Such was Bishop Bill’s privilege on Saturday morning when Deacon James Odoh became Father James Odoh through the sacrament of Holy Orders.
Sacred Heart Cathedral was packed as James took the priestly vows and was anointed with the oil of Chrism for his new role as a priest of the diocese.
Originally from Nigeria, James joins his fellow Nigerian, Fr Camillus Nwahia, who was ordained earlier in the year.
I had the significant privilege of accompanying both men on the diocese’s World Youth Day Pilgrimage to Italy and Poland and one of the highlights for me was to see James and Camillus greeting a number of their countrymen in Krakow after one of the Catechesis sessions. The joy and excitement they shared with each other was something to behold.
Another highlight for me was having Deacon James, as he was then, proclaim the Gospel to us in some of the most magnificent basilicas in the world, including at the San Marco Basilica in Venice, the Duomo in Milan, the Basilica of St Dominic in Sienna and the Church of St Alphonsus Ligouri in Rome.
Bishop Bill and the other accompanying priests alternated the role of principal celebrant in each of the Masses and delivered the homily. However in Assisi, at the Mass celebrated in a chapel off the Basilica of St Francis Of Assisi, Bishop Bill invited Deacon James to not only proclaim the gospel but to also give the homily.
What a homily it was, and all those present realised that, in James, the diocese was gaining a wonderful priest. That was reaffirmed for me on Saturday when I was speaking to Fr Tony Brady, Parish Priest of the Wallsend-Shortland Parish where James has been serving the community during his diaconate year. Fr Brady commented that Fr James had great gifts as a preacher and all who attended World Youth Day with him would certainly agree.
Two special features of his ordination were the presence of his mother and family members, all the way from Nigeria and the singing of the Tongan Choir who are active members of the Wallsend-Shortland Parish.
It was a wonderful celebration and I congratulate Fr James on his ordination, knowing that we will all be the beneficiaries of his commitment to his vocation in the years ahead.