Uche (pronounced “oo-chay”) was ordained Aug. 1 by Bishop Alan Williams at Brentwood Cathedral in Essex. The Mass featured a cantor and drummers from the Blessed Cyprian Tansi Choir, reflecting Uche’s Nigerian heritage.
At the end of the ordination ceremony, Williams read a letter from Benedict XVI. In it, the Pope Emeritus expressed his delight at the ordination and said that he would pray for Uche, commending him to Mary, the mother of Christ.
The Diocese of Brentwood’s website reported that afterwards Uche said: “I felt that the occasion was so much bigger than us –- it was about the Universal Church. The connection to the papal visit with the letter from Pope Benedict was a lovely thing to have happened. Those are the things you hold on to.”
“When I greeted him all those years ago, I told him in a private moment that I was thinking about priesthood, and he said he would pray for me. I wrote to him twice about the ordination and had no response. But when my mother wrote, a reply came. It was a bit like the miracle at Cana!”
In his interview with EWTN GB, Uche recalled that he had felt a personal connection to Benedict XVI even before he began speaking.
“So I remember looking over at him and then looking to my script there, getting ready to read. And then as I glanced back to him, he was very focused on me. And it changed the whole dynamic, I think, of the talk, of the speech, because I felt I was really addressing him and he was really receiving that,” he said.
He noted that when Benedict leaned in to greet him, they had brushed faces, giving Uche a sense of the pope’s “great gentleness” and grandfatherly spirit.
“He went on to ask me a bit about myself -- and again that sense of him being interested in who I was. He didn’t know me from anywhere, but I really felt there was a warmth and a gentleness to his character,” he said.
In the following days, Uche was inundated with Facebook friend requests and messages from people saying how touched they were by the event.
He described it as “a moment of the Holy Spirit,” saying that he had been fortunate to be “the instrument” through which young Catholics expressed their sense of connection to the pope.
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“My friends and family were extremely proud. And even to this day, if you come into my house, there’s a picture of myself and the Holy Father as you go up the stairs,” he said.
In the wake of his ordination, Uche has been assigned to the parish of St. James the Less and St. Helen in Colchester, after spending the summer at Our Lady of Lourdes in Wanstead.
He told EWTN that to this day wherever he goes he is introduced as “the one who met the pope.”
“And while that’s a point of laughter,” he said, “it’s [also] a point of great joy, I think for myself and for us all, that the Holy Father came to us.”
EWTN’s “Vaticano” is dedicating a full special program to the 10th anniversary of Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain in an upcoming episode.