Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nigerian Bishop Visits His Priests In Southern Arkansas

Bishop Augustine Tochukwu Ukwuoma of Orlu, Nigeria, processes out at the end of Mass at St. Mary Church in Arkadelphia Oct. 25, followed by the Knights of Columbus honor guard.

ARKADELPHIA -- Bishop Augustine Tochukwu Ukwuoma, bishop of Orlu, Nigeria, made a pastoral visit to one of his priests, Father Linus Ukomadu, pastor of St. Mary Church in Arkadelphia, Oct. 25.

Father Ukomadu also serves St. John the Baptist Church in Malvern.

Bishop Ukwuoma, who was ordained a bishop March 25, 2008, made his first visit to Arkansas. He said he has 35 priests working in the United States, including five in Arkansas. They are Father Chuma Ibebuike, administrator of Holy Cross in Crossett and St. Mary in McGehee; Father Pius Iwu, who is substitute priest for pastors who are studying Spanish in Mexico; Father Oliver Ochieze, administrator of St. Francis of Assisi in Fairfield Bay and St. Jude in Clinton; and Father Theophilus Okpara, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Village and Holy Spirit in Hamburg. The bishop said that he would visit all of his Arkansas priests during the trip. He also visited with Bishop Anthony B. Taylor Oct. 27.

Currently, there are 15 priests from several dioceses in Nigeria serving in Arkansas.

Concelebrating the Oct. 25 Mass were Father Ukomadu and Father Tom Stehlik, CM, pastor of St. Anne Church in North Little Rock, who serves the Hispanic parishioners in Arkadelphia. Deacon Bud Daven from Malvern also served at Mass. Ten members of the Knights of Columbus served as an honor guard.

Bishop Ukwuoma said that he knew very little Spanish so he gave some remarks in English. He said he was raised in the Catholic faith by missionaries from Ireland as a youngster. They planted the seed for a vocation to the priesthood in him. There are several young people in his diocese who are called to be priests and sisters. It requires sacrifice through joy from the family. The whole community shares in the joy, he said.

After Mass, a potluck dinner was held in the parish hall.

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