By Peter Bugden
FR Anthony Ekpo, in Brisbane “on loan” from Nigeria for the past eight years, says he will carry the people of the archdiocese in his heart as he leaves for Rome.
Fr Ekpo is being transferred to Rome to study canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University for the next three to five years.
Having arrived eight years ago from Umuahia diocese in Nigeria to finish his formation for priesthood at Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary, Banyo, Fr Ekpo said he would miss Brisbane and its people.
He has ministered as a priest in the archdiocese for the past four years, most recently as an associate pastor at the St Stephen’s Cathedral parish and as pastoral assistant to Archbishop Mark Coleridge.
Fr Ekpo said Bishop Lucius Ugorji, of his home diocese of Umuahia, and Archbishop Coleridge decided he should study canon law to add to his doctorate in systematic theology.
Author of a book called “The breath of the Spirit in the Church: The Sensus Fidelium and Canon Law” published in July last year, he said he had a liking for canon law.
He is excited about the opportunity to study in Rome, but said he was also a little nervous at the prospect of having to adapt to a new culture and learn a new language.
“It’s just like starting from scratch, so there’s a bit of trepidation, but excitement in the sense that I will have more time to study and to research,” he said.
“And also discover a new environment, new people, make new friends – that is the exciting part of it.
“I’m excited but also filled with a bit of trepidation.”
Fr Ekpo has no idea what will happen after his time in Rome.
“That will be up to my bishop,” he said.
“I think it’s liberating just to follow the flow.
“There’s a kind of a freedom and liberation that comes from that.
“I don’t have to worry too much about what’s going to happen. I just follow the flow.
“Just like this one has kind of erupted and I just said ‘Yes, I like canon law’.
“Do I want to stay a bit longer in Brisbane? Yes, but I’ve got to follow what my bishop says.
“Left for me, I would like to spend more time in Brisbane but I also realise that the bishops want me to do canon law, and I like canon law, I must say.”
Although it had been mentioned to him during his days at the seminary that he may one day be asked to study canon law, Fr Ekpo had not expected that to happen so soon.
“But it did and I’ve got to say ‘Yes’, and keep saying ‘Yes’ to the bishop, and to God ultimately. So I say ‘Yes’ and go with the flow.
“Once you say ‘Yes’ in the priesthood you can’t say ‘No’ at some point. You can negotiate but you can’t just say ‘No’.”
Fr Ekpo said he would remain grateful to the people he had met in Brisbane archdiocese – in parishes, at the seminary, and at the cathedral.
“It’s been a very enriching time – insightful spiritually, socially and also academically,” he said.
“I’ve enjoyed my eight years in Brisbane (and) I’m very grateful to God for that experience.”
Fr Ekpo returned to Nigeria last week for the funeral of his grandmother before he was to go on to Rome.