The ordination of Deacon Emmanuel to the priesthood was always going to be a family affair for the Argyll & the Isles Diocesan choir, as Emmanuel had joined us for many music weekends, had sung at our Masses and generally been one of the “family”. Therefore we prepared with pleasure for the service and turned up in force for it.
Before the ordination Mass began, presided over by Bishop Brian McGee, the choir rehearsed and sang for the gathering congregation, which sadly could not include Emmanuel’s family from Nigeria but did include Bishop Joe Toal’s mother. Then the Mass began with the procession of clergy and Emmanuel, the ordinand, through the Cathedral to the rousing and joyful singing of All People that on Earth do Dwell.
After the beautifully chosen readings: Jeremiah 1:4-9 (Before I formed you in the womb), Ephesians 4: 1-7,11-13 (I implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation) and Matthew 20:25 -28 (Jesus called his disciples to Him) and Psalm 95 (Go into the World and Teach all Nations), and the formal calling and presentation of Emmanuel as candidate for the priesthood, Bishop McGee spoke warmly to him and all present.
He had welcomed everyone to what he described as a quite emotional event, and in particular welcomed one of the priests present who was celebrating his 40th jubilee of ordination and, at the other end of the spectrum, one celebrating his 4th anniversary, and also the newly ordained deacon for the Diocese.
He noted that the readings had been chosen by Emmanuel himself. Bishop McGee said he loved the honesty of Jeremiah and he asked each one present to recognise that God has a plan for each of us, and seeks our co-operation. Addressing Emmanuel directly, he then said “Always remember this”
Bishop McGee traced Emmanuel’s journey from the Society of St. Paul which he had joined in his home country, both of which he had left when he felt the call of God to pastoral ministry. A chance meeting – or was it again the working of Divine Providence – between his Superior in the Society and Bishop Toal led him to Argyll & the Isles. He is now the latest in a long and distinguished line of priests to come from afar to serve the Diocese.
The Bishop thanked God for sending Emmanuel to the Diocese, and Emmanuel for coming. He reminded him that this was not the end of the journey for him or for any of us. We should remember the words of God to Jeremiah “Don’t be Afraid”. “It will be for you, Emmanuel,” he said “ a different experience of church from that of your own country but the Holy Spirit will always be with you , so trust in God and inspire your parishioners to do so too.”
Bishop McGee reminded the congregation and Emmanuel that people have been given different charisms to work together, so it was for Emmanuel to give himself completely to build up God’s people, to give his unique gifts and encourage others to do the same, The Gospel reading reminds us that we are about servant leadership to achieve more. Finally the Bishop invited Emmanuel to always be a man of prayer.
The rite of ordination followed, the culmination of Emmanuel’s long journey from Nigeria to Argyll and there was a real feeling of emotion as the rite proceeded. The rest of the Mass was beautiful, prayerful and warm, filled with music, including a lovely Gaelic post-communion meditation O Iosa, bi’n cómhnaidh (O Jesus, stay always in my mind). It finished with the singing of the Salve Regina and the well-loved Be Thou My Vision.
Fr. Emmanuel came out after the Mass to express his thanks to all and to give his blessing to all those who would not be able to attend his first Mass the next morning, then joined the congregation in the parish halls for a beautiful and bountiful spread to celebrate this community occasion.