Father Delphinus Mutajuka celebrates his first Mass Sunday, July 27, 10:30 a.m., Good Shepherd Church, Dechard. He is assigned as Associate Pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church, Murfreesboro.
Deacon Delphinus Mutajuka’s long journey from Tanzania to Tennessee will reach a milestone on Saturday, July 26, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville, when he and eight other men will be ordained as priests of the Diocese of Nashville.
“It’s what I’ve been waiting for, what I’ve been longing for, and now God is leading me to where he wants me to be,” Deacon Mutajuka said.
Deacon Mutajuka, who goes by the name “Delly,” began his journey as a 7-year-old altar server in his native Tanzania.
From the altar, he got a close look at the work of the parish priest, who also was a friend of his family. When his parents asked him what he wanted to do in the future, “I happened to say I want to be like him, like the pastor,” Deacon Mutajuka said. “I want to help the people the way I see him help the people, celebrate the Mass like I see him celebrate the Mass.”
With the help of his pastor, Deacon Mutajuka enrolled in a minor seminary run by the Apostles of Jesus Community. In 2007, his uncle, Father Deus-Dedit Byabato, a priest for the Diocese of Peoria in Illinois, helped him come to the United States where became a seminarian for that diocese.
After a year at Illinois State University learning the language and becoming acclimated to American culture, Deacon Mutajuka enrolled at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, to begin his studies and formation for the priesthood.
Several years into his seminary studies, Deacon Mutajuka said, his academic advisor recognized that a rural diocese like Peoria might not be the best fit for him and contacted Nashville Bishop David Choby on his behalf. “He was willing for me to come and join the Diocese of Nashville,” Deacon Mutajuka said.
With his studies complete, Deacon Mutajuka was assigned to Good Shepherd Church in Decherd where he could assist and learn from the pastor Father Jean-Baptiste Kyabuta, who also is from Africa. “The bishop thought it would be a great help for me to stay with him,” Deacon Mutajuka said.
During the one-and-one-half years Deacon Mutajuka has been serving at Good Shepherd, “he’s been very helpful to me,” he said of Father Kyabuta. The pastor has been teaching the transitional deacon about parish life “and the importance of being present to people.”
“Priesthood is a ministry of service, being able to minister and serve the people entrusted to the pastor by the bishop,” Deacon Mutajuka said. “The way I see Father Jean Baptiste celebrating his priestly ministry, … how he is a spiritual father for this parish … has motivated me to consider deeply about the priesthood ministry which I’m about to enter into.”
Among his other duties during his stay at Good Shepherd have been teaching religion classes in the parish school, helping with religious education classes, training the altar servers, helping with the parish youth ministry, visiting the sick and making pastoral visits.
Last April, Deacon Mutajuka was ordained as a transitional deacon, one of the final steps along the way to ordination as a priest. “I’ve been enjoying myself as a deacon,” he said.
Since his ordination, he has been assisting at Mass and helping with baptism preparation and youth ministry, Deacon Mutajuka said. “That has been the highlight.”
As a transitional deacon, he also has had the opportunity to preach and has been preaching homilies at Sunday Masses once a month and when leading the parish’s weekly communion services.
“That’s been so helpful to me to get … experience preaching,” Deacon Mutajuka said. With more practice he has been getting more comfortable with preaching, he said. “It’s a good thing.”
As a seminarian, he has been training to be a preacher for a long time, Deacon Mutajuka said. Now that he has had the opportunity to preach before a real congregation regularly, “I’m enjoying doing it and happy about it.”
His time at Good Shepherd has been his longest assignment in a parish, Deacon Mutajuka said. Previous assignments were for just a month or two during the summer, he said.
The extensive stay has giving Deacon Mutajuka a good introduction to life in a parish, he said. “You get to experience a lot of things” and form strong relationships with parishioners, he added.
After his ordination, Deacon Mutajuka will return to Good Shepherd to celebrate his first Mass at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, July 27. On Aug. 1, he begins his first assignment as a priest: associate pastor at St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro.
For his ordination, a brother and sister will travel from Tanzania to attend, and several relatives now living in the United States are planning on being there, Deacon Mutajuka said. His uncle, Father Byabato, will be there to vest him, he said.
“I’m looking forward to my ordination,” Deacon Mutajuka said. “It’s going to be a special day for me.”