Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A True Missionary Spirit - Fr. Patrick's Inspiring Vocation Story as a Newly Ordained Missionary Priest from Africa, to the Philippines to Mongolia!



Vocation Story and Pictures sent by newly ordained missionary, Fr. Patrick Nkolo, CICM, to Catholic News World:
 I’m privileged to share my vocation story just few days after my priesthood ordination.
I have been reading back this blessed journey during our retreat before the ordination. Herein I would
like recall what seem to be more important for me.

First and foremost, here is a brief biography of myself .I’m Father Patrick Nkolo, a religious missionary from the congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary ( CICM ). I’m 32 years old and I’m the 5th out of 7 children. My parents though aging are still there to look after us with care and love.


My desire to become priest started with the many presences of missionaries in our hometown. Second, our mother works in of those religious communities and she told us many testimonies about priests. This triggered me from the outset since I couldn’t grasp why young people had decided to leave behind their love ones and join seminaries. But as time passed by, I tried to ponder on their motivations after talking with those who were having their weekend apostolate in our parish especially in our choir.

After my bachelor degree in philosophy in one of the state universities in the capital city of Yaoundé ( Cameroon), I finally joined the minor seminary of our congregation. My admission was a bite strange. I participated twice in the yearly sessions to select candidates in Christmas and Easter. Everything was successful but since I was already enrolled in first year university, the rector at that time together with the team for vocation animation decided to postpone my admission. Immediately, our parish priest informed me about that fact, and I became less motivated to join. I continued up to the third year to get a bachelor degree.

However one afternoon, while tutoring some kids to get income to support my studies, I received a call from my parish priest ( not the one mentioned above) that I had to meet him urgently in our main building at the back of the basilica of Yaoundé. I immediately ended the class and went there. While being on my way, I keep on wondering why he called me up that way; many questions were bothering me. Upon arriving, we had a small chat and he directed me to a certain place where I found the whole vocation animation team together with the rector of the minor seminary well settled.

I was short of breath and very nervous. They certainly noticed it. Within 30 minutes flat, they posed a set of questions one after another and I gave brief answers because I wasn’t really at ease to go further in that tricky interview. At the end, I reaffirmed to them my desire to be a priest and they begged me to leave the room and wait for their reply in a couple of weeks. I went back and reported it to my mother. She advised me in the meantime to be patient and not worry about it. “ May God’s will be done”, she said.

Their decision finally came out in the provincial newsletter. I was among those chosen to go to the seminary the following year. My mother got first the good news since she is one of the cooks in our senior seminary. I received their written reply and started getting ready. It wasn’t a given at all for my family to accept that decision. My elder brother, with whom we were renting, wanted me to be Jesuit instead because I had good grades and a good grasp in research. It was a bit disappointing for my father, too. As the last born among the boys, I’m the one to inherit many things. My other siblings were somehow undecided.

I spent one year in the minor seminary to get used of the seminary, “ modus vivendi," while taking up two other subjects namely spirituality and theology in the philosophical school for religious missionaries. We had weekend apostolate and were allowed to visit our family once a month. Every Christmas and Easter break were allowed to go 'home sweet home' as well.


At the end of that year, I was accepted to enter the novitiate in the Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC) and professed my first religious vows in 2013. Among the two possibilities to study theology in Cameroon ( French ) and in the Philippines ( English) , our novice master sent me to the latter. Among other reasons I shouldn’t study in our hometown closed to my family. Secondly, since my mother works in our senior seminary, I had to be away from her to foster my “ missionary spirit.” I obeyed accordingly as stated in our constitutions. While my two other seminary pals from Cameroon were sent to study in our country, I spent 5 years in the Philippines ; one year to better my English and 4 years for theological studies. That was my first contact with the Asian culture.

