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Marked By God

Finding and Living a Priestly Vocation in Nigeria

By Father Ambrose Olasinde

ILESA, Nigeria, MAY 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- No one takes the honor of the priesthood upon himself. Many are called, few are chosen. I am happy to be among the few.

Attraction to the priesthood

I remember as a boy the hours each week after attending Sunday Mass with my parents. I so much liked everything the priest did that when I got home, I just had to do it myself, though I had only my siblings to celebrate for. Then, as I was growing up, a nun came to our parish. She would go to all the young boys of the parish inviting them to prepare for the seminary. Each of them, with the exception of one or two, gave one reason or another why they would not go.

However, because she did not address me, I asked her if the invitation was not meant for me. She answered, “No one needs to talk to you; the mark of God is on you and all you have to do is make up your mind.” The answer threw me off balance, but I tried my best to forget it promptly.

I guess by then I wanted to be like my friends who were all aspiring to become medical doctors, engineers and the like. It was all an attempt to resist the call.  

After a long delay during which I first went to a secular college and earned a degree in education, and then participated in the national services of my country, I eventually made up my mind and went to the seminary. Getting to the seminary was for me like being back home after a long journey in a far away country. I never had a dull moment during my training years and I tried my best to learn a lot. My quest for knowledge seemed insatiable and I got involved in a lot of activities in the school. The years just flew by and before I knew it, I was presented for ordination and was ordained.

Ministry

Being ordained to the priesthood is an experience I will never forget. Now I would become a dispenser of God’s mysteries. My hand would begin to hold Jesus as the bread turns to his body, the wine to his blood. And in my awe — as with all other priests — I would touch the soul and divinity of him who has used me to perform such wonder.  

Sincerely speaking, I became overwhelmed at such a mystery that I was about to take on. I remembered how human I am and how the good I want to do, I do not do, but the evil I would rather not do is what I find myself doing.

Remembering the fact of the ministerial priesthood I have wondered and pondered over the mysteries — sacraments — of the Church that I celebrate. When a new child is born I initiate him/her into the household of God and ask God to accept him/her as his child. When an elderly person, or anyone, dies, I commend their souls to God. These are things that I know have made me different from others and make me an anointed of the Lord — a man set apart. Each time I think of this truth, it is a reality that attracts, but at the same time frightens: to contemplate the earthenware — me — that holds such treasure.<br>
I have observed with wonder and sometimes amazement people’s reactions when I am introduced as a priest. Especially when they are Catholics, they accord me the respect that is more than that given to anybody on earth. It makes me more humble because each time I think of it, I remember that it is because of Christ that I get what I get.

God in me

I am called “alter Christus,” another Christ, I know that in all created human persons there indwells the Spirit of God. But due to the grace of ordination I am called and truly I am “alter Christus.” I am to be another Christ to the world. This is a tremendous challenge. It means for me that I have to be close to the broken hearted, be there for the poor and the needy, and pour myself out for the world. Again, I do not present any image of mine, but the image of Christ I must reflect. My words, deeds and actions must be seen to measure up to those of Christ. I have entered into the homes of the rich, and I have entered into the poor abode of the lowly of the world. In all these, I have tried not to discriminate, trying my best to be all things to all men and women. Most importantly, I have come to realize that in the world I will face persecutions. People of the world who do not have the spirit of Christ will abhor me and the teachings of Christ I bear.

There have been times when I felt so down because I was rejected by the very people for whom I committed my whole life to serve. Sometimes when I speak what I feel God is asking me to tell them, they repel my words. Other times I have been filled with indescribable joy at the completion of some project. There were times that I have been unable to sleep for anxiety, not for my own sake, but maybe a member of my Church passing through some hard times; other times I have been so exuberant because a parishioner has told me good news about him/herself.  

As a priest in Nigeria, there have been times that I had food to eat, and there have been a few times that I did not have sufficient food to take. In all these Christ who chose and sent me has always been there and if I do the work well in his own ways the crown of glory is there for me one day.

In a nut shell, for the past five years and ten months now that I have been a priest, I have seen and continue to see the inexhaustible love of Christ at work in the priesthood. The mystery of the priesthood is revealed anew every day I live it, and I keep pondering the great concern that Jesus has for his Church. He chose to form the ministerial priesthood so that his Mystical Body will be fed by his Eucharistic Body, and all will be all in him. It is to this great ministerial role that I have been called to have a share in making available the spiritual food that nurtures the Body of Christ. For this great privilege I am grateful.

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Ambrose Olasinde was born Dec. 24, 1970, in Aagba Osun State, Nigeria, and ordained a priest on July 24, 2004, in Ibadan.

He works as the pastor of St. James parish in Oke-Ese Ilesa and is also the principal of St. Anthony’s Catholic High School in Ilesa.

[This article is part of the column God’s Men — a series of reflections on the priesthood that ZENIT is offering its readers during this Year for Priests. If you or someone you know has an inspiring testimony of the priesthood to contribute, please contact our editor at [email protected].]

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