Home > Uncategorized > A PHD candidate at Waldeba

A PHD candidate at Waldeba

It’s not often that one meets a woman who was a PHD candidate retreating to a remote monastery. But Emahy Wolete Kidan Desta is that kind of person. She has been living a solitary existence, much of it spent in silence and in prayer in Waldeba monastery. She has her bachelor degree from Denison University in International Relations, her second degree in World History from Kent State University in Ohio and begun her PHD in African Studies in Atlanta University.
Her life today is a far cry from her scholastic life in the US but it has given her “inner calm and peace” she says. She gave up the world and her formidable academic credential to become an Orthodox Church nun.
Emahoy Wolete Kidan leads a quiet life in Waldeba “simply to seek God through prayer, the celebration of the church and community life.”
She spoke beautifully and simply about the choice she has made during the course of her life. Shining through her comments were her devotion to her belief, her reverence for the teaching of the word of God, and her convictions about the importance of commitment.
Emahoy Wolete Kidan spent the majority of her teenage years in Addis and attended in the former Menen boarding school during the Emperor’s time.
In her early 20’s, she briefly taught at her former school Menen before leaving to the US. She earned her first degree in International Relations from Denison University. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she considered going on to graduate school. But instead, she decided it was time to come back home and enter the work world. She started working at the Ministry of Information and years later at the American Information Service, the US Embassy. She was responsible for the preparation of a magazine, Panorama.
She was also active in the theater, appearing in plays. She has also participated in the preparation of laureate Tsegaye Gebre Medhen’s play “Tewdros”. She played the part of Tewabech, the emperor’s wife. She also played in Moliere’s ‘the Doctor in Spite of Himself’ which was translated into Amharic as “ye fez doctor.”
Even though she liked the job, Emahoy had to go back to the United States to do her master’s degree. She did her M.A at the Kent state University in Ohio and begun her PHD in the Atlanta University. She came back home to complete her fieldwork for her thesis. She never went back and didn’t finish her PHD.
But rather, she started teaching at the Harar Army Academy. There she also used to edit a monthly magazine, Weekly Flash. She fought passionately for the issues that she believed in, including peace.
It was just after Derg took power and its heavy hand was felt everywhere in the country. She wrote an article in the magazine telling the military government to hand down power to a civilian administration. It was a daring thing to say that cost her job. She came back to Addis. But still she was in the Derg’s black list who accused of her being an EPRP member.

It was pure speculation but she had to run away to Baher Dar where she took refuge in St. George church. Subsequently soldiers came to the church where they severely beaten her. She survived after taken to hospital. While this sad event has deeply affected her, it was not a direct factor in her decision to become a nun. She wanted to enter into ‘a deeper awareness of God’s presence in her life’. She started spending her time praying, going to daily mass as well and readings of psalms and scriptures.
She also started teaching and saw her rising excitement about becoming a nun.
She headed to Waldeba. It was a bizarrely improbable place for her. Most people who joined there are in their seventies and eighties and some of them more than ninety. It took four years for her request to be granted. In those years, she was forced to dwell in a cave near Waldeba. Some of her relatives were understandably angry with her for abandoning a prestigious and lucrative career in favor of monastery.
She herself admits it was at times a tough road but she kept plugging along because she enjoys “the serenity and peace that are unshakable”

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. November 16, 2008 at 6:40 pm


  2. November 18, 2008 at 9:13 am

    What a waste!

  3. Abush
    November 18, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    What do you mean abesheet? Waste of what? Everybody doesn’t have the same way of thinking.Ok! Emahoy Wolete has made the perfect choice for herself. And don’t be totally taken by the world!

  4. November 19, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    What do you mean abesheet? Waste of what?

    Take a wild guess, Abush. I know you can do it!

    Emahoy Wolete has made the perfect choice for herself.

    I don’t know how you figured that out. But, a choice has been made and you were right when you said it’s hers to make. The good lady is entitled to her choice, and I to my opinions. None of my business, perhaps, but it’s posted here so I could read it and comment. Which I did!

    Now, if i were attacking Emahoy and saying nasty things about women who run to convents to get away from their trouble (or “the world”, as you called it), I’d have been wrong. I didn’t! So you don’t really have to defend her.

    Still, it’s a free e-country and we can defend whoever we feel like defending even when we don’t need to.


