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Nigerian priests return home

Fr Chukwudi & Fr Nicholas

Blessed day: Fr Chuckwudi Chinaka and Fr Nicholas Okafor after their ordination in Nigeria.

By Emilie Ng and Joe Higgins

BRISBANE parishes welcomed two new priests returning from their home in Nigeria this month for their first three years of priestly mission in the archdiocese.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge ordained Fr Chuckwudi Chinaka and Fr Nicholas Okafor along with eight other men for their home Diocese of Umuahia, Nigeria.

Fr Chinaka said being ordained at Mater Dei Cathedral, Umuahia, by Archbishop Coleridge made a “balanced connection” between what he called his “two homes”.

The response from the congregation after the priests received and wore their vestments was a special moment for Fr Chinaka.

“Immediately after we were vested with the priestly vests, the congregation went berserk,” Fr Chinaka said.

“The noise, with the people yelling in thanksgiving to God, was unbelievable.

“I felt for the Archbishop (Coleridge) who tried to stop the people to say it was not finished yet, but they were just so excited.

“Seeing that they were so happy reminds me I am ordained for the people.”

Fr Chinaka returned to Australia in early September and began his new mission on September 6 at St Mary’s Parish, Ipswich.

Fellow Nigerian priest Fr Nicholas Okafor said seeing his mum and siblings’ happiness at his ordination was a moment “I can never forget easily”.

He said lying prostrate during the Litany of the Saints and feeling the power of all the new priests and Archbishop Coleridge laying hands on him were also unforgettable moments.

Fr Okafor, who now takes up placement in Surfers Paradise parish, said his ordination was a promise of saying “I do” to God.

“In my ordination, everything God asks of me, I will say, ‘I do’,” Fr Okafor said.

“This coming back to Brisbane is ‘I do’ practiced.

“This is my new home.

“It is not easy as I have not even finished celebrating Mass for those who wanted me to, but you put up with it because God wants us to be missionary.”

Fr Okafor said he could not describe the feeling of hearing Archbishop Coleridge speak in their mother tongue Igbo.

“The whole congregation couldn’t believe, and he spoke even better than some of us,” Fr Okafor said.

The two new priests were joined by Fr Leonard Uzuegbu and Fr Anthony Ekpo, who are both associate pastors at St Stephen’s Cathedral.

Fr Uzuegbu said the journey to his home city Umuahia was “a period of reunion with friends,” and “getting involved with the people I love”.

He said he was thrilled to feel the joy of his people “see their son become a priest”.

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