Monsignor Abba Gebre Michael Mekonnen was born in Kembata on June 19, 1914. His father was Ato Mekonnen Lemlem Yebich and his mother was Woizero Yigebashal Bereded Debalkew. Before he was one year old, he moved with his parents to Shenkora, his mother’s birthplace, where he spent most of his childhood years.
On December 29, 1930 he joined the Lazarist Mission School and then he left for Alitena in Tigrai to enroll in the Alitena Seminary where he completed his secondary education. On October 14, 1937, he joined Urbania University in Rome. On March 26, 1942, he was ordained by Cardinal Tisserant. Abba Gebre Michael studied philosophy for two years, theology for four years, and the Bible for three years at Urbania University. After nine years of study, he returned to Addis Ababa on October 20, 1946.
Abba Gebre Michael served in different parishes and seminaries in different parts of Ethiopia. He was a teacher and the Director of the Lazarist Mission School in Addis Ababa from 1946 to 1948. On February 16, 1947 he also became Director of the Addis Ababa Seminary. In 1950 he served as parish priest of the Cathedral Church and built the Cathedral School in cooperation with other colleagues. In 1951 he was appointed Director of the Cathedral Boys’ and Girls’ Schools. He served in this capacity for 15 years and laid a firm foundation for Catholic schools. In 1952, he helped build a Catholic church and school in Ginchi, Mecha Borodo.
In 1954 the Gondar Catholic Church and the residence were taken away. Abba Gebre Michael spent most of this year going back and forth to Gondar to secure land for a new church. Together with Abba Petros, the parish priest of the Gondar Church at the time, he submitted an application to the Emperor and was granted land at a place called Alga Meda. He built the Debre Selam St. Mary’s Church and a school. The church was inaugurated on January 28, 1960 by Bishop Haile Mariam. From 1960 to 1967, he served as parish priest at the Gondar Catholic Church and in 1968 became Director of the Seminary in Holeta run by the Germans.
In 1972 he was transferred to Debre Zeit from Holeta because of illness. He rented a house and continued his work teaching children and giving mass service for the Catholic community in the area. Together with the Office of the Archbishop, he started building the Holy Trinity School in Debre Zeit. In 1978 the Holy Trinity Church was completed and inaugurated by Archbishop Paulos Tsadwa. Work on the bell, which was brought in from Italy, was started on January 3, 1980 and the bell was inaugurated on July 14, 1981.
Abba Gebre Michael made tireless efforts to build a Catholic school in Debre Zeit. The mission of the Malta Sisters,- who taught in the school,- was bought on November 27, 1980 and the school was inaugurated on October 8, 1982. Abba Gebre Michael also made great efforts to build a Catholic cemetery and a prayer house in Kajima which was finished in 1981.
Monsignor Abba Gebre Michael was a Cultural Attache of the Ethiopian Government and the Holy See (Vatican) together with Abba Gebreyesus Hailu after the Second World War. He participated actively as a Member of the Bible Society established by members of the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Churches. He also traveled widely in Europe and America. Abba Gebre Michael was generous toward those who had nothing to eat, giving advice and showing compassion towards the needy. He had a special love for children and for teaching. He made tireless efforts to strengthen the Ethiopian Catholic Church and help it acquire its rightful place internationally. He also made education available to many children.
Monsignor Abba Gebre Michael translated many prayer books into Amharic from various languages. Among them are “Virgin Mary of Fatima,” “Book of Catechism,” “The Robe of Mary,” “The Passion of Jesus Christ” and the well-known “Prayer Book.”
After 50 years of dedicated service to the church, Monsignor Abba Gebre Michael died on September 19, 1993. Some of his many spiritual children formed an association called the Mother Teresa Association, Abba Gebre Michael’s Children to carry on the good work. On September 30, 2000, they organized a Mass Service, a conference and an exhibition on the Ethiopian Catholic Church to commemorate Monsignor Abba Gebre Michael’s Seventh Memorial Anniversary.
This story, contributed by The Mother Teresa Association of the Holy Saviour Church, Abba Gebre Michael’s Children, Addis Ababa and received in 2001, was written under the supervision of Abba Daniel Assefa, OMFCap, DACB Liaison Coordinator at the Capuchin Franciscan Institute of Philosophy and Theology, Addis Ababa.