Welcome to our New Priests18 May, 2023
We have recently welcomed three new priests who have come to serve in our Diocese. Father Kingsley Ihuoma and Father Samuel Okoroafor are joining us from the Diocese of Umuahia in Nigeria, which brings the number of priests from Umuahia working in our Diocese to five now. Father Raju Mandothparambil has also joined us from the Diocese of Cochin in India, he joins three other priests from Cochin already working here as well.
The three new priests arrived in Australia on the 20th March and have spent some time settling in and getting used to the language and culture here, under the guidance of some of our existing priests from overseas. They were initially introduced at the Chrism Mass but were officially welcomed to our Diocese on Thursday, 27th April in a gathering with Bishop Michael, some clergy, and representatives from Diocesan agencies and offices. Since then, they have been getting some in-depth familiarisation of how our Diocese works.
We welcome with great joy Fathers Kingsley, Samuel and Raju and thank them for offering to leave their families and homes to serve the mission here in our Diocese. They will soon receive their postings to parishes where the local communities will have further opportunity to welcome them and help them settle into life in Australia.
Following is some information on each of the priests to get to know a little bit about them.
Father Kingsley Ihuoma
Father Kingsley is 37 years old and has been a priest for eight years. Before coming to Australia, he was ministering as a parish priest, but prior to that had been an Administrator for a hospital. Fr Kingsley shared with us that from a young age he had a desire to serve God and humanity and it was through priesthood that he could best do that and follow through on that childhood desire.
Father Kingsley’s father went home to the Lord three years ago. His mother is home in Nigeria, along with his older brother who is married, and a younger sister and brother who studying at university in Nigeria.
In talking about coming to Australia Fr Kingsley said “The mission of the Church is holistic and when your Bishop asks you accept in obedience, however the Bishop asked if I would wish to and it was my voluntary choice”. He went on to share, “It was a bit of culture shock, but Australians are very hospitable people, and we were received in Brisbane by the Bishop’s delegate and was so touched when getting to the Cathedral here they had a little party for us as a form of welcome and I found very symbolic and won’t forget it.” From his time getting to know Australia initially he said “Going to parishes you meet people who desire to know about you and see you as a priest regardless of your race or colour – the level of receptivity is something else and the relationship between the cleric and lay people is something to be very proud of. Here there is an understanding between the clergy and the lay people.”
Fr Kingsley shared about the regular challenges of not understanding the Australian accent at first given people can talk very fast, but mingling with people has helped to get used to it.
When asked what he was looking forward to when he was appointed Fr Kingsley said “The primary duty of the a priest is for the salvation of souls and spreading the Gospel, so will have that in mind”. He is very open to wherever God wants him to be.
Fr Kingsley has been a Rotarian for five years, loves football (soccer) and admires youth ministry – he was previously a chaplain at a university. He said “Your Diocese is well structured and this time of orientation has given me the opportunity to explore the land, the rich culture and diversity of mission here. Meeting people one-on-one from the agencies and offices and clergy has opened my horizons and given me more knowledge. God has been so good and by His grace I’m ready for the journey.”
Fr Kingsley shared this message, “My profound thanksgiving to God who in his divine wisdom created me and chose me to be his priest despite my unworthiness. Special acknowledgement to Archbishop Lucius Ugorji who trained me, ordained me and choose me to be part of this bilateral mission-oriented relationship with the Diocese of Rockhampton. Many thanks to Bishop Michael who gave the invitation to my home diocese for the mission in Australia, sincerely it’s a new experience I must confess and a welcome development too. My brothers Frs Mathias, James and Simeon have been very supportive in helping us settle and get acclimatise to the new environment. We can’t forget Fr Matthew Moloney and all those who work in the Bishop’s Office for their sacrifices to get us acquainted with the history, culture and necessary rudiments for the mission ahead, we really appreciate you all. I love you all and ask for your prayers.”
Father Samuel Okoroafor
Father Samuel was born in July 1985 and was ordained eight years ago. Since his ordination Fr Samuel have worked as Assistant Parish Priest for two years, vice rector in the seminary and lastly as a Parish Priest in a growing Church community for the last five years before coming to Australia.