  5. Abush
    November 20, 2008 at 8:21 am

    Hi abesheet, I’m not at all trying to defend Emahoy Wolete but I was rather trying to convince you that we shouldn’t always appreciate successful people within their career. We should also respect individuals that made a different choice in their lives such as Emahoy Wolete Kidan Tesfa. I understand how much Emahoy would have benefited her country and herself if she had further used her field of speciality! Anyways I respect your comment and as well as Emahoy’s life.


  6. November 20, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Oh ok. Sorry. I am so used to being critisized for my comments that I brace myself even when no bracing is called for…. I guess 🙂 . I appologize. Yeah.. it’s not our place to judge how others live their lives. One man’s peach can be another man’s poperie, as they say. But, sew nenina, bihon yeminmegnewim enenageralen. Would we have done otherwise were we in these people’s shoes?! Who knows!

    • hailemaryam
      March 28, 2012 at 12:12 am

      If there is no God, it would be a waste. But if there is God, you would be a waste yourself, dude!
      But high-end scientific understanding is showing surprising pointers to a Super Mind behind the Universe and existence in general.

      May be better to read it here what the contemporary physicists are saying about it,

      Don’t taken away by conceit!

  7. Seife
    November 22, 2008 at 12:39 am


  8. fitsum
    December 3, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    that’s very interesting. a phd candidate becoming a nun. give us her real name – before she took up emahoy. she might be somebody we know and the story becomes even more fascinating. good of you to bring it out.

  9. Olivier
    March 5, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    We plan to go and shoot a documentary film about Waldeba monastries end relgious life for french TV. I would be grateful if Arefe could contact me at Thanks

  10. Kebede Gezahegn
    March 11, 2012 at 2:48 am

    Stay thousand mile awy please, this is the only quite place in this huge and noise world, don’t even think about that to shoot for the cheep TV commercial menus.

  11. Tg
    March 15, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Waw tadela…

  12. Tg
    March 15, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Waw what a choice…

  13. Addis
    March 15, 2012 at 8:24 am

    I am really attracted by this story, wow; this is perfect, peaceful, and calm. Only thinking about Jesus Christ.

  14. Befekad
    March 15, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I think she is in a perfect peace of mind and soul and I also feel that she has made the right decision (choice). I know ‘life’ is too short but what is life after all…?

    • Roha Daniel
      April 5, 2012 at 4:43 am

      Thank you for your good comment !!

  15. Meku
    March 15, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    People are born free as such the do seek that is deem appropriate and gratifying to them. And the take the path that they feel it will make them achieve their lives goals. Some spend their time schooling having several PhD, some doing business and some devoting their time to God. I believe “life is what one makes” as long as he/she is content with it.

    It would be good to judge people’s decision. Of course, the woman in this article were an important asset and could have contributed tremendously for Ethiopia in her capacity. However, she chose a different path that she felt is better to fulfill her life goal.

  16. ayda
    March 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    what a blessing to be qualified and successful both in spiritual and non spiritual. I believe God make it for a reason, that is made her capable enough to evaluate the values in her life.
    At the end she choose one of the best which is eternal and everlasting.

  17. samuel gebredingil
    March 28, 2012 at 8:24 am

    what every one need to do is accepting jesus crist as one’s SAVIOR
    first b/c knowing a medicine that is effectivly cure or puting in you pocket doesnt save you.you have to take/apply the medicine to your self
    then if it works to you tell to other being with them b/c HE/the medicin/HOLY SAVIOR prayed protect them in the world not take them/isolete not from the world(transelation is mine) so DEAR EMAHOY WOLETE you don’t have to flee from the mass nor labour for salvation JESUS CRIST MAKES ALL THE WORK AND PAYS ALL PRICE just belive in him
    yo shall be saved accept him you will be a child of GOD THE MOST HIGH

  18. Mieraf (she is my Aunt)
    April 5, 2012 at 7:01 am

    My Aunt is still energetic!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. action
    April 11, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    what a blessed choice. i wish if i have heart to
    do it too.

  20. Habeshawit
    April 22, 2012 at 12:51 am

    Emahoy Wolete Kidan is a deeply respected person. We should learn from her choices on which she sacrificed her family for the irreplaceable love of God.

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