A Short Biography of Rev. Fr. Henry Chukwudi Okeke
Name: Rev. Fr. Henry Chukwudi Okeke Country of Origin: Nigeria Home Town: Awka-Etiti Home Diocese: Onitsha Archdiocese
I was born on the 7th of January 1965 and the oldest of the six children of Emmanuel and Cecilia Okeke. I was born and raised in a strong Catholic family background as both of my parents were fervent Catholics who played very active roles in our parish. Growing up, I learned to support my parents by doing the household chores, running errands and taking care of my siblings, as usually expected of the oldest child of the family. I also learned dedication to duty. Regardless of the enduring hardship of the time, my parents made extra sacrifices and worked assiduously to ensure that we all received good education and sound morals. God’s plan at work, they did not know they were laying the solid foundation for my future journey to the priesthood. It all started from home.
My Journey to the Priesthood
I strongly believe that priesthood is a gift, a call from God and that God uses human beings as instruments to ignite that call in anyone he chooses for the sacred priesthood. In my case, my mother was that instrument that God used in igniting in me the desire for the priesthood. As a kid, my mother made it a point of duty that I accompanied her to church for daily Mass. You can imagine how challenging it was for me at first having to wake-up earlier than other kids to attend very early morning Mass, and also be early to school later. When I came of age, I was enrolled into the Altar Servers Association of my parish. By coming closer to the sanctuary and serving at Mass regularly, I was drawn to contemplate the life of dedication and service to God. Over time, one thing leading to another, I arrived at a discernment to enter the seminary and pursue this burning desire to serve God in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. The year 1987 was very significant to my journey to the priesthood. It was the year that I received a formal admission into the major seminary. Things started to take shape for me. I studied philosophy and theology and at the end of my studies obtained bachelor of Philosophy and Theology and Masters in Theology between 1987 – 1997 from Pontifical Urban University Rome. I was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Nigeria on the 2nd of August 1997.
My First Assignment After Priestly Ordination
It is said that the environment in which one lives shapes the events of one’s life. After my ordination I was posted to one of the most difficult areas in my diocese. The area was not so privileged with some basic and essential amenities of life. Even access roads were barely accessible and motorable. Nonetheless, it was humbling to find myself in the midst of such a great God-loving, friendly and welcoming people. My pastoral zeal flamed up consistently regardless of the huddles and challenges along the way. I thank God who gave me the opportunity to work in such a place. It really prepared me for the difficulties and challenges upfront in my priestly ministry. It also helped to my growth and greater appreciation of the virtue of humility. I was happy working in that area in spite of the difficulties and challenges that I encountered. The people were happy having me in their midst ministering to them.
Mission / Further Education in Germany
In 2013, my bishop, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke sent me on mission work to Germany. I worked as an associate pastor in one of the parishes in the diocese of Münster, Germany. Later, I furthered my education in the area of Philosophy in the Universität Duisburg Essen, Germany, where I obtained a doctorate degree in Philosophy, majoring in Ethics. I served in Germany for 8 years.
Pastoral Interests / Goals
I strongly believe that “heaven” starts here on earth but does not end here. Knowing fully well that happiness is the activity of the soul in accord with perfect virtue, my goal wherever I find myself is to be happy working for God; sharing the good news with the people of God and administering the sacraments to them; building fellowship with individuals and families for the greater glory of God and extending this happiness that comes from God to others. I also work toward helping others to discover God more in their lives.
My hobbies include: Tennis, soccer and listening to music especially country music.
I am happy and thankful for the opportunity given to me to serve as an associate pastor here in St. Bruno’s Catholic Church, Whittier. This is to me another chapter in my calling to fulfill my priestly ministry. I look forward to journeying along with you - sharing the good news of the Gospel and celebrating the sacraments with you all. I am very thankful to Fr. Dave Heney and Fr. Michael Tang for the way they received me the day I paid a visit to them in preparation for the beginning of my assignment here in St. Bruno’s parish. And to all the parishioners of St. Bruno’s parish I say, may the peace and blessings of Christ our Lord be with you. Amen! May God bless you! Rev. Fr. Henry Chukwudi Okeke
St. Bruno Catholic Church 15740 Citrustree Rd. Whittier, CA 90603 562-947-5637