OUR PARISH PRIEST DESIGNATE – FR EMEKA NWACHUKWU
‘My name is Chukwuemeka Nwachukwu and the shorter part of my name which I am mostly known for is EMEKA. Chukwuemeka is an Igbo name of thanksgiving to God that means, God has done all things marvellously well. I am a son of two late headteachers, Catherine and John, a brother to two ladies and seven other men, and a happy uncle to Seventeen nieces and nephews that live in all parts of the world.
I was born on the 17th of May 1974 and got ordained to the Catholic priesthood on the 3rd of August 2002, for the Diocese of Ahiara, South East of Nigeria. I started as an assistant priest for three years and later became a teacher in the Seminary for another two and half years before I was appointed a parish priest for a period of three years while serving simultaneously as the Editor of the diocesan Newspaper. In the year 2010, I was sent to Rome to further my studies at the pontifical Urban University. During my study period in Rome, I got a master’s degree in Philosophy, and now awaiting a PhD in the same discipline pending the completion of my dissertation.
I must recall that as providence would have it, I was privileged to visit Fr. Martin at St. Clare’s parish on two occasions during my summer holidays of 2011 & 2012 as a student priest from Rome. I came into the Diocese of Shrewsbury in July 2013 and since then I have worked in St. Paul’s Hyde, St. John’s New Ferry, and Holy Family Pensby from where Bishop Mark has sent me to work with you at the parish of St. Clare in Chester.
Let me say that I am happy coming to work with a lovely parish family where I was warmly received as a visitor a couple of years ago with nice treats, kind words and lovely smiles. I am sure by the special grace of God, it will become a lovely home for me since I have been with this lovely parish family on some occasions where I had to stand in for Fr. Martin, celebrating masses and the sacraments. I cannot forget my memories of the St Clare’s parish fun day, last year, when I enjoyed the band group, the choir, barbecue and the car boot sales. Who wouldn’t be happy going to live and work with nice and friendly people??? Some of my parishioners here have whispered into my ears that Chester is a beautiful city, isn’t it?
As a hobby, I love and enjoy swimming and going to the gym. I cook for myself and will be ready to learn more on how to prepare English meals. I have already learnt how to prepare beef steak and chips, though poorly I must confess. I like football and I am soccer fan but would let out the club I support upon my arrival.
I wish you all a happy Christmas and prosperous new year. God bless you all.’
Parish Priest from April 2011 – February 2016 (moving to Holy Angel’s Parish, Hale Barns)
I am Rev. Martin Ifeanyi Onuoha, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara, in Imo State, Nigeria. I was born on the 17th of July 1973, the third of only nine children. My ordination to the priesthood was on the 4th of August 2001, after receiving a degree in Philosophy (1996) and Theology (2001) from the Pontifical Urban University Rome (through Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu, Nigeria), and a Higher National Diploma in Mass Communication from Enugu State University of Science and Technology. I served in my home diocese as assistant parish priest for three years, and parish priest for two years, before being sent for further studies in Theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross Rome, Italy.
After my master’s degree, I served for a short time in a parish in New York, as my bishop in Nigeria preferred that, if I pursued a doctorate degree, it should be in a parish setting so as not to turn out an abstract theologian, out of touch with pastoral realities. He was willing to have me do some mission work after my studies, since priests are not in short supply in the diocese. We have about 500 indigenous priests (Diocesan and Religious) working in different parts of the world – my diocese is often called the Ireland of Africa.
It was during my time in New York that I encountered an English priest who relayed to me the great need for priests in this country, for which some dioceses were closing, and in some cases selling churches. It was such a shock to me, coming from a country where the Church is still young (just about 100 years old) and vibrant, with many new parishes and dioceses being created, and magnificent churches rising. I had just fundraised and supervised the building of a presbytery and new Church before leaving my country. The question put to me was, ‘why would you prefer to serve in the US, in a parish with six priests, while there are parishes without a single priest elsewhere?’ I prayed about this and had a chat with my bishop, who himself studied in England. He was agreeable to a move to England. I told my English friend to contact the diocese and, if they wanted me, I would willingly come. They did and here I am!
There was indeed work to be done. I arrived in November 2008, served first as assistant parish priest in St Joseph’s Birkenhead, as a supply priest in eight parishes around the diocese, as assistant parish priest in the parishes of St Werburgh and St Clare in Chester, before being asked by Bishop Mark, in 2011, to take charge of St. Clare’s parish, Chester, where I have been till date. Within these years, I have been invited to lead Days of Renewal for the Charismatics and Retreats for different groups in this diocese and neighbouring dioceses. I also teach theology at Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, since completing my doctoral research in 2013.
It has been sometimes challenging, but an amazing experience altogether. I have met very lovely people and made many good friends. I am gradually getting used to life in England – not predicting/trusting the weather, fish and chips and fish pie (my favourite). I am glad to be here to serve the parish and the diocese in the best way I can. God bless.