Emmanuel Onyekachi Alagbaoso is being ordained deacon for our diocese at the Scots College in Rome on 30th April. Emmanuel finished his STB last year and is currently working on a Licence at the Angelicum University. He took some time out of his studies to answer some questions about his vocation.
So Emmanuel, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. What age are you and how old do you feel?
Thanks for this opportunity. I am 28 years old, and I really feel….. 28! But I sometimes feel a wee bit older than my age, especially during Exam season! Laughs.
What would your dream job be if you weren’t studying for the priesthood?
This is a good question. I think if I was not studying for the priesthood, I would have loved to be a football player or a Chemical Engineer.
You were certainly a big hit when you spent time in Rothesay. All the 5-a-side football teams wanted you on their side. Do you play in Rome?
I train and play with the official team for the Gregorian University, along with one of the other Scots College students. Last year we won a cup, which was great!
Football aside, where would you say your priestly vocation comes from?
Becoming a priest was something I started thinking about from an early age. I assisted in various events in my parish and joined the youth association. This helped me understand what it means to serve at parish level. Actually, I have always seen and loved the way my Parish Priest celebrated the Mass with utmost care and love for the Eucharist. And from there, I began to develop the desire to serve God as a priest. I began to consider priest from about age 9, although I have had lots of different experiences and insights into priesthood along the way.
You’re from Nigeria. Why are you being ordained for Argyll & the Isles?
Smile!! Everyone asks me that. Obviously it’s because Argyll & the Isles is the best diocese in the world! Seriously, I would like to say that the choice of Argyll and the Isles was by the grace of God. I was once a member of a religious order that serves the Church under the charism of the mass media. It was a very wonderful apostolate and I loved the experience I gained with them for almost 8 years. But I have always loved to serve the Church in a more pastorally inclined way. I like visiting the sick, celebrating Mass for a parish community, and in general following the diocesan priest’s way of life.
And so, after praying, reflecting and discussing with those in charge of my formation in the congregation, I decided to look for a diocese where I could follow what I discerned to be my true vocation. By this time, I knew a superior who knew our former bishop, Joseph Toal. He spoke to Bishop Toal and after visiting the diocese and after much discernment, the diocese welcomed me on to the Priests For Scotland Seminary Applicants’ Year. So I must say, that it was all God’s will and grace. And I am very happy and grateful to be in Argyll and the Isles.
Going around the diocese during that time of discernment was an important part of the journey for me: the ancient history of Catholicism, the Gaelic language and songs, the ceilidhs, the wee drams, seeing all the beautiful parishes, meeting the wonderful people, being welcomed by the priests. I learned so much about Scotland and about life. And I always felt welcome.
How was the Seminary Applicants’ Year? How is seminary?
The Seminary Applicants’ Year was a great experience for me and in fact, it gave me the opportunity to meet other students before I went to seminary. The process was an intense and positive one. Thanks to Fr McKenzie and his team who made the process very helpful, spiritually, pastorally and in terms of discernment.
My seminary experience has been great and has been filled with God’s blessings and graces. I am very happy with my studies and the seminary community. Aye, seminary sometimes has its’ ups and downs ups and downs, but so does life! By and large, it has been good and I thank God for all that seminary has done to prepare me for priesthood.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to someone considering studying for the priesthood in the diocese of Argyll & the Isles?
I will strongly echo the voice of St John Paul II: “DO NOT BE AFRAID”. Yes! if you are thinking of becoming a priest; GO FOR IT and DO NOT BE AFRAID. Once this sinks in into your mind properly, then all other things will fall in place. It is also very important to pray about it, speak to your parish priest or the vocation director (Fr Michael Hutson) and I am very sure you will be guided promptly and properly. Finally, surrender that desire of becoming a priest to MARY (Our Lady of the Isles) and she will be surely guide you all the way through.
(Gaelic: Thank You!)
Ronald Campbell, who hails from the Isle of Benbecula, taught for 6 years in Dundee before beginning his studies for the priesthood. Ronald is currently in his second year at the Pontifical Beda College in Rome.
So Ronald, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. What age are you and how old do you feel?
I’m 37. When I’m running I pretend I’m 17. But when I finish, I feel like I’m 67!
What would your dream job be if you weren’t studying for the priesthood?
Singing for Oasis or playing for Celtic.
Green and white.
OK, got the picture. Seriously, where does your priestly vocation come from?
Obviously it is God’s initiative, but I am blessed to belong to a loving Catholic family on the Isle of Benbecula. I’m the second oldest of five. I grew up having Parish Priests who were inspiring and very much ‘men of the people’. They have played a huge role in my discernment! The strong sense of community in St Mary’s, Benbecula and throughout the Diocese still has an emotional pull on me. My visits to Lourdes and Salamanca are still influential.
Did you consider priesthood as a child?
Not really. After school, I started an electrical apprenticeship at my Dad’s business. I enjoyed living and working in Benbecula, but I wanted to serve people in a different way. So I left home to attend the University of Glasgow. After working in Youth and Community Education I completed a Postgraduate Degree in Primary Education. I then spent 6 very happy years teaching in Dundee. I thought I had found my vocation!
So what changed?
Doing RE with the kids made me/helped me develop my spirituality. Suddenly, I was thinking about priesthood. The idea just wouldn’t go away. I chatted about it to a priest whom I had known well for many years (and who also just happened to be the Diocesan Director of Priestly Vocations)! We had quite a few sessions in my flat, in a few Indian Restaurants and bars in Dundee and also some weekends at his parish house. Talking to him made things clearer. He and I joined my dad and my wee sister in walking a chunk of Camino of Santiago de Compostela. We had a great time, but it was also a time when I could see how priests interacted with people in a way I had never appreciated. I thought: that could be me!
How was the Seminary Applicants’ Year?
I enjoyed the weekends and other aspects of the SAY. The process helped me realise that someone else was actually doing the navigating for me! It was God! I was accepted as a seminarian and began my studies at the Beda College, Rome in September 2015.
What problems have you had to deal with on the way to seminary?
Things I thought would be major obstacles to starting seminary (giving up career/flat/car etc.,) all fell easily into place. Moving to Rome has meant being geographically distant from family and friends, but I somehow feel much closer to them. The love and support shown to me from family and friends, the parish community and from strangers – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – saying they are praying for me, has been truly humbling.
(All this is much to the annoyance of my youngest sister who, while working at Benbecula COOP, was inundated with people asking how I was getting on!)
So what’s the plan now? Rather be singing for Oasis?
They wouldn’t have me, but I’m still a big fan. I am now about to enter my second year, having really enjoyed the first. I think if God has a plan for me, he’s going to see it through and I look forward to the next part of that plan unfolding.
To find out more about becoming a priest in Argyll & the Isles contact Fr Michael Hutson, Diocesan Director of Priestly Vocations. 01700 502047 firstname.lastname@example.org