I recently sat down for an informal chat with Fr Emil Mikwego. He joins the Clergy to serve in this diocese as part of a four year pastorate. I asked him about his journey to priesthood;
It’s no secret that in my home country of Morogoro, Tanzania, most families are quite large and live in harsh poverty. We recognise that education is a privilege and not all of us will have that opportunity. So that was my first and perhaps greatest struggle on my journey to become a priest. My family simply did not have the money for my education, let alone seminarian studies.
I knew I only had one chance to make it and it had to be through an exceptional education. So, with the unwavering love and support of my wonderful mother and the sacrifices she made, I applied myself and worked harder than I’d ever worked before, enduring long hours of study by candlelight in a dilapidated home all the time knowing that despite all of this, the very large public class sizes, would only see maybe two students out of perhaps 60, advance to a career. The odds were not in my favour…
But when my calling became so strong that I could no longer suppress it, I went to see Father Emil Mpeka, God rest his soul. This was the pinnacle of my life in the priesthood. Fr Mpeka called the Rector of the Minor Seminary at that time, Fr Patrick Kung’aro. My academic record stood up to heavy scrutiny and finally, those hours of study had paid off and I was accepted to join the minor seminary for secondary education.
I was ordained to the priesthood on 4 September, 2014, by Bishop Telesphor Richard Mkude for the Diocese of Morogoro in my own parish, Saint Joseph the Worker, Lukange Village. It was a joyous occasion shared with family and excited parishioners.
I think my development in Australia will bring such great benefits to my diocese. The skills I hope to develop will enrich my ministry.
In my home country we face many hardships, but the size and remoteness of the Port Pirie Diocese presents challenges of its own. It was hard for me to imagine the distances and isolation which some of the country parishes endure. However, I have already been encouraged by the warm welcome I have received from the people, the bishop, the clergy, the religious and the wider community in general. I am looking forward to the new type of ministry to which I will be appointed and getting to know the parishioners and adapting to the ‘outback’ Australian culture.
I am not sure if I will ever ‘smell like the sheep’ but I will certainly be among them.