Planting the Providential Mustard Seed

“My interest in defending life and the family goes back to 2007, my first year in seminary. That [same] year, Human Life International’s regional director for Francophone Africa, George Wirnkar, came to speak at our seminary about current threats against human life, including: birth control, homosexuality, abortion, prostitution, AIDS etc. I was struck by the way our society is steeped in a Culture of Death. Even then, I realized that I had to do something to counteract it.”

– Father Benoit Désiré Toum, Diocese of Edéa, Cameroon

Fr. Toum began by attending more HLI-sponsored events to educate himself. “Several training sessions organized by HLI equipped me with information about methods to help restore the Culture of Life.” He next founded Seminarians for Life groups at both the philosophical seminary of Bafoussam and the theological seminary of Douala. Additionally, sent to parishes during vacation periods, he addressed the Christian virtues chastity and fidelity he discovered among young people. “Since these topics were not commonly addressed, I encouraged youth to give testimonies at evening sessions in parishes that were popular…. Thanks to these activities we were able to establish pro-life groups in two parishes.”

L to R: HLI Regional Director of French-speaking Africa, George Wirnkar with Fr. Benoit Toum on Radio Maria

“Because of my interest in Life and Family issues, my bishop placed me in charge of the diocesan office for the pastoral care of families after my diaconal ordination in 2012. Faced with such a tremendous task I felt insignificantly small, but I was inspired by the experience of Blessed Mother Teresa.” Instead of “fixating on the crowd,” Mother wisely knew that to start first by helping one person, then another, then another. Her actions over time moved mountains. So Father Toum started in his home parish: he held twice weekly youth groups, taught family-based catechism classes, talked and showed pro-life films and worked with couples, five of which regularized their marital situation by the end of the first year. “I realized these people really needed us to create spaces for them to share their life experiences and witness.”  Moved to an urban setting by the bishop, Father found he could replicate the work even faster in multiple parishes as they were nearby, focusing on “family crossroads” and adding in a weekly hourly program on Radio Maria Cameroon.

Fr Benoit Toum now serves in the Diocese of Edea in Cameroon. Many familiar with his story know he was ordained with his twin brother on the same day in 1993, but what makes him most outstanding is his ongoing witness for life and family. His local ordinary – Bishop John Bosco Ntep – has always given him responsibilities that allow him to pastor families and young people. To this day, HLI’s Regional Director of Francophone Africa is one of his most frequent guests on Radio Maria. Goerge Wirnkar: “Fr Benoit tells me always: ‘The training I received at HLI Institutes and seminars as a student for the priesthood, have enabled me to face the challenges of ministering to families and young people today with confidence.’”

1993: The Ordination of Fathers Toum (twin brothers!)

Father Toum is an example of the tiny mustard seed. Nurtured by HLI, God has magnified his actions many times over. “My thanks go to all those who helped prepare me for my pastoral work. May God bless them!”

HLI is 100% Catholic, orthodox, and pro-life. Father stopped contraception from being sold in the Catholic hospital in his diocese.

We advocate chastity and abstinence. Father discourages cohabitation and with students founded pro-life groups, such as the one at the University of Ngoundéré.

And HLI has a worldwide pro-life network in 100 nations, with a firm record opposing anti-life policies. Father Toum would go on to stop government policies expelling pregnant girls from school, so they wouldn’t be tempted to abort.

Edea Diocese Laity Conference Procession, January 2018

Father Toum’s work continues. Won’t you support HLI’s efforts?




About Deborah M. Piroch

Deborah M. Piroch graduated from Mount Holyoke College, the nation’s oldest women’s college, with a double major in German and English Literature. She studied abroad and earned her M.A. in English Literature from Indiana University. Fluent in German, she began her career in international journalism working for Radio Deutsche Welle in Cologne, Germany. Returning to the States after a three-year contract, she worked as arts reporter and producer on prime time shows for WQED-FM in Pittsburgh, then a top 20 market. After another three years, she was hired by EWTN Global Catholic Network as news director, anchor and writer for “Catholic World Today,” but soon transitioned into television. Highlights of her 15 years at EWTN include co-anchoring the U.S. March for Life with Marcus Grodi on more than one occasion, live translating the election of Pope Benedict XVI into German, interviewing two former U.S. Presidential candidates and producing Father Benedict Groeschel’s prime time program from its inception for six years. Named the Network’s first International Production Coordinator, she also proposed, budgeted and executed TV shoots in Scotland, England, Norway, Sweden and Germany. Most recently she served as Director of PR for Human Life International.

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