Global Jesuits open up about possibility: Emmanuel Ugwejeh, S. J.
Mission Week Feature Series
What is your country of origin?
I am from Nigeria, which is in the Northwest Africa Province.
What is your Marquette Ministry focus?
Before I came here I was the president of a Jesuit high school in Abuja. My provincial wanted me to come here and get a doctoral degree to be able to prepare future school leaders and teachers. I’m getting my doctoral degree in educational leadership and policy. That has been my focus since I came here. From time to time, I help with masses on campus and other nearby places.
Which ministry is prioritized in your home country?
Right now, since we are more into high school education, that is prioritized because 60% of the Nigerian population is below 30 years old. We have a lot of young people and in a country of 200 million people, education is a big thing for us. We also minister to the people in our parishes and try to spread the message of Christ through the parishes. Youth ministry in the parishes is very important to us as well.
How has the Society’s international focus changed your mind to what is possible?
Recently, the Society of Jesus outlined the Universal Apostolic Preferences. One of them is the focus on the working with the marginalized, poor and outcasts. For me, the impression people have is that the poor, marginalized and outcast people are just in some parts of the world. But I have come to realize that every part of the world has the poor, the marginalized and the outcast. My ability to see that has changed my perception of what is possible. It is possible to work anywhere in the world as a Jesuit and attend to the needs of every person in the world.
How has being open to possible changes shifted the focus of your ministry?
For me it is important to always look at where the need is greatest when you go to a new place. When I came here, I asked what was happening and what the greatest need was and how I could be a part of it. Wherever I go, can I sit down and ask, “what is the peculiar need here and how can I respond to that need?” Because as Jesuits say, “the world is our home.” And if the world is our home, I should be able to get to any part of the world and make it a home and be able to respond to the needs of the people there.