Thank you for the time - farewell homily of Revd Chikezie Onuoha, MSP

Friends, It is unfortunately true that I am leaving our parish as your parish priest. I have no doubt that there are many who cherish and love me both in our parish and throughout Gothenburg. No doubt, I will be missed by many especially those who have worked closely with me and many that I have had the privilege of meeting in different contexts during my time in here.  As I have written in my last parish newsletter, it feels a little strange for many because I have been in our parish for 12 years and have had so many good meetings with parishioners, volunteers and so on. The parish has become a big part of my life but nothing in life is certain. This farewell an emotional one for me and for many in our parish. It is never easy to say goodbye to close friends. I may never meet again many of the people here today.

The only thing I would like to do today is to thank God for the amazing time we have had here. We have every reason to rejoice and celebrate. Today is a double celebration-the anniversary of the dedication of our church on 4, September 2011, as well as my farewell as the first ordinary parish of Mary Magdalene’ parish 2006 -2018. It has been a wonderful period I have received by many warm hearts and great appreciation.

In my first parish newsletter in the fall of 2006, I wrote: "Of course, it is a pleasure for me to share my happiness and joy in belonging to Jesus with the people of God in St. Mary Magdalene. As a priest, I see my task as being a messenger of joy who comes through the mountains to share with others with great joy. "Among the challenges the parish priest is challenged with is that he is most likely to be responsible for everything. You need to know everything from gravel, concrete and buildings to staff issues. An incredibly good judgment is needed.

When I posted on my Facebook that I will be leaving the parish and Gothenburg from September 15th, I received reactions that I could carry with the rest of my life, even though many people pressed the likes button and commented.

Of these comments to judge, it is not the decision to leave that is liked. I am the one who is being appreciated.  Everyone wishes me good luck, but also welcome back. Everyone wishes me all the success in my future ministry in my new parish. Many also appreciate their meeting with me in other events like baptism, weddings, homilies, which have become memorable thanks to me. 

It would be very strange if I say I will not miss this parish.

Twelve years in St. Mary Magdalene, of course, have engraved their marks. I came to Gothenburg in the fall of 2006. Meanwhile, much has happened. Both the parish and I are on our way into a new phase of life. I'm trying to look in the back mirror. Much love has flowed to me, which I feel unworthy of. I have had a great time with our parish.

There are many memorable events. We have had unforgettable days like the inauguration of our beautiful church, pilgrimage to the holy land and Germany as well as the blessing of our grotto “Our Lady of the North”.

Many who heard that I will be leaving have been worried and asked me: “Are you not enjoying your stay?” Why are you leaving? I have been deeply touched by children who have come and hugged and asked sadly: "Must you have to leave? Some have asked me: should we write to the bishop and complain about this? All of this is are signs that my time in Maria Magdalena is also appreciated by many and not in vain. There is a great difference between when I arrived in 2006 and today that I leave. I life I have learnt that there is no point in fearing change as it is the only thing that is permanent.

___________________________________________

Agneta Hesselbom in the latest parish newsletter has aptly summarized my time in St. Mary Magdalene, with a piece titled "Twelve Years in Sunshine and in Rain". She quotes Saint Paul: "You are holy and living stones being built into a spiritual house." This has become a reality under the leadership of Chikezie as our parish priest”. From the very beginning when Bishop Anders Arborelius, OCD appointed me parish priest of St Mary Magdalene, I knew that God had given us a special commission to build for him a parish and church where Jesus' love prevails. God called us and entrusted us with something special. It is God who builds his church and upholds it. This is something we should never forget bearing in mind all the scandals we hear about in the Church now. Our Lord must always be at the center and then a desire opens our lives to him grows in us. We are not Catholics because of holy priests, bishops, cardinals, popes or lay people. We are Catholics because the teaching of the Church is true and the certain way to salvation to meet him becomes more and more in Him.

I have been very pleased to work here in Gothenburg. I have enjoyed all the people I have met even those who did not agree with me in certain things. Life does not always get what you hoped and believed, despite good efforts and hard efforts. What has been difficult for me has made it easier for me to expand my horizons about how reality and existence can be and to feel deeply connected with others. I've been here quite a while and it felt interesting with a new challenge. I am going to a completely different kind of assembly. But I'm grateful for all the years I've had here. I'm deeply touched by all the heat you showed me.

We have succeeded in something that most might dream of - creating an expectation, from a church without its own identity to one where many have grown in the sense of community belonging, from a church without a church to one with a Nordic beautiful classy church. We have crowned our efforts with the grotto 'Our Lady of the North', many are already coming to visit. The sense of security and assembly does not come by itself.

I hope that much of what we started to live is that its continuation will not depend on me. "Hope I mean something". My hope is that you all will continue with the same enthusiasm and generosity. My first letter of congregation was a prophetic letter, saying, "I am convinced that the congregation can look forward to future faith and hope." The same prophecy I repeat today. It's something we create together, every day.

Someone has expressed their opinion that when Chikezie leaves Mary Magdalene, it is time to stop coming to church. It's like knitting a knife in my back, or almost. "The worst parting you can give me is to stop coming to church, I do not want it to be for my sake. Certainly, it feels positive to be missing but I hope that what I've done has meant something.

A warm thanks to all those who have contributed through work of different kinds during these 12 years. You are many to mention here. We have different abilities and opportunities, and it is wonderful that so many take responsibilities in different ways in our parish. Giving one’s time and ability is valuable and leads to a greater understanding that we have a joint mission.

I will miss the most you all- people, everyone I met and meant something for. Primarily, it is the worship of God, to proclaim the gospel to a living congregation, the contact with the parishioners who made me happy. It is also the one I will miss. I will miss those I worked with very closely and daily in the office - Berit Keszei, Doris Wennerberg and Lazslo Keszei., The gardening group, volunteers, catechists, extra-ordinary communion ministers, as well as many parishioners and an ambitious and committed Pastoral and Finance Council, organists Joseph Odoh and Árpad Sotí as well as priests from other rites, mission priests.

In my heart, I also thank many who have worked with the Maria grotto, Robert Azrak, Torgny Råbe, Doris Wenneberg, Berit Keszei, Lazslo Keszei, who have taken action beyond the usual, and Manuel Enes, Johanna, Mary Bailey, Tom Corry, Felicima Norder, El Shaddai Charismatics Dwxii Prayer Partners, the Eritrean community and my MSP brother- Mike Akpan who has contributed to our success for the past 5 years. Many thanks to Torgny Råbe, Berit Keszei and John Mossop who together with me were in the building committee when the church was built. Revd Daniel Puchard is not left out for his contributions during the church building.  And finally, I thank the support given by our parish to MSP and SpringAid International Development (Nigeria and Sweden, which I founded to combat poverty among poor and marginalized women and children).

It has been a very wonderful time. I love Gothenburg, Maria Magdalena parish, the Deanery, and I love you. So much I've learned and so much fun we've had. When we quarrelled, it was like family members and friends. It is a great joy and privilege to have served as the church's first ordinary parish priest 2006, in a living and multifaceted community like our parish. I pray for you and you will always be in my heart and prayer. Let us celebrate with joy the anniversary of the dedication of our church and the 12 years we have had together in St Mary Magdalene. Chikezie Onuoha MSP

Webbdesign: Peter Tynkkynen