Monday, November 20, 2006

Another One Gone to God

Here is an article concerning a recently deceased priest of my diocese.... we have so many good priests, and still far too few....

He was from Africa and was a strong influence on the parishes he served and his earthly family, as the story notes.

Rev. Peter Njoku was a parent figure to many
Nigerian-born and St. Thomas-educated priest served parishes throughout the state and led a cultural group.

Last update: November 18, 2006 – 8:58 PM Minneapolis Star Tribune

Throughout his life, the Rev. Peter C. Njoku believed child-rearing was a responsibility that reached far beyond the child's parents, and he practiced what he preached. Njoku took responsibility for six nephews, bringing them from his native Nigeria to Minnesota to be educated. When a young niece's mother died, he adopted the girl as his own.

While tending his parish at St. Jerome's Catholic Church in Maplewood, Njoku spent time on the side collecting books and educational materials to be shipped to schoolchildren across Nigeria. Njoku died shortly after he offered communion at a Mass Nov. 12, while visiting his hometown of Owerri, in southeastern Nigeria. He was 60.

The Rev. Dennis Dease, president of St. Thomas University, met Njoku the day after he arrived in the United States from Nigeria, back in 1977. "I suggested he meet me for dinner at St. Thomas at 6 p.m.," Dease said, chuckling at the memory. "He didn't show up. The next day I asked him what happened. He said he and his friend had waited until the sun went down, which in Owerri happened at precisely 6 o'clock." But, Dease said, it was June in Minnesota. By sundown, the St. Thomas dining room had long since closed, and Njoku and his friend went hungry that night.

Dease helped Njoku transition to American life and the two became lifelong friends.
"He was a good priest, a mountain of integrity," Dease said. "One of the most cheerful, happy people you would ever meet and really devoted to the spiritual care of people."
None of which stopped Njoku from delivering a cannon-shot tennis serve that left his opponents scrambling across the tennis court. "I got trounced regularly," Dease said. "I will miss his buoyant spirit."

Njoku found counsel for his parishioners as often in Shakespeare as in scripture, with the occasional African proverb thrown in. "He was the parent figure in my life for the last 10 years," said Nnamdi Njoku, 30, one of Njoku's nephews, who attended St. Thomas and who now works in finance for Medtronic. "He was the person my cousins and I went to for guidance, whenever we had any issues, big decisions to make," he said. "There was no pretentiousness with him."

Njoku served a number of parishes in Minnesota, including St. Peter Claver in St. Paul, St. Michael in Pine Island, St. Mary in Bellechester, St. Paul in Zumbrota and Most Holy Trinity in St. Louis Park. Njoku was also a co-founder and leader of the Umunne Cultural Association, a St. Paul group that serves as the hub of activities for Nigerians from the Igbo tribe.
Njoku will be buried in Owerri on Friday. A prayer vigil is scheduled for 7 p.m. that day at St. Jerome's, 380 Roselawn Av. E., Maplewood. The vigil will end at dawn.

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