To Be A Priest Is To Make Yourself Poor – Fr. Donatus Oluwa Chukwu (1)


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Rev. Fr. Dr. Donatus Oluwa Chukwu is a Catholic Priest of the Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki. He doubles as the Parish Priest of St Gabriel Parish Onuebonyi and the Chairman, Priests’ Personnel Office. Fr. Dr.Oluwa gives a scholarly, thoroughly and theological implications of the Vocation to the Priesthood. He observes that Priesthood implies a total sacrifice which involves unconditional love.  

 

Before we proceed, may we know you?

I am Rev. Fr. Donatus Oluwa Chukwu. I was born in 1966. I am from ObinaguIshiagu, Ivo LGA Ebonyi State. I come from a family of seven siblings, though one is late. I am the first son of my parents but the third child. Two females precede me. My parents are deceased. 

I began my journey to the priesthood in 1979 under the guidance of our then parish priest Rev. Fr. Tobias Egbuka (of blessed memory), who enkindled in me the vocation to the priesthood. I was an Altar server and Fr. Egbuka encouraged me to enter the seminary. My mother also encouraged and supported my aspiration to the priesthood. I studied at St. Augustine Seminary Ezzangbo from 1979 – 1984. Shortly before we rounded off our studies, the entire class was expelled from the minor seminary by the Rector, Fr. William Dowling for acts of insubordination. The expulsion led to most of my classmates not continuing the journey to the priesthood. Only two of us, Bishop John Ayah from Ogoja and myself got ordained. 

I entered the then Bigard Memorial Seminary Philosophy Campus, Ikot Ekpene (now St. Joseph Major Seminary Ikot Ekpene) in 1985. I lost my beloved mother the same year. The loss of my mother almost derailed my aspiration to the priesthood. Nevertheless, the grace of God saw me through the darkest moment of my life. I completed my philosophical studies at Ikot Ekpene in 1989, thereupon, I entered Seat of Wisdom Seminary Owerri the same year for my theological studies and formation.  Upon completion of my theological studies and all the prerequisites for ordination completed, Most Rev. Michael Nnachi Okoro ordained me a priest July 3, 1993. By the grace of God, I am one of the pioneer priests of Seat of Wisdom Seminary Owerri. In July, I will be 28 years a priest.

After ordination, I was posted to St. Mary Parish Afikpo as an Assistant parish priest. I worked under Rev. Fr. Raymond Ezeonu for one year. In 1994, I was posted to Stephen Parish Iziogo. I took over from Rev. Fr. P. J. Melican an Irish priest. I was at Iziogo for five years. 

In 1999, his Lordship Most Rev. Michael Okoro granted me permission to travel to the United States of America for advanced studies in theology. I gained admission into the prestigious Loyola University Chicago, Illinois for a MA/Ph.D. degrees in theology. I completed my doctoral studies in 2008 with a dissertation titled: The Extended Family in Africa as a model for the Church: Towards an Ecclesio-missiocentric theology of Inculturation for the Evangelization of the Igbos of Nigeria.Upon completion of my studies, I was awarded a teaching fellowship by my university for outstanding doctoral performance. I taught for two years in the Department of Theology where I had earlier graduated. 

In the course of my studies in the States, I ministered in a couple of parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Precisely at St. Joan of Arc Evanston, St. James Highwood, St. Gregory the Great Chicago and St. Margaret Mary Chicago. I was a hospital chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital and St. Anthony Hospital all in Chicago for thirteen years. I was also the Chaplain of the Igbo Catholic Community in Chicago, Illinois. 

I returned home in 2013 to take up assignment in my diocese. I was first posted to St. Jude Parish Umuezeokoha, Ezza North LGA. In 2015, I was posted to St. Gabriel Parish OnuebonyiIgbeagu, Izzi LGA. In 2014 I was made the Episcopal Vicar for Priests/Chairman of the newly created Office of Priest Personnel – an office responsible for the welfare of all priests of Abakaliki Diocese. The Bishop also appointed me as his Representative on the Board of Directors of Umunnachi Microfinance Bank Nig. Ltd. I am also a Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy, Religion and Peace Studies Ebonyi State University Abakaliki. I thank God for giving me the strength and energy to joggle through these multiple assignments. 

The vocation to the Catholic priesthood is a noble call, which first of all involves discernment. How best do you think one can discern his vocation?

There are a few professions that you can append the term noble. The Catholic priesthood is certainly one of them. It is a noble profession because it requires total surrender of oneself to the service of God and humanity. The Catholic priesthood requires that you give up the good things of this life such as family, children, personal comfort, wealth, etc. As Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Mt. 16:24; Lk 9:23). Thus, any person aspiring to the priesthood or religious life must discern properly the call (vocation) by being deeply rooted in prayers and engage in deep introspection, constantly questioning their motives for wishing to answer the call.


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