Sacred Heart, Rancho Cucamonga
Q. Why did you become a priest?
Becoming a priest stems from my childhood. Since then I have wanted to serve God and his people. During my upbringing I was exposed to the idea of serving God by the example of my parents. My mother was a legionary and went from place to place evangelizing.
I wanted to do what my parents did. The community setting also helped me a lot. Among the Igbo of Nigeria, community values really formed me. The values of our culture, notably dike (to be strong and courageous) and dimkpa (mastery of the self for the betterment of the community), drive the individual to learn more and more by serving others. It helps you to function in the community by not focusing on the self, but on the community. I see the priesthood as a server to God and to God’s people. I see it as a way of sanctifying oneself. My priesthood is a response to this desire, to be self-giving and self-emptying. I find joy in belonging to the Church.
Q. What do you like to do for fun?
I like to be with friends, engaging in the different cultures of the people and spiritual life. I watch movies to help me discover the world in which we live. One of my favorite movies is a classic, Guess Who is Coming for Dinner (1967). I can watch it over and over again. As for my favorite music for my spare time, I listen to Bob Marley.
Q. If you could be the patron saint of something, what would you be the patron saint of?
I would like to be the patron of the wounded, those who are marginalized, and those who care for them. I love the spirituality of the wounded healer. I find joy in providing care for those who care for others. If I become a saint, then I would be the patron of wounded healers. Healers like the disabled mother who takes care of her family, the immigrant who has to care of his family here and other families elsewhere, the firefighter who also needs to be cared for, those who work in the hospital.
Q. What is an issue facing the Church of San Bernardino?
Well an issue of the local Church cannot be isolated from what is being faced in the global Church. The larger issue facing the Church in our time is there is a fear to be a prophetic Church. It is not enough to be a good person, but to be a voice of the voiceless. We need to take the social mission and social teachings of the Church seriously. We must engage the problems of the present society. This is where I see Pope Francis leading us and this is where I see Bishop Barnes doing for this local Church. I see Bishop Barnes as the Pope Francis of the Diocese. I thank the Diocese for responding to the call for the New Evangelization, for the work the bishops, priests and lay ministers are doing. I congratulate the Diocese for taking lay ministry seriously.