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Posted September 5, 2019
What if your future was decided simply by what opportunity arrived first in the mail? While some people would likely weigh their options or seek advice from a trusted individual before making a momentous decision, Moses Ikuelogbon approached things differently—betting his fate on the arrival of one letter.
It's 5:30 a.m. in Nigeria, and a bell rings. Moses is just a young boy and his father comes in and takes him by the hand. Half awake, he starts every morning being led to Mass. This routine became a tradition as Moses gradually grew in his faith with age. By the time Moses was nine, he recalls his first communion, serving as an altar boy and admiring the work of his church's priests. His attraction to the sanctuary began to form, but it had yet to become his calling. "Once I was in High School, I reached the age of reason, fully understanding my life. In that moment it was clear that I would either become a priest or attend college to become a doctor or engineer."
Recognizing the differing paths his life could take, Moses put his fate in the hands of God. He prayed that whichever acceptance came first in the mail, he would pursue. His letter from the seminary arrived two weeks prior to the college's and was the calling Moses needed to give his life to the priesthood. He entered the seminary in Nigeria and met missionaries from across the globe who described a shortage of priests in the US and Europe. At first, Moses didn't see this as the opportunity it would become. But he prayed and, eventually, he realized the impact he could have in an English-speaking country lacking priests. It became his calling to go forth and sharing the message and love of God.
Coming into Christ the King, Moses had developed a spirituality from childhood and in seminary in his home country. However, he acknowledges it has been enhanced and enriched through prayer, discernment, and reflection and from the supportive and caring individuals that he has met in the Buffalo diocese. "After five years here, I can say that I have been affected mentally, spiritually, morally, theologically, and in many other ways."
Moses has reflected on his experiences in Nigeria where there are priests aplenty to form his vision of the priesthood and meet the need for priests in all corners of our society. "I want to be with the people. We need to meet them where they are now, bringing Jesus Christ to them. That is the direction we are going in."
Today, Moses has found his flock in Buffalo. "We need to know the smell of the sheep," he says. And he has, becoming beloved by his parishioners—and in some cases virtually a member of the family. When he arrived at his home parish, a woman approached and indicated she was old enough to be his mother. "Okay, be my mom then," he said. "I have a grandmother too and she makes the best cheesecake in the world. When I go to restaurants, I don't have dessert because it can't live up to this cheesecake."
As Pope Francis has directed, Moses dwells among us, delivering the message of God—a message that was delivered to him years ago in a letter that was just fast enough to make all the difference.