I experienced cultural differences and clashes starting from the feeling I had while traveling alone from Yaoundé ( Cameroon) to Manila( Philippines) with two stop overs in Kenya and Turkey. Fortunately, I was able to make it with my average fluency in English. I had learned to live together with more than 5 different nationalities in the community and enjoyed Filipino food, drink, music and so on. Indeed, that widened my perspectives. I was in touch with diverse ways of thinking, feeling, speaking , behaving, listening etc. I had also felt this during my vacations in Cameroon. Certainly, many people wondered what could have been the motivation of a young boy of 23 to leave his country and move far away in order to become a priest. In the Philippines, especially, I used to have weekend apostolates mostly with the youth and they always questioned me and even doubted of my love for my family because, being Filipino, they are more family-oriented.

I was assigned to Mongolia at the end of 3rd year in theology and appointed there one year later. For reasons related to visa, I had training to be a certified English teacher. This was to speed up the process of getting a Mongolian visa and to work in our research center as English teacher and assistant researcher. I waited almost for six months for a visa. That was a tough moment. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed anymore to enter Mongolia because of that long period. The Asian province to which I belong  even had a second thought of sending me to Taiwan; if the visa was not granted after six months.

Finally at the end of January 2018, I got the visa and traveled a few weeks later on February 10th. I reached Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia on February 12th. It was still cold at that time. I was dizzy after coming out from the airport. Fortunately, the two confreres who came to fetch me brought along a heavy jacket for me. Since it was the end of the New year celebration in Mongolia, according to the Chinese calendar ( Tsaagan Sar), we visited some families while taking  survival courses for Mongolia. I continue my immersion into the culture and was enrolled in the University of Ulaanbaatar to better my Mongolian. I had a weekend apostolate in the cathedral but remained careful since my visa isn’t related to religious involvements. I lived out the faith as simply as possible while teaching English to some youth and helping in our research center. I started praying for our Institute in Mongolia amidst the manifold difficulties specifically when our confrere, the first Bishop of Mongolia, Monsignor Wens. Padilla, passed away.

On June 2020, I had to renew my passport. But with the lockdowns due to Coronavirus, I couldn’t travel earlier on in February. So, my passport and visa expired. The only thing to do was to go back to Cameroon. I got a travelling document from the Cameroonian embassy in Beijing and reached Yaoundé on August 15th. I had my final profession of religious vows two months before my flight as well as the admission to the diaconate ordination. Because, our newly appointed Bishop was in Rome for his ordination, I waited for more than two months. I was ordained deacon in the Basilica of Yaoundé on September 5th.

Immediately, I was sent to one the parishes run by CICM namely in Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Simbock ( Yaoundé). I pursued my internship struggling to preach once again both in the local language ( Ewondo) and in French. At the beginning, I remembered one confrere underlying my poor pronunciation. Another parishioner said that I read and spoke not like Cameroon but like a “foreigner “ instead. I spent sleepless nights going over the daily readings and more importantly editing and proofreading my homilies. I re-learned the aforementioned languages while talking with kids because adults sometimes weren’t pointing out my mistakes. Being in Asia for a long time challenged me to readjust unceasingly. I have been rediscovering the “ Cameroonian ways” since then.

Last February 7th, I was ordained priest and had my thanksgiving Mass on February 14th, Valentine’s Day . We have celebrated indeed the Love of God for us and the everlasting mercy and compassion granted to us.” Our celebration served as a venue for lovers to meet” I said jokingly to one friend of mine. I pray that the good Lord may bless our priesthood ministry and all the priests in the World. May God also help us to find ways to carry out our missionary activities since we are all affected by the financial situation of today’s society. Many of our benefactors are “leaving this world.” That calls us to be more creative and productive in order spread the Gospel and empower our people especially the poor ones. May we “ rejoice and be glad” now and forever. Amen.


If you would like to donate to Fr. Patrick's missionary activities or request a Mass to be said - you can Email him here: 

nkolopatrick@yahoo.fr

Or Send via WorldRemit to Nkolo Nkolo Patrick
Or Via Mail to Fr. Nkolo Patrick Address: Maison Provinciale CICM, Rue Abbé Jean Tabi, 361 Quartier Mvolyé ( Yaoundé-Cameroon).

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