by Canon Stuart Wilson
A lot of bonds are made in silence. In seminary life you spend many hours in silence in the chapel whilst, all around you, others are doing the same. For the last year behind me in Allen Hall Seminary chapel sat Deacon Chinedu. He was a Vincentian brother in formation for the priesthood. As a deacon he had a special responsibility every other week of giving us a short one-minute reflection on the Mass readings of the day. When he invited me to his ordination, I decided to go to honour this bond that had been made.
Rev Chinedu was to be ordained in the Church of the Sacred Heart and Mary Immaculate in Mill Hill, the home of the Vincentian Order in our diocese. The church was full of people from so many places. Pride of place was given to Rev Chinedu’s proud parents who were making their first visit to the UK from Nigeria. His brother priests from the Vincentian Order were there as were a good number of priests from our diocese, a sign that Rev Chinedu is held in warm regard by so many.
Celebrating the Mass was Bishop John Sherrington. At the end of Mass, Bishop John revealed a secret. He told Fr Chinedu (and all of us) that this was the first time he has ordained a priest. Thinking back, we should have guessed it. Bishop John preached an excellent homily and performed the ordination ceremonies with a care and a love which touched everyone. He had told us that he had many special links in his life with the Vincentian community but I think it was the emotion of ordaining his first priest which touched
Addressing Rev Chinedu, Bishop John said: ‘Your ordination here in Mill Hill is a reminder of the mission of the province to Nigeria and the foundation of the province there. Now you return to serve in this province and help renew it. May this ordination be the beginning of a new stirring of faith in the life of your congregation.’
When the Mass was more or less done, the Provincial of the Order, Fr Paschal Scallon CM, gave his thanks. He reserved special thanks to Fr Chinedu. This was not simply for his willingness to respond to God’s call, but for another reason as well. Fr Paschal explained that, with this ordination, Fr Chinedu was now the newest priest in terms of years of ordination. He had replaced the priest who until then held that title. You’ve guessed it: the last priest to be ordained into the UK Community was Fr Paschal himself and that was 27 years ago! Blessed be God.