Fr Stephen, (as he was at the time) who was appointed to Pastoral Area of Ballinteer, Meadowbrook and Dundrum in September 2010 has very kindly written a very honest and open account of his life to date and agreed to have it published on our parish website. For this we thank him very much and we were delighted to have him serve with us in Ballinteer Parish.
"In September I was appointed Assistant Priest for the Pastoral Area of Ballinteer, Meadowbrook and Dundrum, residing in Ballinteer.
I was born in 1969 in Northern Nigeria. My father, who served in the Nigerian Army, had 4 wives and 26 children. In my early childhood I assisted my grandfather in looking after the family cattle. When I was eight, I was registered in the Mission primary school against my will and that of my grandfather. In my fifth year there I joined the catechism class for adults preparing for Baptism. Two years later, at age 15, I was baptised. Soon I joined the mass servers association and I was inspired by the good work being done by my Parish Priest, Fr. Patrick Farrell, an Irish Augustinian.
When I indicated my interest in the priesthood to him, he facilitated my admission to the minor seminary run by the Irish De la Salle Brothers. My family almost disowned me when they heard about this. I was denied family meals for three days in order to make me change my mind. With the assistance of my Parish Priest and some relatives, who were practising Catholics, my school fees were taken care of. When my father retired from the Nigerian Army, he supported my continuing desire to be a priest. I gained admission to St. Augustine’s Major Seminary in Jos in 1988 to begin my proper training for the priesthood. I studied Philosophy and Theology for eight years and was ordained priest in 1996 for the Diocese of Maiduguri by Bishop Senan O’Donnell, an Irish Augustinian. Both Fr. Farrell and Bishop O’Donnell are now retired to Ireland.
After my ordination, I worked as an Assistant Parish Priest for two years. I was later appointed a Parish Priest and Co-ordinator for the Diocesan Justice Development and Peace Commission. My parish stretched for 220 km with a Main Church and 27 outstations and has about 15,000 Catholics. As Co-ordinator, I worked in the rural areas of my Diocese where the Government had neglected to provide basic facilities like water. Through the assistance of Misereor in Germany and individuals, the lives of these rural communities have been improved by the provision of clean water through the digging of wells, boreholes and rain water catchments. In order to gain more knowledge of issues relating to development, my Bishop sent me to Kimmage Development Studies Centre last year for further studies. I am currently writing my dissertation on “Community Management of hand-dug well water projects” to be submitted this month. I am also studying Canon Law part-time in Milltown".