St. Mary's prepares ordination service for Nigerian

Friday, June 7, 2002

CELEBRATION

By Laura Johnston ~ Southeast Missourian

During a time when the Catholic Church is facing a national crisis in the priesthood, the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Catholic Diocese is planning an ordination celebration.

Patrick Nwokoye will be ordained during a ceremony Friday at St. Mary's Cathedral in Cape Girardeau. Nwokoye has been a transitional deacon for the past year. This role is the last step before becoming a priest.

The ordination service begins at 7 p.m., followed by a reception at 9 p.m. at the church. The Rev. John J. Leibrecht, bishop of the diocese, will conduct the service.

The last ordination in the diocese, a territory that covers southern Missouri from Cape Girardeau to Springfield, Mo., was in May 2001. The last ordination at St. Mary's Cathedral was in 1996, when the Rev. Randy Tochtrop was ordained. Prior to that, the church hosted the ordination of the Rev. Rick Jones in 1990.

Nwokoye, a native of Nigeria, chose St. Mary's Cathedral for his ordination service.

"The people just love him here," said Monsignor Richard Rolwing of St. Mary's Cathedral.

Typically, priests choose a favorite parish where they served as deacon or their home parish for the ordination.

Nwokoye heard about the Missouri diocese through the North American College in Rome, where he was living while he completed his master's and doctorate degrees. He studied at the Latern Pontifical University in Rome before coming to the United States in 1997.

Nwokoye served at St. Mary's parish for a year during his ministry. He taught art at the parish school and also taught at Notre Dame Regional High School. Most recently, he has been serving churches in the Springfield, Mo., area.

Nwokoye said he's grateful that so many people will be able to mark the event with him, including several of his relatives. He is the youngest of eight children.

Ordinations are always celebrations, both of the priesthood and for the diocese, so it's appropriate to celebrate with all the people he has served, Nwokoye said.

"The people in the diocese have been great," he said.

He plans to go back to all the parishes he's served to celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving. "It's just a way to say thank you to all the people I've met who helped me encounter Christ."

The Mass at St. Mary's will be at 5:15 p.m. Saturday.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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