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Gambia gets first Hermit

Jan 20, 2010, 3:20 PM | Article By: Augustine Kanjia

Brother Dismas, an American who had worked with the USAID in the past has laid his life as Hermit to serve the Catholic Church and the people of The Gambia, thus becoming the first in the history of the country. Brother Dismas had been living as a lay hermit for nearly three years.

He is now a consecrated Hermit under the vows of Poverty, Chastity, obedience plus a fourth vow of praying for Clergy, religious, hermits and consecrated Virgins, taken in the presence of God, Bishop Robert Ellison and the Church at the Holy Family Church at Bakau.

The new consecrated Hermit of the Diocese of Banjul lives his life in the service of the poor and needy and of God. It is a life of love for others coupled with prayer and work. Christian Panorama met Brother Dismas Mary of the Cross, a penitent Hermit of Divine Mercy and he talks of the life of the Hermit in a modern day.

He said his own call to the desert came nearly seven years ago. "The first year I lived as a Hermit but also worked for the US Government in Kosovo. I had been on home leave in the U.S. when God called me to his service (in a most dramatic way) and on my return to Kosovo I immediately resigned. When they asked why and I explained, they went into fits of laughter and asked how it was possible for God to call such an obvious sinner as myself. I told them I did not know why God called me but I know that through the Blood of the cross and His Divine Mercy and Sacred Confession, he had taken all my sins and washed them clean. I was a new man in Christ".

"My colleagues asked how I could live in Africa without electricity or running water or even a refrigerator. Why would I escape from the world to lead such a life? Was I confused? I said to them, the God who called me will take care of my needs," he said.

He revealed that Hermit life started in the 3rd Century and it is pretty well accepted that the first hermit was St. Anthony of the desert in the Southern part of Egypt.

According to him, he was followed by many others such as Pachomius, Moses, the Ethiopian Marcus and even the famed St. Augustine lived as a hermit for some time.

He said most people believe that hermits were found long ago and lived in caves in the desert or in woven huts in the deep woods and eventually ceased to be when monasteries became the more 'normal' religious way of life.

"Recently Catholics and Muslims witnessed my consecration (set aside for God) as a Canonical hermit by Bishop Robert Ellison CSSp and listened as I made my solemn vows before God, in the presence of  Religious, Priests, His Excellency Ambassador Barry Wells, Mrs. Elizabeth Renner Speaker of the National Assembly and the Star of the Sea Church Community of Bakau. They were all impressed but all asked the same question; what is a Hermit?

"It is a life lived in solitude, silence and poverty and as become the best opportunity to meet God. He believes all men and women can meet God only in silence and solitude". There will no time to live in silence and solitude while busy with the many activities of each day. The Sacred Scripture says, "Be still before the Lord," through this stillness, this silence we can meet God. "The secret room is a privileged space of contemplation." The way of the 'desert' (The call to hermit to silence and solitude) is also the way of humility and service to all human beings especially the needy and for some that have gotten lost on the path of hermit life," he said.

"The hermits embrace it by praying for all human kind, pray for freedom of all men and women, praying for the sins of the world while still having remorse for our own sins. Today a hermit still lives alone but must also work as part of their daily life," he added.

Brother Dismas no doubt cares for the sick, poor who come to his hermitage gate as well as those who cannot afford to go to private clinics or even pay a taxi fares to get to a free clinic.

He begs, makes rosary beads, from part of his social security he's been able to provide medicine and refer many cases to RVTH and MRC.

Brother Dismas, who prays to become a holy hermit filled with the Holy Spirit and Wisdom and to be a perfect servant of the Lord, could be reached for any help on 6731912.

His day begins from 02:30am and ends 22:00 with lights out.