Today Father Gregory Okorobia celebrates the 32nd Anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood!
Happy Anniversary Father Gregory!
As I am having a hard time fathoming that I will be ordained a priest in less than a year...it is all the more mind boggling to consider what all lies between here and now and 32 years of priesthood!
I shared this thought with Fr. Gregory who responded, "Don't worry, I felt the same way before I was ordained. In fact, I couldn't even imagine 25 years. And here I am at 32!"
Reassuring but still mind-boggling....
His Anniversary gave us the occasion to listen to him recall how the Lord called him to priesthood.
Growing up in Nigeria, Fr. Gregory describes himself as a very "pugnacious" kid. He said he was always fighting somebody for any reason he could find...especially his older brother. His older brother, on the other hand was the quiet and kind one that everyone expected to go to seminary.
However, when Father was 14, four close friends with whom he was an altar boy, decided to enter the Junior Seminary in the diocese. Whereas his friends were very enthusiastic and zealous about going to seminary and becoming priests, Gregory was not really interested, but his father thought it would be a good experience for him to give it a try. So, without really having an interest or an understanding of priesthood, Gregory went off to Junior Seminary. His parents expected him to shortly be sent home for getting in fights or something else of that nature.
Interestingly, Gregory was the only one of the 5 that actually went all the way through seminary and became a priest!
Father said that slowly he changed in Seminary. He cites it as a real example in his life as to how the Word of God has power to change any heart into the image of Christ's. He slowly learned to calm his temper and temper his fists. He also slowly came to believe that God really was calling him to be a priest.
With a smirk, he recalled how he failed Latin and refused to make up the course because it was so troublesome to him. Also, how he left seminary for a couple days to visit his family without permission. These and other things, were behaviors that should have meant immediate expulsion from Seminary. In fact, he had seen other guys get kicked out for lesser things. In fact, he expected that he would get kicked out. However...somehow....some way...his path was never brought to an end.
All this and more...began to slowly make Father Gregory realize that the priesthood is not something that you choose...but that you are chosen for. "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you" (John 15:16).
And over 32 years later, Father Gregory is still responding to the call...to lay it all down...for the sake of the Gospel.
Today the staff had lunch together to celebrate Father's Anniversary. At some point, I commented to Father, "Well....32 years Father! So now what? What is your goal?" I found his response simple yet profound, "Just keep being a priest. Keep following his Plan. This has always been His idea."
Please take some time and pray for Father this week. Pray that he may have the courage and strength to keep joyfully living out his call to the priesthood. Pray the he may continue to make Christ present in the lives of those he serves. Pray that he may rejoice in his sufferings, as he carries his cross, following Christ.
And Pray a prayer of Thanksgiving. That this man has opened his heart to the Good and All Powerful God. May he continue to do so until one day he finds himself resting in that City on a Hill.