The Journey To Africa

Editor's Note: The Register's staff writer Peter Jesserer Smith interviewed Father Maurice Emelu about his EWTN Tour of Africa. Read the interview here.

The long awaited day, what had been the talking point within some quarters for the past two years finally arrived. The night before, I barely had a three-hour sleep, dreaming of how our first ever EWTN Tour of Africa would be. Mixed feelings of assurance and fear, hope and unpredictability of the unknown were my dominant mode. I was, however certain that God who gave the inspiration would lead our crew to the perfection of His plan.

Our TV crew plus a dozen of local committee members at each location organizing the events have been exceptionally remarkable in the sacrifices they have made to see a gradual accomplishment of this project. Their smiles, and the faith that God is with us made me feel more confident that, after all, I am not in it alone.

Father Joseph, the EWTN Chaplain, had offered Masses for us and had promised that the friars will continue to do so until we returned to the United States. He also assured us that the nuns at Our Lady’s Shrine in Hanceville are committed to chanting the angelic hymns and psalms, offering the beads of roses to Our Lady as well as saying the Divine Office for this historic trip.

From the USA Deep South of Alabama to the Midwest and the West Coast, as well as in Nigeria and Cameroon, we have been reassured of superfluity of intercessions. In the Midwest, many of my friends and family in Cleveland Ohio and in Illinois were (and are still) certainly on their knees for the great ministry that has just begun for Africa. In the West Coast, I was mesmerized not only by the generosity of my parishioners in Hanford, Fresno Diocese, but also by the wealth of their spiritual commitment to the cause of this journey. Prayer cards, daily offering of the Rosary and Masses were generously offered for us. My Pastor, Father Mike, has not only become a disciple of this cause, but had promised to prayer-back us all the way through. We have become unique beneficiaries of the family of God in communion. What a Mother we have in the Church, and what a spiritual camaraderie among her members!

Our flight to Lagos from Georgia on November 27 arriving November 28 was smooth. Though we missed a well-roasted turkey on the Thanksgiving Day — a painful tradeoff — we were nonetheless positive that our sacrifices weren’t in vain. Certainly, the Americans traveling with me would not be particularly happy about this aspect of the mission, but they have been heroic in offering it up to God as a special Thanksgiving gift for the ministry of evangelization.

All together, we had a wonderful flight by Delta Air to Lagos. Once we were cleared from the customs, and stepped our feet on the soil of Lagos, we joined our hands in Prayer to God through Mary, Our Lady of Grace, to whom the trip is dedicated.

The experience in Lagos was different for my crew. Not only due to the dress code and the sea of people walking the walkway of virtually every street we passed, but also the food and the general culture. For the first time in their life they have got to see all black folks and could count the number of whites in the mix. And these were native Africans, most of whom (just like most of Americans) have not stepped beyond the shores of their continent. What an experience! What an opportunity to learn a new culture. For the rest of the three weeks in Lagos, Orlu and Owerri in Nigeria and Bamenda, Bota and Buea in Cameroon, we shall learn and record some aspects of the richness of our Catholic Faith as lived by Africans in Africa.

Father Maurice Emelu is host of EWTN’s “The Faith with Father Maurice.” 

He is traveling with a TV crew, which includes the Register’s Rachel Zamarron.