Bishop Edward K. Braxton hosted a luncheon Sept. 12 at his residence for Father Evaristus Okaa Onwuogu, Personal Secretary to His Excellency, the Most Rev. Valerian M. Okeke, Archbishop of Onitsha, Nigeria. Father Onwuogu was a guest of the bishop while visiting fidei donum missionaries from Onitsha, who are serving in Belleville.
Guests at the luncheon included Fr. Vincent Obi, Father Charles Anyaoku, Father Felix Chukwuma, and Father Abraham Adejoh. The purpose of the luncheon was to express appreciation to the Archbishop of Onitsha for his generosity in providing dedicated priests to serve in the Diocese of Belleville.
Father Adejoh was born in Okpo, in the Diocese of Idah, in Kogi state in Nigeria. He is not from the Archdiocese of Onitsha, nor is he a fidei donum priest.
However, Bishop Braxton first met him on a visit to Onitsha and, eventually, he was highly recommended to Bishop Braxton by Archbishop Okeke. He came to southern Illinois as a seminarian with a missionary spirit.
Father Adejoh was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Belleville by Bishop Braxton on May 22, 2010, and he is incardinated in the Diocese of Belleville. He served as Associate Pastor (Parochial Vicar) at Holy Childhood Parish in Mascoutah from 2010 to 2012. He has been administrator at St. Mary Parish in Eldorado, St. Mary Parish in Harrisburg and St. Joseph Parish in Elizabethtown since 2012.
The presence of fidei donum missionaries from different countries serving in the diocese has been an essential part of the bishop’s Pastoral Plan for Parish Renewal and Restructuring.
From the beginning, the bishop has stressed that the Pastoral Plan would be implemented in a manner that is “gradual, organic, dynamic and pastorally sensitive to the realities of each parish and parish partnership,” the bishop said. “This careful, gradual process would not be possible without the service of unselfish priests from abroad. If all of the missionary priests currently serving in our mission diocese were to be suddenly called home, the diocese would be forced to implement potential mergers of parishes in a more rapid manner.”
The missionary priests from Onitsha, presently serving in the diocese are:
Fr. Vincent Obi, administrator at St. Polycarp Parish in Carmi and St. Patrick Parish in Enfield, since June 2013.
Fr. Charles Anyaoku, administrator at St. Paul Parish in Johnston City, from 2015 to 2016; Parochial Vicar of St. Joseph Parish in Olney, Holy Cross Parish in Wendelin, and St. Joseph Parish in Stringtown, since June 2016.
Fr. Felix Chukwuma, administrator of St. Mary Parish in Valmeyer and chaplain at Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo, from 2015 to the present.
Those priests from Onitsha who served in the diocese previously are:
Fr. Ignatius Okonkwo, administrator at St. Joseph Parish in Elizabethtown; St. Mary Parish in Harrisburg; and St. Mary Parish in Eldorado, from 2006 to 2012.
Fr. Patrick Okwumuo, in 2006, Sacramental Minister at St. Augustine Parish in Hecker; from 2006 to 2009, administrator of St. Stephen Parish in Flora and Sacramental Minister at St. Theresa of Avila in Salem; from 2009 to 2012 at St. Augustine of Canterbury Parish in Belleville;
Fr. Justin Olisaemeka, in 2007 was co-administrator at St. Mary Parish in Centralia and Sacramental Minister at St. Theresa of Avila Parish in Salem; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Kinmundy, and St. Lawrence Parish in Sandoval; from 2010-2013, Administrator at St. Lawrence Parish in Sandoval while continuing as Administrator of St. Mary Parish in Centralia;
Fr. Michael Mbonu, co-administrator of St. Mary parish in Centralia; co-administrator of St. Theresa of Avila Parish in Salem; and Sacramental Minister at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Kinmundy and St. Lawrence Parish in Sandoval, from 2007 to 2008; and administrator at St. Edward Parish in Fairfield and St. Sebastian Parish in St. Sebastian, from 2008 to 2013.
Fr. Paul Nwanegbo, Sacramental Minister at the Cathedral of St. Peter in 2013; administrator at St. Liborius Parish in St. Libory and St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Lively Grove, from 2013-2014.
During the luncheon, Bishop Braxton expressed the deep gratitude of the priests, deacons, religious, and Christian faithful of the Diocese of Belleville to Archbishop Okeke and the priests and people of Nigeria and especially the Archdiocese of Onitsha for their missionary spirit and their willingness to provide pastoral support to the ministry of the local Church of Belleville as the Pastoral Plan for Parish Renewal and Restructuring is gradually implemented.