On his ministry as a priest Father Samuel said “I love service so much, and it’s not just serving the people, it is serving God. As my name suggests, just as God was calling Samuel, I put myself in his shoes and have to tell God ‘here I am Lord, I am willing to go, send me.” From a young age Father Samuel was a Mass servant and his interest developed from there. “Ordination has been the happiest thing that ever happened to me and I cherish the Priesthood so much. I have observed that vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life is a big challenge to the Diocese. I will be praying for the spirit of vocation upon the young people in the Diocese.”
Father Samuel is the third of six children. Two of the girls are married with children, so he is a proud uncle. One is a graduate working and the other two are still in school. His father has passed away and his mother lives at home in Nigeria.
Father Samuel said “Coming to Australia I did have expectations, but not much, though I expected to see a new culture and a new way of living. Also to learn from people and they will learn from me too. I’ve seen the different environment, culture and infrastructure and a different way of operation in the life in the Church. I’m putting my mind to understand and get the best out of them.”
“As I have observed and seen so far, the Diocese has a slight difference from the way they operate. From the Bishop to those working with him. I see simplicity and humility shown, but also zeal and passion both from staff and volunteers. People are working for God and want to give their best to make sure the Diocese is working well. Even the retired priests are still working, men who still do something and want to work for the Church despite age and health. I draw inspiration from them, because they love God and the Diocese and are still giving their best. The way the school system is arranged is something that we should look to emulate. Teachers there work hard to make sure students are given the best and work so well. I will use everything that I’m learning to make something better and go home fulfilled and having learnt something. I’m happy to be here and ready to learn.”
Of course, as with many of our new overseas Priests, communication is a challenge to start with, but Father Samuel said he’s adjusting gradually as to hearing the people and the people hearing him. He has also been getting used to the food, time difference and environment.
Father Samuel was previously a chaplain of a youth movement for his Diocese and Province called Young Catholic Students (YCS). He has worked in the youth area since his first placement. He loves to work with young people and said “When people ask me why I look young I say working with young people keeps you young.” He noted how the ministry is different here in Australia with safeguarding requirements.
Father Raju Mandothparambil
Father Raju has been a priest for 17 years and joins his brother priests here, Fathers Alex, Jomon and Gasper, from the Cochin Diocese. He always had the intention of serving people so after finishing his schooling education a friend gave him an invitation letter from the seminary so went to that. In his vocation as priest he can serve the people a lot.
Father Raju’s Bishop was asking him to go to Australia. He had never expected or thought about overseas service but after some loveable advice from his Bishop he said “if you wish, I will go”. He leaves at home in India his mother who lives with his younger brother and an older sister. His father died two years ago.
Father Raju said “I have found a well established Diocese which has liturgical order and a lot of programs being run by the Diocese. In my Diocese the main focus is the priest and the priests provide most of the services. Here people are doing many of the works and the priests focus on the liturgical services and sacraments. Everyone is equal and everyone has priority. It is a good culture to respect each other and see God’s priority for each person.” Father Raju also has noted how the culture of safeguarding is very big here and how that can change how we interact with people, but said “We have these guides in which we will work and it feels very common here. It is also good for priests for their own protection.”
Speaking on some of the challenges on his arrival Father Raju said “People can talk so fast and the tone of voice can make a difference. I don’t like to keep asking what they said.” He also noted that compared to home there aren’t many youth who attend Church and are active.
Moving into parish life, Father Raju intends to focus on youth, having worked in youth ministry for 17 years. “Doing youth ministry in my Diocese we have a movement called Jesus Youth, and once you enter the movement as you grow you move to the different arms of the movement – music ministry, couples ministry, become and elder. There is a lot of support you can get from the movement – elders, support people, chaplains, sisters etc and the main purpose is to support the Church and the youth as pillars supporting the Church.
Prior to joining the seminary Father Raju used to play cricket and table tennis. He is still a fan of cricket. Later on he played football (soccer) and basketball. Carroms is an Indian board game he also likes to play.