My name is Kizito Chukwuemeka Ogbonna and I am 25 years old. I am from Imo State, Nigeria, West Africa.
I started having the feelings and desire to become a Catholic priest at a very tender age. We used to stay in the gallery in the church near the altar where kids stay during Mass. Whenever I was there, I didn’t play with the other kids in the church, I would be in a corner of the gallery observing what the priest and the altar servers were doing at the altar. At that point, I started having the feelings and desire of becoming a priest one day. Whenever we came back from Mass, I would be practising what the priest does at the altar that is, practising to celebrate the Mass.
One day, I can remember, I walked up to my parents to let them know my intention of becoming a priest when I grew up. My dad said to me: “Kizito you know that you are seven in number, five boys two girls. If one of you decide to be a priest, I and your mom have no problem with it. Go on, we love you.”
I thank God for the Catholic family I belong to, my parents who make sure that everyone in my family attends Mass at least every Sunday thereby getting us more involved in church activities. Thank God also for them who did not despise the decision I made as a kid, [but] rather saw it as a privilege to serve God and humanity and gave me the maximum support I needed to move on.
I also met couple of priests whom I admire so much to let them know my intention of becoming a priest. They gave me their candid advice, directions and courage to move on. However, I enjoyed the privilege of accompanying the seminarians posted to my home parish in doing part of their pastoral works in the diocese.
At the age of 11 after I received the first Holy Communion, I joined the altar servers in my parish, still having the desire to become a priest. I find a kind of fulfillment and joy each time I serve at Mass, and I love doing it even now. I pray my rosary every day as one of my devotional prayers, visiting the Blessed Sacrament and other forms of Catholic prayers.
In 2010, I was given the post of the chief sacristan and did the work for four years. In 2014, I was made the vice-president of the altar servers’ association in my parish. In 2015, I was made the president of the association; in the same year I was given the title of “Ezinwa”, which means a “good child in the society” in the association of the Catholic Youth Organisation Nigeria.
After my high school, I spent two years seeking to join a religious congregation or diocese but did not find any. Instead, I did a computer-training program at St Elizabeth Youth Skills Acquisition Centre, where I received a Certificate for Computer Operation/Desktop Publishing. I also engaged myself in some sport activities like table tennis and soccer, which happens to be my favourite.
In 2016, still considering the burning desire I had for priesthood, I proceeded to apply for admission into a religious institute, the Claretian Institute of Philosophy, Nekede, Owerri, Imo State, an affiliate of Pontifical Urban University Rome and Imo State University, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria, with the intention to join a diocese or religious congregation after my studies there. However, as God may have it, I met Fr Gerard Mackie in my home parish when he came to Nigeria for the thanksgiving Mass of Fr Camillus Nwahia. We entered into discussion, he told me about his Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and shortage of priests in his diocese, and I made my intention of desiring to be a Catholic priest known to him.
He told me he would let the Bishop and the Vocation Director in the diocese know about my intention as soon as he got back. After some weeks, we started communicating and the whole process started. Exactly one year after, the visa came and we travelled to Australia.
Even though there are many differences between Australia and Nigeria, life in the seminary and Australia is going well. I am excited to be on this journey.