Welcome Fr. Emmanuel Ndechihiro
From the Pastor: Welcome Fr. Emmanuel Ndechihiro
In September of 2013 I wrote a bulletin article introducing Fr. Emmanuel Ndechihiro to the people of St. Anthony of Padua, where I was currently pastor. This holy young priest was coming to study at the nearby St. Leo University and would reside at our parish. He has now graduated (magna cum laude!) and is going to be staying here at Epiphany until the new school year starts in August, when he will be heading to West Florida University in Pensacola to obtain a Master’s Degree. I will now introduce him to you by letting you read the original article. As you will see, this was also his introduction to my sometimes odd writings. The poor man didn’t know what he was getting into!
This week Father Emmanuel came to the United States for the first time. He is a priest of the Diocese of Dodoma, Tanzania in Africa. He previously studied in Italy and now his Bishop has sent him to St. Leo University for further studies. There was a delay in getting his student visa so he was not able to get here before classes began. I have not yet even been able to introduce him to our Bishop since he arrived over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Those of you who were not vacationing (and attending Mass elsewhere, of course!) last weekend met him briefly but even then our diocesan Director of Vocations, Fr. Carl Melchior, got most of the attention as he preached about Vocations at all of the Masses.
I highly encourage you to get to know Fr. Emmanuel while he is here. You can learn from him about Africa and he can learn from you about the United States. Even simple things, like what types of foods and beverages are typical American fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are right now quite foreign to him. Even though he will be taking classes I assume that he is going to have much more free time than your typical parish priest (me) since he will not be responsible for operating and maintaining the parish and school. Trust me, it won’t hurt my feelings if he gets invited to do things without me. So ask him out for a meal, a family outing to a theme park, a pilgrimage to your favorite shrine, a fishing trip or even a home Mass or house blessing. He will be living with me here at St. Anthony and is blissfully ignorant of what I am writing about him in this column.
Now for the fun part. I get to tell you some of the more interesting parts of Father’s life that he has not shared with me but which I will gladly pass on to you as if they really occurred. To begin with, he came from an average size Tanzanian family. He was number 16 of twenty-four siblings. Not all of them survived to adulthood, as two brothers were carried away by large ants, one sister was snatched up by a condor and another fell down the rather deep hole of a little-known animal, the burrowing wildebeest. The rest all lived together in a three-room dirt floor hut along with several aunts and uncles and their maternal grandparents.
In the village where he lived the people had community livestock for food, raising such barnyard animals as hyenas for their meat and hides and toucans for their eggs and feathers. They had even managed to tame several giraffes which the tallest women would milk daily. They sheared them once a year like sheep and the girls would weave the giraffe fleece into clothing for the men, while the women wore the decorated hyena hides. Banana vines and sweet potato trees were abundant in the wild and did not need to be cultivated.
For the larger festivals (Catholic Holy Days, such as Christmas, Easter and the feast of St. Anthony) the men would hunt a young hippopotamus or baby elephant (even small ones feed a lot of people and only the young ones are tender) and roast them whole on a spit the traditional way. The men would take turns cranking the bamboo rotisserie for the better part of the day while drinking fermented papaya juice and telling tall tales. The women and children would spend the day gathering and cooking the side dishes such as beetles, grub worms, and crickets, and the children would often eat just as many of the bugs as they put into their baskets.
I am sure Father could captivate you with many more such tales, perhaps of adolescent pranks (rhinoceros tipping anyone?), chivalry and proper manners (the man walks on the snake infested side of the jungle path while out on a date, for instance) and such things much better than I. So introduce yourself, get to know him and let him get to know your family as well. You certainly don’t want your entire knowledge of his life to come from what you just read!
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka
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