Welcome Fr James Odoh

Saturday heralded not just a beautiful summer’s day, but an occasion of great joy for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, as James Odoh was ordained to the presbyterate.

Sacred Heart Cathedral was overflowing with people, all of whom were keen to share in James’ happiness. The ordination ceremony is a beautiful one, filled with symbol and meaning, wonderful music and singing and emotion.

The readings and Gospel, all chosen by James, were powerfully indicative of his commitment and faith.

Bishop Bill spoke about the strangeness of asking, as part of the election of the candidate in the ordination liturgy, whether they are ‘worthy’.

“We’re not worthy of the priesthood. It is a gift and calling. It is God’s work,” Bishop Bill said to James.

Bishop Bill said that many people had told him that they thought James would be a wonderful priest, but it’s not a matter of being worthy, but being apt for the ministry.

“They speak about the fact that you’re warm, calm, wise, outgoing, engaging and likeable; that you mix easily with everyone. You are being called to use these gifts to be a priest of Jesus Christ; to live out the mission he has given you based on his own calling,” Bishop Bill told James.

Bishop Bill encouraged James to be “God’s man” in whatever suburb he will minister; to reach out to all in that place, not just the parishioners or the Catholics in the area, but everyone.

“Your priesthood is to make Christ present to all. It is God’s call, God’s choice and we give thanks for that choice. I congratulate you on your generosity and thank your family and country for their generosity. Thank you James,” said Bishop Bill.

After making promises regarding how he plans to live out his ministry, James lay prostrate before the altar as the Litany of the Saints was sung. This was a very powerful and moving moment, as was the laying of hands by Bishop Bill and all the priests.

Fr Peter Street helped James put on his new priestly vestments and then Bishop Bill anointed James with the Oil of Chrism. Members of James’ family brought forward the gifts before Fr James was welcomed whole-heartedly by his brother priests with many warm embraces and big smiles.

James acknowledged many people at the end of Mass, but began with God. He thanked Bishop Bill for his “support, encouragement and trust” and Vicar General, Brian Mascord, who has walked with James every step of the way in his journey and “is so precious in my life”. James thanked Fr Tony Brady who he has ministered with at Wallsend-Shortland parish for “being like a father to me, someone I could lean on”. He thanked the Cathedral and Tongan choirs for providing such wonderful music and song for his ordination. James thanked his Australian family and all those gathered before speaking to his own family “in the language of my ancestors”.

“Thank you for what you are to me and for coming here to share my happiness. This is my home now but I will never forget you”, James told them.

At the conclusion of Mass when Fr James emerged from the Cathedral there was great excitement and applause from his brother priests who stood in a semi-circle to welcome him. Fr James then returned inside to bless the many people who waited there.

The gathering after the ordination was a lesson in how to celebrate exuberantly! DJ Solomon spun the tunes that had almost everyone in the function centre on their feet and dancing. It was like being at a wedding – it was impossible to wipe the smile from your face.

It truly was a joyful occasion with an infectious spirit of community and love. Anyone who has been lucky enough to spend time with James knows that he will be a wonderful priest and will, as Bishop Bill implored, “be God’s minister to all”.

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Joanne Isaac Image
Joanne Isaac

Joanne is a Communications Officer for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and a regular columnist for Aurora Magazine.

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