August 20 was my 10th priestly ordination anniversary. I remember that very day in 2005, at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Orlu in Nigeria, when Bishop Gregory Ochiagha ordained me and 15 others priests of the Catholic Diocese of Orlu.
It was a tense and profound spiritual moment. I recall lying on the sanctuary during the invocation of the saints, and kneeling for the laying on of hands by the Bishop and the concelebrating priests. The ten thousand-capacity-Cathedral was packed and overflowing, yet the
peace and solemnity of that moment seemed like being at the Scetes desert. God’s voice was loud and clear in the Liturgical Rites.
For twelve years, I was preparing for the priesthood to begin at ordination. But in that instance, I felt both unworthy and unprepared for it. My unworthiness was so glaring to me that I had to have recourse to the Unfailing Grace of God and the tender love of Our Mother Mary. Hence, I dedicated my priesthood to Our Lady of Grace.
God’s word in Ephesians 1:5 “He destined us in love” spoke to me personally and I took it as my motto. God’s love was all I wanted. I was caught up in deep contemplation of its relevance to me. It meant and still means for me divine grace, mercy, providence, and unfailing presence both for me and for many, who through my ministry God would inspire for His glory.
I look back after 10 years and I wonder if I have kept the mission, the inspiration alive. The promises I have made to love Him above all else and my neighbor as He loves us – have I been faithful to it? I fall way below the expectation, but I know He treasures me still, pampering me like a mom her baby; keeping the fire of His love burning in my heart amidst the storms, the bumpy steps en route to His Presence. His grace has been sufficient!
Priesthood, I have come to learn more and more, is victimhood; a victimhood of love, of joy, of grace, of peace, of service, and of utter generosity. Nothing I have, nothing I have ever accomplished and nothing I ever would achieve belong to me but to Him and His plan. In Him, I find joy and fulfillment.
As, I look ahead for the coming year(s), I pray thee Lord, keep me tucked in your heart. Nothing is more important to me than to love you above all else; to love your people whom you have designed for me to share the life of grace with through my participation in the Sacred Priesthood; and to be ever in love with your Church, especially your members, the poor, the wounded and the vulnerable.
Bless my biological family and numerous others who have become a family to me too through their prayers, fellowship and sacrifices. To my beloved Mom, late Grace Emelu, who offered me to you even before I could say “yes,” grant eternal rest in your presence. Amen