Deacon Nwachukwu Emmanuel Dirichukwu carries his faith in his name. A native of Nigeria, his first name means “child of God” and his last name “belongs to God.”
This child of God will commit himself to a life of serving the Lord and the Lord’s people when he and four other seminarians of the Diocese of Nashville are ordained as priests at 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 12, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation.
When he was young he would watch a long line of priests process into Mass, Deacon Dirichukwu said. “That was a moment for me that I really wanted to be among that line. I wanted to see myself in that priestly line.”
As he grew older, his vocation became more serious. While in school, he was president of the Catholic student organization and he recognized, “I was a good organizer, calling people together and evangelizing them.”
Even though they were raised as Catholics, many young people didn’t know much about their faith, Deacon Dirichukwu said. “People couldn’t stand up for their faith because they didn’t know it. I was motivated to help them.”
So he began traveling into the rural areas working as a missionary, catechizing young people, helping the elderly and deaf people.
“I feel like I’m called to preach, to minister to people and provide their both their material and spiritual needs,” he said. Most of these deaf people he helped were not rich. “They needed school fees, they needed food, they needed money. It made no sense to talk about Jesus when I knew they didn’t have food.”
He would meet their material needs first and “eventually they will be open to Christ,” Deacon Dirichukwu said.
After studying in the seminary, he now sees that work “as my own witness to Christ. I like walking with other people, feeling their pains and joys,” he said. “I see that theological connection between those works and how to see the presence of God in my life too.”
From 2007 -11, he studied philosophy as a Dominican seminarian in Nigeria, and then came to the United States to study theology at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, Texas. While at Assumption, he got to know the Nashville seminarians studying there and eventually met Bishop David Choby to talk about becoming a seminarian for Nashville.
“I’ve never met a bishop like him my whole life,” Deacon Dirichukwu said of Bishop Choby, “His pastoral approach to life, his care and love is so apparent. … Finding somebody like Bishop Choby made a difference.”
Deacon Dirichukwu became a seminarian for the diocese in 2013 and has spent his summers working at St. Christopher Church in Dickson and at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville.
“One of the things that gave me hope even when I was new to the diocese was Father Mathew Perumpally,” St. Christopher’s pastor, Deacon Dirichukwu said. “He and the parishioners were very kind to me. Father Mathew was a model to me.”
He also was appreciative of the welcome and support he received from the people and pastor of Our Lady of the Lake, Father Eric Fowlkes. Deacon Dirichukwu will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at Our Lady of the Lake at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 14.
He will celebrate his first Mass at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 13, at St. Edward Church, where the Nigerian Catholic Community in Nashville worships. The community and parish will host a reception for Deacon Dirichukwu after the Mass.