Deacon Onyedikachukwu Chibundu “John” Enemuo, who is on the cusp of becoming a priest in the Diocese of Wilmington, has an inspiring life story that begins in his home African nation of Nigeria and includes time in minor seminary and six years with the Claretians, a Catholic religious congregation.
He also has built a life in the United States filled with faith, friends and newfound family here in the diocese.
On May 20 at 11 a.m. he is set to become the third priest in as many years to be ordained to the priesthood in the diocese. Bishop Koenig will preside at the ordination at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington.
The Dialog asked soon-to-be Father Enemuo which priests had the most impact in his life. He named Father Augustine Chigbo from his homeland as an important clergy member in his development. The Dialog was unable to connect with him in Nigeria. He also mentioned Father David Murphy, who had been associate pastor at Our Lady of Fatima in New Castle when Enemuo first arrived in the region and is now an assistant at St. Mary of the Assumption in Hockessin. Messages left for him were not returned.
Several others were happy to speak about a man they described as joyful, prayerful and someone who has already become a strong spiritual beacon in the diocese.
Father Norman Carroll
As director of vocations for the Diocese of Wilmington, it is not unusual for Father Carroll to be among the first priests to get to know a seminarian. It’s one of his jobs. John Enemuo stands out because he had only recently arrived from Nigeria when he began his path to the priesthood in Wilmington.
He was living in New Castle and working for the moving company “Two Men and a Truck.” He was a parishioner of Our Lady of Fatima.
“He went to church pretty regularly, sometimes daily, and weekends,” Father Carroll said. “People there got to know him.”
He became connected with a couple who became like his parents, Father Carroll said. His actual parents remain in Nigeria. Enemuo has said the local couple provided him a place to stay, which meant a lot to him and gave him a place to return “home” during breaks after eventually entering the seminary.
Enemuo met Father Carroll, currently pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Bear, who at the time had been pastor at St. Elizabeth in Wilmington. He told Father Carroll he had spent time in the seminary in Nigeria before coming to the United States.
The candidate and vocations director got Bishop Malooly’s support to move ahead, and he enrolled at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.
“It was a little bit of an adjustment for him,” Father Carroll said. “Priests and bishops are not approachable (in Nigeria). John was frustrated with that. It wasn’t real service to the people. He was inspired by the welcome that he got (here). He’s very down to earth, present to the people, joyful.
“That was a theme that I would repeat to him over the years. ‘Don’t let anybody steal your joy.’ He’s had some good assignments where he’s connected with people. He knows a lot of people.”
Father Carroll said Deacon Enemuo spent time at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, a parish that includes members from Cameroon and Kenya. “He knows some of these communities have the impression that he’s going to celebrate Mass in their language. He says what they don’t appreciate is they all have different languages. Even in Africa the language used for Mass is English because everyone understands it.”
“I think he’ll be an inspiration to the African community.”
He’s done a good job with the language in this country, Father Carroll said.
“He’s very intentional about being clear and articulate.”
His parents are unable to attend his ordination, but they will be following the ceremony in real time on livestream produced on the Diocese of Wilmington YouTube channel.
“They will be able to connect,” Father Carroll said.
Father Roger DiBuo
The current pastor of St. Elizabeth in Wilmington, Father DiBuo worked closely with Deacon Enemuo while he was pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Enemuo has spent time during formation 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.
He spent 10 weeks in the summer of 2018 at Seton with Father DiBuo.
“During that summer, John and I had a very good working relationship and John became very much involved in the life of the parish,” Father DiBuo said.
“The relationship was very strong and has continued up until this present day.”
“When I met him, he had a very inviting personality and was a seminarian that was very much excited to get involved in the life of the parish and in the life of our parishioners. John has kept a lot of those friendships and relationships strong even after the years since he left the parish. That’s what makes him a very good seminarian and deacon and soon-to-be priest.
“His cultural experience is vast and wide. He is respectful of different cultures and knows how to bring people together. I think in his priesthood he’ll be able reach across many boundaries and many lines to minister to people and to bring people into the church.
“He’s very balanced between his work, his ministry, his prayer, his personal life,” Father DiBuo said. “He’s learned how to engage all of that in a balanced way and that’s going to help him a lot as a young priest.
He agrees with Father Carroll that Enemuo is personable and happy.
“He has a smile that is very inviting and engaging. No matter what the cross is or the struggle, there has to be a deep sense of joy in your heart, and he has that and it comes through in his personality. When he enters a room, he brings life into the room.
“I think John has found his true calling. This is his home.”
Father DiBuo will be present for Enemuo’s ordination and said he is honored that Enemuo asked him to deliver the homily at his first Mass the next day at Our Lady of Fatima.
“He has stayed spiritually close and we have had a great spiritual and social relationship.
“He has a lot of good priest friends around him. As well as many other friends that he has made along the way.”
Father Edward Ogden
Enemuo was assigned as a deacon the past year to St. Margaret of Scotland in Glasgow where Father Ogden is pastor.
Father Ogden did not find busywork for Deacon Enemuo.
He relied on him to help with pastoral care.
He preached during the week and on weekends, assisted with weddings and funerals and became acquainted with pastoral work in parish life. He spent the summer at St. Margaret’s before returning to the seminary and then returned to the parish and assisted with Christmas Masses and Holy Week liturgies.
“He came back for the triduum and I gave him the opportunity to preach at the Easter vigil … things that he might not get right away as a priest,” Father Ogden said. “He’s had a variety of experiences. I tend to be his landing site. He’s found a kind of small home here at St. Margaret.”
Father Ogden agreed to allow soon-to-be Father Enemuo to say all three weekend Masses at the parish June 10-11.
“I think it will be good for the parishioners who have experienced him as a deacon to be able to see him preside at the liturgy. I wanted to give him as much experience as I could and give him a sense of what it means to be in a parish.
“He’s got a very pleasant personality. My job was to mentor him as best I could, not just to give him sacramental experience, but pastoral work in the church — that being a priest is more than just doing the sacraments. You’re going to have to work with a lot of people. You’re going to have to do a lot of collaborating. He seems to do that very well.”
Father Ogden says the newest priest is on his way to being an accomplished homilist.
“He brings in an appropriate amount of humor to connect with people. His theology is very accurate. And he tries to connect it with people’s experiences.”
And he gets it done in a reasonable amount of time.
“One of the things he’s learned is not to be long-winded.”
Father Ogden said Enemuo’s stay at St. Margaret’s has been a pleasurable experience.
“It was a good chance for him to learn and he taught me a few things. It was a good, positive experience, both for the people of the parish and for me as a mentor.”
Father Ogden said it’s evidence of the good experience that several people from St. Margaret’s are planning to attend Enemuo’s priestly ordination.
“It was a very warm experience, and he made lots of friends,” Father Ogden said.
Father Ogden is optimistic that whatever parish he calls home in his first assignment will be getting a fine priest.
“I think they’re going to find an enthusiastic young man who smiles a lot and has a great sense of humor and is very compassionate,” Father Ogden said. “It’s hopeful for our diocese, in so many ways.”
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