”
She looked at him. “I hope it isn’t bad news.”
“No, it isn’t bad news. I’ve been called to minister to Catholics in a parish in Ireland.”
For several minutes, she was at a loss for words. He was going to Ireland. It seemed like the other side of the world, so far from Benin. “Why are they sending you to Ireland?”
“It seems like Ireland’s population is rapidly ageing and Catholic priests too. The churches there need younger priests.”
Is that all you’re going to miss? she wondered.
“I’m going to miss you, Ede. I’m going to miss our talks and walks.”
“Me too, Father.” She felt awful and very close to tears. “It’s a great opportunity for you, though. You’re going where you are most needed.”
“Yes. It is. Still…I would like it if we were to keep in touch.”
“I would like that too.”
He smiled although she could detect sadness in his eyes.
“When do you leave?”
“At the end of the month.”
So soon? In a couple of weeks, it would be the end of the month. “Have-have you told my grandmother?”
“No. I wanted to tell you first.”
“I’ll tell her later. She’ll be very sad.”
“I’m very sad that I’m leaving too. I have come to love this community and the parish. I have spent ten wonderful years here. I hope to return some time in the future.”
“It’s like saying goodbye to a loved one,” she said quietly.
“Yes, that’s how I feel saying goodbye to you, Ede.” He wanted so badly to profess his love for her but what good would that do? He would soon be leaving Cotonou and her. His life and his future had been decided. He would be a priest for life. Ede will one day meet a man and marry him. The thought pained him but he had to be pragmatic.
“It will be strange going to church and not seeing you there.”
“It will be strange for me not to be there either but in time, we will get used to the change. And, I’m sure that my replacement will be as well received as I was when I first came here.”
“Do you know who your replacement will be?”
“Yes and it will be announced on Sunday.”
“Will you be giving Mass on Sunday?”
“Yes. I will be giving Mass every Sunday until I leave.”
“I’m really going to miss your sermons.”
“What’s the sermon about this Sunday?”
“Yes, it is. I look forward to hearing the sermon.”
“And I look forward to seeing you–and your grandmother in church on Sunday.”
“I’m not sure that my grandmother will be able to come but I’ll be there.”
“I have to go now.” He was reluctant to do so but he had another engagement. “Goodbye, Ede.”
“Goodbye, Father.” She watched him walk away, thinking that one day, he would leave and never come back.