International Priest becomes missionary disciple
By Cliff Gorski
Growing up in Nigeria, Father Anthony Onoko dreamed of being a soccer superstar. Playing on the pitch with his friends and Irish missionary priests, he predicted that one day he would be on television playing alongside the likes of David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo.
As he grew and became influenced and guided by the missionary priests, he traded his cleats for a Roman collar and became what he says is “a superstar for Christ.”
“My family brought me up with the knowledge of God,” said Father Onoko, smiling as he recalled his childhood.
His mother died when he was 3 months old. His father and grandmother, along with an older sister and two brothers, raised him. One of his brothers is now deceased.
After secondary school, he decided to join the seminary, with the full support of his family.
“I am grateful for that, and I want to offer my life back to God for all of the great things He did for me,” Father Onoko said.
Following his ordination and subsequent service as a parish parochial vicar, Father Onoko was appointed as a secretary to the Bishop and Chancellor in his home Diocese of Ilorin in Kwara, Nigeria. As part of that service, he was required to travel to gain missionary work experience. His longtime friend, Father John Odeyemi, a parochial vicar in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, helped bring Father Onoko to Greensburg in 2020.
He says he will “remain eternally grateful” to Bishop Larry J. Kulick: “God has used him to help me to be here.”
Father Onoko is one of 20 international priests who shepherd parishes in the Diocese of Greensburg. He is currently Pastor of St. Raymond of the Mountains Parish, Donegal.
The number of native priests in the Diocese is expected to dwindle to 15 in the next decade. In years past, missionaries were sent from around the globe to locations without clergy to evangelize and spread the Good News of Christ. Today, in a reversal of roles, Father Onoko and those serving in the International Priest Program are now missionaries, helping to ensure that its parishes are able to continue the mission ministries of Christ in the Diocese of Greensburg.
Father Onoko believes that no matter our origin, we are all missionaries, and our mission is evangelization.
“Supporting the Diocesan Lenten Appeal helps the bishop to harness resources in order to spread the Gospel by bringing in priests from the Philippines and from my country, and we need to support and carry on this great work of evangelization,” he said.
Being able to share his faith and world view with his parishioners excites him. He calls them his family because they have welcomed him with kindness.
“I share my faith with them through the sermons I give every day, and I have been invited to bless their homes or to have dinner with them,” he said. “I love these people and I see their love for God and their passion for God and that gives me joy.”