by Gordon Nary
Gordon When you received your vocation, with whom did you discuss it, and what was their advice?
Father Edward: I grew up in a very devout Catholic family and at a very young age of 7, I was already enrolled as an altar server. I think that was about when I received my vocation. Of course I discussed it with my parents and they received it with joy but wanted to make sure I was serious about it. They guided me through Elementary (Grade) School and were happy when I passed the entrance into the diocesan Minor Seminary.
Years later precisely on the evening after my Priestly Ordination, my parents opened up and shared with me that they had both prayed for me to be a priest from the moment of my birth. The had lost my brother (Francis) at birth and after my birth I too contracted a deadly infection and was on the point of death, when both made a promise to God that if I survived they would offer me to God as a ‘priest’.
But interestingly my parents never mentioned this to me nor did they pressurize me to chose the priesthood. According to them even though they made this promise to God, they wanted it to be my choice and personal response to God.
Gordon: Where did you attend seminary, what was your favorite course, and why was it your favorite?
Father Edward: I attended my Seminary training in Nigeria. I attended St. Joseph’s Major Seminary, Ikot Ekpene from 1986-1990 (for Philosophy) and Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu from 1990-1994 (for Theology).
I did not have a favorite course, but was so much enamored by the Old Testament Biblical Studies. I love it because it was fascinating to study Sacred Scripture especially the Old Testament.
Gordon: When did you attend Franciscan University of Steubenville and what degree did you earn?
Father Edward: I attended Franciscan University of Steubenville from 2000-2002 and obtained a Master’s degree in Theology. (M.A Th.)
Gordon: When did you attend University of San Francisco and what degree did you earn?
Father Edward: I attended University of San Francisco from 2002-2007 and obtained a doctorate degree in Catholic Educational Administration. (Ed.D)
Gordon: When did you serve as Catholic Chaplain St. Luke's Hospital, San Francisco and what were your primary responsibilities?
Father Edward: I served as Chaplain at St. Luke’s Hospital from June 2003- June 2006. My primary responsibility was providing the sacraments to all the Catholic patients, and offering comfort and support to them and their family members/caregivers. I also provided care and support to other patients or family members who needed spiritual guidance.
Gordon: When did you serve as Associate Pastor St. Catherine of Siena Church and what did you enjoy most about your work?
Father Edward: I served as Associate Pastor at St. Catherine of Siena Church, Burlingame from July 2007-June 2011. What I enjoyed most was the atmosphere of family that I experienced among the clergy, parish staff, school staff and the entire parish community. I have developed long lasting friendships with so many families at St. Catherine. I enjoyed the presence of the Sacra Costato Sisters and the beautiful but simple liturgical ceremonies that we had in the parish. I enjoyed the parish school and the opportunity to visit the classrooms and have interaction with the the students and their families.
Gordon: When did you serve as Administrator at Our Lady of Loretto Church and what were your primary responsibilities?
Father Edward: I served as Administrator at Our Lady of Loretto Church, Novato from July – December 2011. My primary responsibilities was to provide sacramental, spiritual and pastoral care for the families of the parish.
Gordon: When did you serve as Chaplain Christian Brothers Community, San Francisco and what is one of your favorite memories when you were there?
Father Edward: I served as Chaplain of Christian Brothers Community from July 2005-June 2007. One of my favorite memories with the Christian Brothers was visiting their place in Napa and spending time in quiet prayer.
Gordon: When were you appointed Administrator St. Raymond Church and what did you enjoy most while you were there?
Father Edward: I was appointed Administrator of St. Raymond Church, Menlo Park in January 2012. What I enjoyed most at St. Raymond was the ability to work together with the community to rebuild and strengthen their faith. I enjoyed the beautiful liturgical celebrations and the opportunity to work with the parish school. Just like at St. Catherine of Siena, I enjoyed an overwhelming reception and welcoming by the families of the parish.
Gordon: When were you appointed Director of Catholic Education Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki, Nigeria and what are some of the challenges in your work?
Father Edward: I was appointed the Director of Catholic Education for the Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki in November 2017. The Diocese has 1 College of Nursing and Midwifery, 1 College of Health Technology, 39 Secondary Schools, and 60 Elementary Schools .There is so much challenge in my work here in Nigeria. The high level of insecurity in Nigeria especially here in the South East for some time now has so much affected my work in education.
But there is also the challenge of poverty that greatly affects families and makes it difficult for parents to send their children to school and for the schools to provide all the needed school supplies and infrastructure. Many of our schools do not have a good infrastructure (i.e. buildings) desks, computers, Reference books, or good library.
We also have the challenge of lack of steady electricity and consequently lack of mobile network. For instance during the Covid-19 shutdown we could not even provide online or long distance leaning for our teeming students, especially in the Elementary and Secondary Schools.
Gordon: Please share with our readers the challenges of Catholics in Nigeria.
Father Edward: A major challenge for Catholics in Nigeria is Muslim extremists who violently attack Churches and religious men and women. As journalist Paul Obi wrote in the Nigerian Newspaper, This Day in 2022, “Over the last eight years, more than four thousand Christians and Catholics have been brutally killed by terrorists and religious extremists whose preoccupation is to decimate the Roman Catholic Church in Nigeria. No Week passed, without a sacristy, the Lectionary, a Cassock, one Chalice being soaked with the blood of the faithful. Catholics in Nigeria are on the edge in the practice of their faith.
We ask for prayers from our brothers and sisters around the world, that our faith may not fail but rather that we may remain strong and faithful to the Lord who by his death and resurrection overcame the darkness of the world.
Gordon: Thank you for a powerful interview and I pray for you daily and for the 5-year-old boy that was recently beheaded.