Los Angeles, Calif., May 28, 2014 / 15:01 pm
A young Nigerian priest who serves the Hispanic community in California says he received his vocation in his mother's womb.
Father Kelechi Alzoie current serves at Holy Family Parish in Wilmington, Calif., which has a large Hispanic population, mostly of Mexican origin.
His story is recounted in Vida Nueva, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' Spanish daily.
"From the time in my mother's womb I wanted to be a priest," he said, explaining that his mother had five daughters before he was born.
In a culture that looked down on women who only bore girls, he explained that his mother "prayed to God with persistence for a son with the promise that she would dedicate him to his service."
God heard her and in addition to Fr. Kelechi, his mother gave birth to two more boys later, one of whom is also a priest and is obtaining his doctorate at the Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome.
Fr. Kelechi's parents, Paul and Dorothy, have always supported him, as well as his seven brothers and sisters. One of his sisters is a nun who teaches English, and another is principal at a school in Ananbra, Nigeria.
Fr. Kelechi finished elementary and high school in Nigeria and studied philosophy at the Claretian Seminary in Nekede. Afterwards he studied theology at the Pontifical Xavierian University in Colombia.
Although he arrived in Bogota not speaking a word of Spanish and found his studies difficult, he said that within four months, he was able to follow conversations and classes in the language.
"It was a like a miracle," he said, noting that in his native country of Nigeria, more than 250 languages are spoken, although English is the official language.
"Ever since I was little," he continued, "I wanted to be a priest and I loved everything that had to do with the Church: Mass, celebrations, etc." He became an altar boy when he was 10, and soon after, he told his mother that he desired to become a priest.
Fr. Kelechi was ordained a priest June 25, 2008, and returned to Nigeria where he worked as associate pastor in two parishes. Eventually he was named pastor of Regina Pacis Parish in Amaudara and served for one year as a school principal.
He arrived in Los Angeles a little over a year ago, serving at a parish with 99 percent Hispanics.
"I love it here… I feel like I am part of the Hispanic family," he said, adding that he draws strength from the community "because they are humble, simple and courageous people who work hard in the Church."