Father Emmanuel Onumadu’s path has taken him on a rather long journey to St. Jude’s Catholic Church.
The priest is new to the 100 Mile House church, and arrived in the South Cariboo on Aug. 1, moving to 100 Mile House from the Vancouver Archdiocese in August of last year.
Born in south-eastern Nigeria, in a city called Umuahia and one of six children, Onumadu says his mother first sent him to seminary.
“She wanted me to have a good education and the highest moral upbringing,” he says.
“I liked the priest that brought me in and I respected how religious and spiritual they are so I decided to give it a try.”
Onumadu became a priest in Nigeria in 2003, but not before he had his own struggles, he says.
“I asked questions a lot and struggled with it but I went with my heart and became a priest.”
December of this year will mark Onumadu’s fifteenth year as a priest.
After working as a priest for six years in Nigeria, Onumadu did his masters degree in pastoral theology in Belgium, and from there moved to Vancouver.
Working in the three countries has been interesting, he says.
“Nigeria is a more religious country and there is so much respect for the priests there,” he says. “Which isn’t to say there isn’t in North America, but you see way more people go to church in Nigeria than here.”
Still, he says, there are similarities.
“In the two places you see people who are strong in the faith and you see people who are struggling.”
Both places see people “who are strong and living in God,” he says, but also those who challenge the church, or those who come back to the church after many years of not practicing.
Moving to the South Cariboo has been a further change, he says.
“When I came I thought that it would be so hard for me to be in a quiet place but now I enjoy the quietness of the place, the beauty of the place,” he says. “Particularly when it snows and the sun is shining.”
He jokes about not missing the traffic at all in the Lower Mainland, and trying snowmobiling for the first time in the South Cariboo.
“It is pretty awesome so I am kind of sad that the winter is now coming to an end because I like the snow. I may not like driving in it, but I like looking at it through my window.”
Onumadu arrived in the South Cariboo during the height of the wildfires – although after 100 Mile’s evacuation order was lifted.
Since then, he’s been working to get the church out into the community more, and to reach out to those who are Catholic but may not be attending church.
“My goal is to reach out to them to remind them that the church misses him that we are hoping they will come back to St. Jude’s and the worshipping community and to reach out to those who do not practice any faith to remind them that God loves anybody.”
He’s looking to also see where the church can make a positive impact in the community, perhaps through outreach or service programs.
“I am available for anybody who wants to come here to talk to me,” he says. “The church is here for them that this is a local family and a worshipping community.”
Otherwise, he says his main message is very similar to the Golden Rule.
“Whatever we do in life you do it well. Do it in the spirit of love, and in the spirit of service,” he says.
“We can show compassion to those who have no food, to those who have no shelter and trying to follow that golden rule that says do to others what you want others to do to you.”