To be a diocesan priest or a religious order priest
Call explored by entering Norbertine novitiate
By Frater Chibuzor Igboanusi, O. Praem.
Vocation: a call and answer.
That title was my high school Latin teacher's first explanation to my class about the meaning of the Latin verb voco, which literally means "to call."
He went further to say that the caller is God, whereas the called is every Christian, and the call always demands a response from the called. Even though many are called, according to him, "few will be chosen" for various particular ministries within the Church, and in the service of the caller.
Some are called to be nuns, others are called to be lectors. Some are called to be Eucharistic ministers, while some are called to be priests. Although I had always desired to become a priest since my childhood, this explanation about vocations roused a kind of curiosity in me that made me think deeply about discerning my vocation, so as to know if I am among the few chosen for the priesthood.
The first priest I ever knew is a diocesan priest -- a holy and very influential man, highly devoted to his beliefs and his priestly duty. He is very pastoral and knows all his parishioners by name and visits them at home.
When I met Fr. Hilary Mbachu, I wanted to be like him. At that time, however, I did not understand the differences between religious priests and diocesan priests, despite the fact that my elder brother then was studying for the Claretian Missionaries.
It was after my encounter with the Claretians that it became clearer to me what religious life is all about. I began to think that it might be a very good option for me, because of the common life which I found very interesting and enriching as an important element of my discernment. But the very important question became: Into which community would I best fit?
First, I want to be a priest.
Secondly, I want to live in community as a priest.
Thirdly, I need a community that is open to individuality: a community that will give me the opportunity to develop my potentials and support me in using these talents in service to the church.
Finally, I need a community that is committed to the needs of the poor, and dedicated to their charism and community -- a community built on love and social justice.
It was in the Norbertines that I found what I was looking for. After the normal paperwork, I was invited to come and begin the affiliate program (a period of discernment before the novitiate) at the priory of St. Moses the Black in Jackson, Miss. -- a community that is primarily dedicated to racial reconciliation and social justice.
First I had to leave my country, Nigeria, which was one of the most difficult and challenging decisions I have ever made. My experience with the Norbertines in the priory was an inspiring one. I learned a lot about their ministries and was involved in a number of them myself, at the two parishes.
I visited the sick, taught religious education to fifth graders, and was also involved in some community services. I also enjoyed and participated in the community's prayer, recreation and the experience of community life itself.
It was an inspiring and enriching experience such that one day I said to myself, "This seems to be my last bus stop." But I still needed to know and learn more. So I decided to make an application to enter the novitiate in order to continue my discernment process. As a young man, like every other young person, I have my own struggles and limitations, but I thank God for His grace and for the gifts of very good friends and families, and also for a community that has been very supportive of my vocation and discernment.
(Frater Chii was received into the Norbertine novitiate Aug. 28 at the Priory of St. Moses the Black in Jackson, Miss. He has served as a youth minister at Stewpot Social Services in Jackson, and Christ the King and St. Mary Churches, Norbertine parishes in Jackson.)