Profile of Father Rowland Nwokocha I
Beloved pastor and leader of our parish.
*By Father Rowland Nwokocha*
Rowland Ikechukwu Nwokocha is the third child of late Mr. C.O.U Nwokocha and Mrs. G.C. Nwokocha of Obodo-Ahiara, Ahiazu Mbaise in Imo State, Nigeria. I was born into a family where saying the Rosary and eating dinner together as a family were part of the tradition. As a little boy, I was drawn to the life of prayer, especially the daily recitation of the rosary. This family tradition was the seed that united all of us as a family.
I was drawn to the altar as a little boy when I was 3years old. I grew up in a cultural tradition where children between the ages of 3 an 5 sit on the floor in front of the altar during Sunday Masses under the supervision of an Usher or Churchwarden, as we call them today. That was my spot as a little boy in my home church when I was 3 to 5 years old. I watched both the priest and those who served at the altar, and sometimes the priest turned to us and asked some questions to make us feel at home. When I made my First Holy Communion, I began to serve Mass at the altar.
After two years of serving at Mass, I began to have the desire to become a Catholic priest. When I completed my primary education, I told my mother about my desire to become a priest. She was so happy and gave me her blessings and support. Then, in 1982, I was offered admission into our diocesan seminary at the age of twelve. I had six years of secondary education in our minor seminary before I proceeded to the major seminary to study philosophy. Finally, I completed a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy in 1992. I spent a year in the minor seminary teaching young seminarians. I went back to the major seminary to continue my studies in Theology. Finally, I graduated successfully with a bachelor’s degree in Theology. On August 2, 1997, I was ordained a Catholic priest. It was a special day I will never forget in my life.
My first assignment after ordination was in a parish where I served as an associate pastor from 1997 to 1999. Other pastoral duties include; Pastor 1997-1999; Pastor 1999 -2003. Principal of a Secondary School from 2000-2003, and a Pastor from 2003 -2010. I did ministry in my diocese for 13 years before I proceeded to the United States in 2010 with the permission of my local ordinary. I was admitted to study Bioethics in California at Loyola Marymount University. I did a Master’s program in bioethics and graduated in May 2013. I also did a program on Clinical pastoral education at Long Beach Memorial Hospital California and Hoag Hospital in Orange County, California.
The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City hired me in 2013 to work in the following hospitals as a priest chaplain: University of Utah Health Care, Huntsman Cancer Institute, Intermountain Primary Children, and Shriners. As a Catholic priest working in the hospital, I have enjoyed getting to know patients and families and listening to their stories. I have learned that when one is sick your family is sick. I have learned that family is essential because your family is unhappy (sick) when you are sick. I have also realized that turning to God in times of sickness is very important because human error could be a possibility during patient care.
I have come to enjoy Utah since I arrived in 2013. Utah has many beautiful national parks, and as a outdoor person, I feel very much at home.