Three more priests ready to serve the Archdiocese

By Matthew Biddle

AN ‘exchange of gifts’ has taken place between the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn and the Diocese of Otukpo, Nigeria, with three Nigerian priests committing to serve in the Archdiocese for at least the next four years.

Fr Martins Aloga, Fr James Onoja and Fr George Ogah arrived in Canberra on August 25 and began serving in their appointed parishes on September 18.

The trio have been appointed as assistant priests at the parishes of St Patrick’s in Cooma (Fr George), Corpus Christi in South Tuggeranong (Fr James) and St Christopher’s Cathedral (Fr Martins).

It was during his time as Bishop of Sale that Archbishop Christopher Prowse first visited Nigeria in 2010, where he took the initial steps towards creating a strong link between the two countries.

The first ‘exchange of gifts’ occurred soon after, when two Nigerian priests – Fr Francis Otobo and Fr Joseph Abutu – took up positions in Sale in exchange for infrastructure resources.

Frs Martins, James and George spent three weeks with their fellow Nigerian priests in Sale before travelling to Canberra.

Interestingly, during Archbishop Christopher’s 2010 visit to Nigeria he ordained Fr George – not knowing that five years later the two would be reunited in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.

The 39-year-old, who is from a family of 18 children, said his first month in Australia had been a “great experience”.

Fr James, who was ordained almost six years ago, said although the weather in Canberra is much cooler than the Nigerian climate, the new priests have acclimatised quickly.

“I think this is like a home away from home for all of us, because we’re very comfortable here and the people are very warm and friendly,” he said.

Ordained in 2006, Fr Martins said the three priests, who were all contemporaries at school, are “very disposed” to assist the Church in Australia, where clergy numbers are far lower than they are in Nigeria.

Archbishop Christopher said he was delighted to have the “happy group” of priests offer the Archdiocese their service.

“The Diocese of Otupko is offering us priestly personnel, which we badly need,” he said.

“Christianity in Nigeria… only started 120 years ago and it was an Irish priest in a canoe going up the Niger river who stopped off at little villages and proclaimed for the very first time the Word of God.

“Now, 120 years later, it is one of the powerhouses of the Catholic Church in the world.”