St. Therese, St. Joseph ministries come to aid of Africa orphanage

Clinton, Norris parishes raise funds for vehicles to serve Father Abuh’s home diocese in Nigeria

The East Tennessee Catholic

Father Julius Abuh is familiar with roads – the ones well-traveled, and the ones less taken.

Ministering to parishioners at St. Therese Parish in Clinton and St. Joseph Parish in Norris, Father Abuh knows Highway 61 forward and backward. After all, transportation between the two parishes is a daily necessity.

Despite the distance from East Tennessee to Africa, Father Abuh is never very far from his home in the Diocese of Idah in Nigeria. He reaches out and helps that diocese whenever he can.

And his Diocese of Knoxville parishioners are pitching in. How? One way is to make the roads around Anyigba, Nigeria, easier to traverse.

The Diocese of Idah runs the Holy Family orphanage in the Anyigba area, and knowing their transportation challenges, Father Abuh and his parishioners in East Tennessee have raised funds to purchase vehicles to serve the orphanage.

“For the past two to three years, I have been able to buy and transport two minivans to Nigeria. They are of tremendous assistance to the orphanage and the junior seminary, where students are trained to join the senior seminary before graduating as priests,” Father Abuh said.

Father Abuh used the funds to purchase the minivans locally and ship them to Africa.

He finds that the fundraisers to assist people in his home country are excellent ways to educate about the Catholic faith in other parts of the world.

“Without a doubt, my presence has especially enlightened parishioners and friends to life outside of the terrains of East Tennessee. I’ve been able to share many wonderful traditions and debunk many myths about life in Nigeria. I am consummately grateful to all those who have gotten to know me and who support my ministry for the less privileged in Nigeria,” he said.

While Father Abuh continues to evangelize about the faith and educate people about Africa, he believes St. Joseph and St. Therese parishes have met the transportation needs for the Diocese of Idah – for now. And he is grateful to his East Tennessee parishioners for their gifts.

Since arriving in the Diocese of Knoxville five years ago, Bishop Richard F. Stika has assigned Father Abuh as a priest in residence at St. John Neumann Church in Farragut and now as the parochial administrator of both St. Therese and St. Joseph. Before arriving in East Tennessee, Father Abuh received his Ph.D. in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

His affinity for East Tennessee, especially the towns of Clinton and Norris, rivals that of Nigeria, and he finds himself reaching out to people in the area, especially Catholics who don’t attend Mass regularly.

“I find the people of East Tennessee very warm-hearted. I enjoy interacting with the public wherever I go, even while out and about in the community,” he said, adding that he eagerly engages in conversation with strangers, and some have come back to the Church after a long break.

“By nature, I am broadly ecumenical and will often pray for pastors of other faiths,” Father Abuh said. “The only flaw that I find with East Tennessee is the weather. During the winter, I’ll tell my parishioners ‘Don’t ask me if I am wearing long johns. Ask how many long johns I’m wearing.’” ■

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