Where it all started, where it is leading to
At 12 years old, I watched the dust from my father’s pick-up truck leaving the junior seminary. Crying and breaking into a run, I screamed after him, desperately trying to catch the truck. Quickly, he became a spec in the African horizon and I found myself alone on a dusty driveway, a few miles away far from home. At first, the idea of being accepted into the junior seminary was exhilarating and a call for great celebration whereas at that moment, all I wanted was the safety of my mother’s arms and the company of my siblings at home. That journey which started on September 17th, 1986, is the platform for these 15 years of my priestly ordination. That fateful Wednesday in 1986 was a long time ago but is still as fresh as yesterday to me.
As I settled into the boarding school environment, I met several strange looking boys some of whom today are priests while others are settled in different professions. Together with friends like Godswill Agbagwa, Reginald Udom, Ucheuka Okechukwu, Emmanuel Ihemedu, Kenneth Anyanwu, Clement Nwachukwu and others, we had many adventures, which perhaps one day I’ll write about. Around the age of 18, I had an experience that almost made me question my vocation. Due to a bad case of the flu (aka Malaria) I didn’t pass an important test in English literacy. Struggling with a fever, I slept through the exam. This was an excruciating experience for which I found myself for the first time in 6 years outside of the seminary walls. I questioned my ability, and for that, I was out. Life is not always straight as we may conceive in our minds.
Enrolling in a secular college was a tough decision but I went in to study architecture. Quickly however, I found it strange and unfamiliar. Gone was the peace of morning mass, vespers, Latin chants, and the orderly protection of seminary life. I felt like a fish out of water. Frustrated, anxious, depressed and lacking personal fulfillment, the Lord made it very clear to me that He was calling me to the priesthood. He left no doubts. All of my hopes and dreams found their fulfillment in the priesthood. That is where I belonged. My readmission to the seminary was seamless. The once lonely seminary driveway was filled with friends and teachers who had become like family. Everything changed from that moment and to this day, they are my greatest friends and associates. As I look back with gratitude, I see the hand of God in every part of the journey. His many graces have been the secret for everything that has happened so far. Grace molded me into the person, the priest that I am today.
In my fifteen years of priesthood, I have always had a dream, to marry faith and family life. As I live the beautiful road of the priesthood, within me, I still have this hunger to do, as Mother Teresa would encourage, just a little more. I founded the Family Apostolate for this reason. Recently, we discovered the Missionary Daughters of Mater Ecclesiae. These sisters run an orphanage in Ebonyi state, in the eastern part of Nigeria. The sisters go out into the streets and rescue disabled, abandoned children. Sometimes it seems as if there is little or no hope for the disabled in Africa and this shows itself in the case of these kids. Although the sisters themselves are poor, they give all they have to these, the poorest of the poor little ones. It’s back-breaking work too; up at dawn, bathing and hand-feeding them, washing their clothes, tending to their various disabilities. Most nights they sleep very little because some of the kids are prone to seizures or night terrors. Yet the sisters keep going, sometimes begging for the needs of the kids. These nuns are heroes. The kids have no electricity, no running water, no refrigerator and only the most basic food. They often lack their required medication. These kids have never watched television and have no toys to play with.
I want to build a home for these kids. Personally, God has always provided for me at the right time and I am grateful for that. On my own I am poor and cannot do it, but I always believe in dreams. I think about Mother Angelica who had only $200 in her bank account when she established the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). I am appealing to you to step in and help us. I need a team of committed, passionate, and compassionate volunteers to make this happen. Imagine seeing a house completed and handed over to these kids who have no capacity to repay. Imagine being a part of this project which has its reward in heaven. Let’s do this! Already, I have the Family Apostolate team, a small group of volunteers but I need more volunteers to raise these funds.
For me, an apostolate like this is where faith and family meet. As Christ says in the scripture, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me” Mt. 25:40. Giving new life to these kids is at my heart right now. Bringing smiles to their faces is my big dream. Sometimes the dusty road leads to heaven. Let’s start walking. Reach out to me and let’s begin this project. It will be the best 15th anniversary gift anyone will give me.
Together, “Let us do something beautiful for God.” -St. Teresa of Calcutta
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