BY Ryan McDougall | August 23 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

2-ordination

Boyhood dream to become a priest comes true for Inverness’ new ‘shepherd’

Scotland's newest priest has fulfilled a boyhood dream to be ordained in the Church, as he reveals his journey from a childhood in a Nigerian village to the serving in the Scottish Highlands.

Fr Dominic Nwaigwe, 39, was ordained by Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen Diocese on Tuesday August 20 in St Mary’s Church, Inverness, where he has been on placement for just under a year.

He will now serve in the parish as assistant priest.

Born and raised in Nigeria, Fr Nwaigwe was just six-years-old when he realised he was being called to serve.

“I lived in a very little village, and going to Mass was a family thing—we would go every Sunday during the day and then for Benediction in the evening. I remember seeing some of the priests and seminarians in the parish and being very much attracted to becoming one of them,” he said.

Devout

“I received my First Communion in 1994 and was guided through the process by them. But I remember a seminarian preparing me for confirmation and thinking, ‘I want to be like him.’”

Although he was as devout in his Faith as a boy, he attended an Anglican secondary school.

He said he ‘didn’t have much interest’ in the Anglican teachings, and still went to Mass and prayed regularly.

After finishing secondary, he lived with his uncle, a Marist brother, for a few months.

Better suited

“My uncle Leo died in 2010, and he was the one who really inspired me to religious life,” Fr Mwaigwe recalled.

The time he had spent with his uncle initially inspired him to join the Franciscans in 2001.

However, despite feeling ‘deeply moved’ by the Franciscan brothers, it wasn’t quite right for him.

“In 2011 when I was about to take my final vows we thought I’d be better suited as a priest, so I went and met my bishop in Nigeria,” he said.

Difficult journey

“I was doing a degree in Theology, and the bishop recommended I look for something else outside of Nigeria.

“I remember feeling, ‘I cannot live this life, I don’t think I’m being called to become a monk’.”

Fr Nwaigwe was then accepted to study at Oscott Seminary in Birmingham, a new journey that he felt was more suited to him.

Reflecting on his unique path, he said: “My journey has been a very difficult one, but I’ve made it thanks to the grace of God.”

Father figure

Fr Nwaigwe has credited Fr James Bell, parish priest of St Mary’s, for his guidance.

“He made me feel at home when I first came to Scotland. He is like a father figure to me and is very much a mentor,” he said.

“Coming all the way from Nigeria to Scotland without knowing anybody was hard.

“I had no family, no friends or anybody. I didn’t know the nature of the place and everything was completely different.

“Coming from Religious life to diocesan life wasn’t easy at all either, but like I say it’s only through the grace of God that I kept going, and the parishioners of St Mary’s have been very helpful as well. I really am grateful for them, and for Fr Bell.”

Friendship

Commenting on his friendship with Fr Nwaigwe, Fr Bell said: “I’ve known him since he arrived here.

“I know a bit about Nigeria myself, so I knew where he had came from and I think he found that sort of comforting.

“We’ve had some lively discussions on Nigerian politics over the years.”

He added that Fr Nwaigwe sees the parish as his UK home, and that St Mary’s and the surrounding area welcome people from all parts of the world.

“We have people here from all over the world. There are some Indonesians, Polish people, including a priest, and now we have some Nigerian Sisters—they’re wonderful ladies and are excited for the future of Fr Dominic.

“We also have some Filipinos, other Africans and Indians—we’re all just Catholics and Christians.”

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