Fr. Vitus Chukwudi Mbamalu
My journey of life in Jesus is an interesting one, it was not all smooth, but God kept using events and circumstances of my journey to drive me to be convinced of His love and mercy. I am the 5th child of the average struggling family of 10 children of 5 boys and 5 girls. Being from a deeply religious family, I was involved at a tender age with religious activities; being an Altar server was most prominent. These activities inspired my vocation to the priesthood that led to my starting my seminary Formation on January 6th, 1990. I did my High School in the seminary, had a Diploma in spirituality. I got my double Degree in Philosophy and Theology and was ordained on 8th July 2006. I received a Post Graduate Diploma in Education a few years after my ordination.
I had a few temporary assignments at several Parishes to relieve Priests on their annual vacations and then had my first permanent posting as an Associate Vicar in one of the parishes of my Archdiocese where I stayed for 2 years.
I then got a Pastoral Assignment that is remarkable in my Priestly Life; I was made the Principal and Manager of one of the best High Schools in Nigeria; St Charles College, Onitsha with a population of more than 2,500 pupils. The Assignment was surprising because I was barely 2 years a priest. It was also challenging because at that time, the Catholic Church was negotiating with the then Governor of my State to hand back to the Church their previously owned Mission Schools, which were taken away from them by the Colonial Masters during the Colonial era. The request was unpopular with the Teachers’ Union because of their reservations about the Church’s ability to manage their welfare. The State government was ready to partner with the church but needed a more convincing push to be sure that the Church would do better in the areas of Administration and Management of the Schools. So my appointment was supposed to be a kind of trial to determine the effectiveness of the Church. I was a Litmus test for the Church. A lot of factors were not favorable to me; among them was my lack of experience coupled with the enormity of the mission to be accomplished. It was the most critical and challenging moment of my life and priesthood. The worst part was I was single handedly picked by my Archbishop, Most Rev Valerian Okeke, the Archbishop of Onitsha and the Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province. I did not apply for the job in the first place; it is not in our culture to apply for jobs. It is the sole responsibility of the Local Bishop to assign priests to the felt areas of need. I could not say No because of my vow of obedience. When I tried to call his attention to the obvious fact that I was too young and inexperienced; his response is something I can never forget in my life, it comes to mind anytime I am having serious doubts of my ability. He said, ‘I was your Rector in the seminary and so I know your abilities. Since you were able to pass through your 17-year intense seminary training with a Degree in Philosophy and Theology and you have been given the Oil of the grace of ordination, there is nothing God cannot do through you. Go my son, you are the David of that school’. At this point, I felt that was a direct encounter with God. In fact, I sometimes refer to this moment as the dramatic fulfillment of my call to the Priesthood. This singular moment opened an entirely different page of my life. The rest was the story of God fulfilling His mission through me. Barely a year after I took up the assignment, the State Government bowed to unreserved conviction and went into partnership with the Church and handed back the Mission schools to the Church. The partnership is still very strong and both the State and the church are still reaping the fruits of improved moral, academic and healthy social development. It established a healthy competition between the mission schools and government managed schools. My State, as part of the fruits, topped the National examination of High School students for 3 consecutive years to the shock and amazement of other states in Nigeria. They started following the example of my State by handing over the previously owned Mission schools in their states back to the Churches. I did the job for almost 10 years until I came to St Joseph Church Ronkonkoma.
Like I said earlier, each of my experiences in life is both an encouragement and confirmation of God’s love and mercy. I just learned from it that God can use anybody for anything; nothing is impossible for God, I just need to be available to Him.
Now I am here at our wonderful St Joseph Church. It has been an unmerited privilege for me that I am given a chance by God to contribute to His Universal Mission of preaching the gospel here in American society. I hope I can continue to do the work of God in the best way I can here at St Joseph Church Ronkonkoma. It is my honor to be accepted here by the wonderful members of St Joseph Church Ronkonkoma’s family. I am enjoying an overwhelming love, acceptance, and care from everyone around me. It is another sign of God’s love and support. Obviously, I am having my challenges because of diverse cultural differences, but I have learned from my above experiences that challenges are only in human minds; but they fizzle out when one becomes an Instrument of God’s love and mission which I am working so hard to be… so help me God…Amen.