With determination, one can pull an elephant with one hair. That’s a saying Fr. Fidelis Igwenwanne remembers his mother saying when he was a child.
Through determination, the Nigerian priest completed his doctorate in philosophical theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome. Determination led him through years as a missionary priest here in Arizona. Determination led him to become a citizen of the United States.
And determination led him to republish his book, “A Man for God and for Others.” The title of the book, Fr. Igwenwanne said, encapsulates what we’re all called to do: “Love God and love neighbor.”
“It has a special significance for priests,” he said. “By virtue of their ordination, they are set aside to be God’s representatives here on Earth and to be ministers to the people. Their work is bound by service.”
Fr. Igwenwanne serves the Diocese of Phoenix as a chaplain at Banner Good Samaritan. Priestly celibacy, he said, helps a priest to give “everything he’s got.”
“A priest is called to give of himself in everything he does,” Fr. Igwenwanne said, “from the moment he wakes up to the time he goes to sleep.”
While the book focuses largely on the ordained priesthood, Fr. Igwenwanne said it’s for more than priests. Lay people, deacons and seminarians might all get something out of it.
“Priests are men, like everyone else. But they’re called from among men to things that pertain to God,” he said. “Priests are visible, living signs of Christ. He stays in the person of Christ at the altar.”
The priest takes the place of Christ in a special way during the eucharistic prayer, when a priest says, like Jesus did at the Last Supper, “This is My body, this is My blood.”
Fr. Igwenwanne acknowledged weaknesses among priests, but said the human part of the priest should not diminish the divine part of the priesthood.
“Just because a nurse or a doctor is a bad practitioner doesn’t mean you disregard the whole practice of medicine,” the hospital chaplain said. “The human face of the priest doesn’t damage the sacred nature of the life of a priest.”
Lay Catholics are called to cooperate and take care of priests, he said. They participate through their lay priesthood, into which they enter by virtue of their baptism. Fr. Igwenwanne encourages Catholics to get to know their priests, to pray for them and to pray for vocations.
There are many ways to support priests, he said noting the work of the Knights of Columbus, the Serra Club and parish efforts.
“A priest is sympathetic to sinners because he’s also prone to sin,” Fr. Igwenwanne said. “He knows it hurts to sin, so he wants to lead people away from it.”
The book is filled with encouraging quotes from the Church Fathers. Meditating on the priesthood, Fr. Igwenwanne said, can lead priests, deacons, religious and lay Catholics closer to Christ.
Reviews of Man For God and For Others
“I was pleased to be able to review the text of Fr. Igwenwanne’s book, A man for God and For Others: A Personal Reflection on Catholic Priesthood. I believe that it will assist both priests and the people of God whom they serve to reflect on the challenges that priests face, as men who are called to give public witness to God’s saving activity by acting in persona Christi, while remaining “earthen vessels” that are subject to the fragility of human nature. I hope that the publication of this book will be a blessing for those who read it”. — Fr. Michael L. Diskin
“A Man for God and Others is a gift for the laity that deftly outlines the nature of the priesthood and discusses the mystery and the responsibility of a priest that lays the basis for how priests should be revered and respected. Much can be learned from this book, not only about the awesome divine power conveyed through the priest, but also how priests and laity should strive for holiness. I pray God continues to bless Fr. Fidelis and this good work.” — Bradley L. Hahn, J.D.
“Being a layperson that has had the opportunity to work with and for many Priests, I have a deep gratitude for each and every one of their yeses to shepherd the flock, especially in today’s relativistic and utilitarian culture. Father Fidelis is not afraid to address unpopular topics and call his brother Priests to live out their vocations in truth. He also addresses the layperson and urges them to recognize the Priest as acting “In-persona-Christi” and to give them the support needed to do Christ’s work here on earth. Father’s book will increase your love for the Priesthood and for the men called by God to live it out.” – Bridgette A. Cosentino, Parish Manager, Christ The King Roman Catholic Parish Mesa