New Glenmarian: First Oath a Key Step Toward Goal
Michael Chidi Onuoha of Enugu, Nigeria, and Brother Levis Kuwa of ol'Kalou, Kenya, recently became the newest members of Glenmary Home Missioners, professing their First Oaths during a Mass on May 29, 2010, at St. Matthias Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Now the men have begun a three-year period of temporary profession that will culminate with their Final Oaths.
While Levis is now a brother, Michael is still on his journey to Glenmary priesthood. "I feel close to Glenmary and really want to take my First Oath," he said to novice director Father Dave Glockner in the days leading up to the Oath Mass. A couple of days afterward, he was heading eagerly to the Waldron, Ark., mission to begin his summer assignment.
Michael is happy and excited to take another major step toward serving as a Glenmary missioner. He has known since the age of 10, he says, that he wanted to be a priest and to pattern his life after the Missionaries of Africa who served in his home parish in Nigeria. His journey led him to enter the Missionary Society of St. Paul for a short time, during which he earned a degree in philosophy.
He later decided to apply to Glenmary on the recommendation of a Josephite priest. "I was very attracted to Glenmary's mission," says Michael. He recognizes the need for missioners in rural areas of the United States as well as Africa, because he grew up in various rural villages that didn't have a Catholic presence.
He was first accepted into Glenmary's program in 2006—but had to wait nearly a year to obtain his travel visa. While waiting he stayed in Nigeria, where he owned and operated his own business and worked at a nearby parish. But his aspiration to join Glenmary never wavered. Despite the complications, Michael maintained his good sense of humor, says Father Vic Subb, director of candidacy and postnovitiate programs. "He is lighthearted and has a wonderful ability to laugh."
Once Michael arrived in the United States, he began his Glenmary formation in the one-year prenovitiate program (2007-08). During that time he became acclimated to a new culture, explored living the life of a missioner, pursued academic studies, and did outreach work. In addition, he discovered the importance of living and cooperating with people of different backgrounds and cultures-including the men with whom he lived in his Glenmary community in Hartford, Ky., and the people with whom he worked in his outreach ministries.
While living in Hartford, Michael participated in a variety of service work, including nursing home visitation and work with a mental health group. He also volunteered with a local chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society: he and other volunteers visited people who had asked for assistance and got to know the families and their needs. "It was a good opportunity for me," he says.
During the next year, his first novitiate year (2008-2009), he had the chance to deepen his knowledge of Glenmary and his relationship with God. The year allows students to focus largely on solitary prayer and reflection-a "once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Father Dave.
In his second novitiate year (2009-2010), Michael entered St. Meinrad Seminary. He enjoyed his courses and the environment but says, "It's not easy because I've been out of school for years!"
Class work "is the theoretical part," he adds-and he has tried hard to connect his academic studies to his practical experience with Glenmary. For instance, his outreach ministry this past year included working at the local Catholic Charities office, helping needy families access resources for paying rent and utility bills. He and his coworkers often took the opportunity to counsel those who came for assistance.
His studies and work experience have increased his knowledge of the Church, American culture, and other people.
"The transition has not been easy, but I'm getting more accustomed to it," Michael says. "I've learned to be more accepting of this way of life."
He is looking forward to returning to St. Meinrad in the fall. He knows each experience is preparing him for the future-and for his ultimate goal of serving God and others as a Glenmary priest and missioner.
This article originally appeared in the August 2010 Boost-A-Month Club Newsletter