Two Nigerian priests have now been formally appointed to Irish parishes.
The priests will both take up their duties within weeks to serve as curates in the diocese of Kilmore which includes almost all of County Cavan, parts of Leitrim, Fermanagh, Meath and Sligo.
Signalling the appointment of the two Nigerian priests some weeks ago, Bishop Leo O’Reilly said: “There was a time when we sent missionaries to Nigeria, now the wheel has come full circle and they are sending missionaries back to us”.
The move is in response to falling vocations and the ageing population of priests in the diocese.
The recent launch of the Kilmore pastoral diocesan plan 2015-2020 was told that 52 of its 77 priests were aged over 60 and, of the remaining 25, four were under 40 years of age, 10 were under 50, and 25 were under 60.
Bishop O’Reilly is also to examine the possibility of having married men as priests as well as the possible appointment of women as deacons.
The Kilmore Pastoral Plan stated that Bishop O’Reilly would liaise with the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference “to explore the establishment of a commission akin to the one in Brazil under the leadership of Bishop Erwin Kräutler and Cardinal Hummes to study the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood as well as appointing women deacons”.
The list of diocesan appointments just announced includes the two members of the Missionary Society of St Paul of Nigeria.
Fr Addison Okpeh was ordained for the Missionary Society of St Paul in 1997. He served for several years in Lagos, Nigeria and is currently serving in the diocese of Southwark in England.
Fr Okpeh has been appointed as curate in Shercock in the parish of Killann. He will take up his appointment on October 1.
Fr Peter Okpetu was ordained last year. He has served since then in a large suburban parish on the outskirts of Abuja, the Federal capital of Nigeria.
Fr Okpetu has been appointed curate in Cavan. He is due to take up his appointment within the coming days. A spokesperson for the diocese said: “We warmly welcome both priests to our diocese and wish them every blessing and happiness in their ministry here”.
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