“EMOTIONALLY charged and spiritually powered” was how Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary rector Monsignor Tony Randazzo described the recent ordinations of Fathers Augustine Obi, Anthony Ekpo and Chima (JohnBosco) Ofor in Nigeria.
Completing their formation in Brisbane archdiocese as part of an agreement with Umuahia diocese, the priests were ordained in front of 5000 worshippers in Mater Dei Cathedral, Umuahia, Nigeria, and “just as many outside”, Msgr Randazzo said.
“It was simply an amazing experience … the people just raised the roof,” he said.
“They made our charismatic prayer meetings look tame … (and they) have this wonderful gift of being able to see God in everything.”
Fathers Obi, Ekpo and Ofor were ordained with 18 others during a Mass lasting four hours.
Msgr Randazzo said he “had the most overwhelming sense all were committed to the priesthood and the Church”.
“No one stood up and said ‘look at me’,” he said.
“When I spoke to our three men and others they all kept referring to the fact the priesthood is about the Church … (and) for a rector of a seminary that just warms my heart because that’s what we teach.”
Returning to Brisbane on September 18, Fathers Obi, Ekpo and Ofor spoke just as glowingly about their ordinations and Thanksgiving Masses the following day admitting “not much sleep was had” between them.
Msgr Randazzo attended Fr Obi’s Thanks-giving Mass while Coolangatta-Tugun parish priest Fr Kevin Smith attended Fr Ekpo’s and Brisbane’s Fr Dave O’Connor Fr Ofor’s.
“It was just ‘wow’,” Fr Ekpo said of being home to be ordained.
“We haven’t had any priests from my parish for 45 years … so it was very special.”
Fr Ekpo, who will serve as associate pastor in Surfers Paradise parish, said a highlight was when about 200 priests and bishops offered the Laying on of Hands.
He also appreciated Fr Smith’s presence at his Mass of Thanksgiving, saying, “Fr Kevin was really blown out of the water”.
Fr Ofor, who has been appointed associate pastor of Gatton and Laidley parishes, agreed with the “wow” of the ordination Mass.
“It was a coming to fulfilment of a long journey,” he said.
“When I was in the procession I thought, ‘Wow’ … it was just huge and a great memory for me … a reunion with my brothers and for all of us.”
His Thanksgiving Mass was “like a dream … I woke up that morning and said, ‘I’m a priest'”, Fr Ofor said.
Fr Obi, who will serve in Albany Creek parish as associate pastor, said the ordination Mass was “a great sign of solidarity”.
“For me it involved the whole village,” he said. “Everybody did something.”
The procession of the Book of the Gospels took “10 to 15 minutes alone”, Fr Ekpo said, but the trio agreed it “didn’t feel like four hours because something was always happening”.
Msgr Randazzo said he “was prepared” for the length of the ceremonies and remained impressed with “the complete joy offered in worship among a feeling of it being commonplace”.
Fr Obi said Msgr Randazzo’s “wish” expressed to the Nigerian people went over positively.
“There was a statement he (Msgr Randazzo) made,” Fr Obi said. “He said, ‘I wish I could carry your joy back to Australia’.
“He was overjoyed … and he said, ‘Imela, imela, imela’ which means, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you’.”
Msgr Randazzo, who also took to dancing during the ceremonies, said the African experience provided ongoing blessings.
“I have come away with an even more broad view of the Church,” he said.
“(And) a much deeper respect and love for the Nigerian people.”
Msgr Randazzo said Bishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Umuahia acknowledged the formation Fathers Obi, Ekpo and Ofor completed in Brisbane and the “working spiritual partnership” between the dioceses.
For further insights from the ordinations and subsequent celebrations pick up next Sunday’s Leader.