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Ahead of transitional diaconate in Diocese of Wilmington, John Enemuo is confident in ‘he who brought me this far’

John Enemuo poses with Bishop Koenig after chrism Mass in 2022. Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

As John Enemuo gets closer to becoming a priest for the Diocese of Wilmington, he realizes that those voices from his past were correct. This is the life he was called to.

Enemuo will be ordained a transitional deacon on May 14 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Bear.

It is one of the last steps before he becomes a priest, which is expected to happen next year.

If Enemuo had followed his original plans, he would have been a priest already. He spent three years at a minor seminary in his native Nigeria before leaving to work in his father’s business. A year and a half later, he joined the Claretians and spent six years in that religious order. He left them in 2015.

Enemuo, 31, was working as an assistant manager at a gas station when he stepped outside for some fresh air when a woman came up to him.

“She walked up to me and said, ‘Are you a priest?’” Enemuo recalled. “And I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ ‘Were you in the seminary before?’ At first, I denied that. I said, ‘No, I wasn’t.’ But she was like, ‘You keep denying yourself, but you don’t belong here.’”

The woman said he looked like a priest.

“That got me thinking. I called my mom, and I called my spiritual director, and I told them what happened. And they said, ‘It’s up to you. We’re not going to force you into doing what you don’t want to do,’” he said.

Long before that, in elementary school, he had a Catholic sister who also talked to him about becoming a priest. He was around 10 years old and began to read at Sunday Mass. The churches in Nigeria are quite large, he said, and there were probably 1,000 people at each Mass. The first time he read, he was a bit nervous. He was too short to read from the ambo, so he stood next to it.

John Enemuo poses with Bishop Emeritus Malooly at the chrism Mass last month at Holy Cross in Dover.
Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

“The altar was up, and the people were down there, and I looked at the congregation and thought, ‘oh, my goodness,’” he said.

He had a piece of paper with the reading on it, “and I sweat from my head to toe. I was holding the paper, and I soaked it wet.”

The nun suggested he go to the minor seminary, but his father objected. He insisted that his son finish high school and college before making that decision. He began high school at his parish in Nigeria before attending the minor seminary.

After making the decision to once again study for the priesthood, Enemuo was faced with leaving his home country. In Nigeria, he said, if you leave the seminary, you can’t return in that country. His spiritual director suggested he look in the United States, where the need for vocations was greater than in African countries.

He was a student in Ohio and came to live with a friend in New Castle. He met Father David Murphy at Our Lady of Fatima Church and told the priest his story. Enemuo was introduced to Father Norman Carroll, the director of vocations, “and the rest is history,” Enemuo said.

He is finishing up his third year of theology at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. This time, he is determined to reach ordination.

“I’m ready to do this now,” he said.

He grew up in a Catholic family in Nigeria. He said his mother studied Canon Law for a time, so there were books all over his house. His father belongs to a charismatic Catholic group. He spent a few years living with his grandparents in the Nigerian countryside, and they sent him to the local Catholic school. That’s where he met the sister who first mentioned that he might be called to the priesthood.

Enemuo doesn’t know where he will spend this summer. He has spent time at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Bear and Holy Cross Parish in Dover, whose pastoral team also ministers at Immaculate Conception Parish in Marydel, Md., and at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in New Castle, whose pastor, Father Tim Nolan, also leads nearby Holy Spirit. He notes that the pastor at his home parish in Delaware, Our Lady of Fatima, also covers St. Paul’s in Delaware City.

“I’m a two-parish guy,” he said.

He said his approach “as a future priest and a leader is to just be there for the people. Be the priest for the people. You are not the boss. You are the servant. Being there for them when they need you.

“I’m confident. I’m ready to do it. I made up my mind when I went in for the final time.”

Enemuo said he doesn’t really have a preference when it comes to parish assignments. There is always some nervousness that comes with new experiences, but he’s not worried.

“I’m confident that he who brought me this far is going to help me walk into it good,” he said.

His parents will not be in Wilmington for this ordination, but he has some family coming from New York. He expects his parents will be in Wilmington next year when he is ordained a priest.

When Enemuo is not studying for the priesthood, he likes to listen to a variety of music. At night, he said, he prefers instrumentals because they help him sleep. He also plays soccer and is a member of the team at St. Mary’s that plays against other seminaries.