South Burnett priest responds to sensitive religious topics
When Father Chukwudi Chinaka first came to Australia from Nigeria he experienced a lot of things for the first time, including his first snag on the barbie. He has spent time at various churches throughout Australia and currently resides in the South Burnett. In their chat, Fr Chukwudi shares with Matt why he moved to Australia, what he tells himself each morning when he looks in the mirror, and he doesn't back away from sensitive topics such as celibacy and sexual abuse within the church.
Matt Collins:You mentioned that 'Catholic' means universal and you are advised where to go based on where help is needed. Why was help needed here in Australia?
Chukwudi Chinaka:There was a shortage of priests. At the moment I am doing the work of what six priests would have done at the time. I hold masses in Blackbutt, Yarraman, Cooyar, Kumbia, Kingaroy, Nanango. It's a big area.
MC:There isn't a good time to bring this up, but I'm interested. As far as I can see, the Catholic church has been tarnished over the past few years with things like child abuse claims within the church. Can religion survive something like that?
CC:It breaks my heart to look at all that has gone wrong. I apologise to anyone who has been affected. We as a church have failed. I've realised if I focus my attention on Christ, who we are about, we can actually get better. Which is why I get involved with the young people. We need to show people that is not who we are. There is hope because a lot of the younger people are seeing that this is not the definition of who we are.
MC:Have people approached you in the street about this?
CC:Yes, I have had people come up to me and call me a pedophile just because I am a Catholic priest.
MC:Is there any link to the child abuse and the choice of priests to have a celibate life.
CC:It shouldn't be. People need to understand what celibacy is about. It is not for everybody. We don't all have to be Catholic priests. As a person, I look at celibacy as my calling because I don't feel like I am missing out on anything. But if you feel like you are missing out on something, then maybe it is not for you.
MC:You have a kind of ritual where you look at yourself in the mirror each day, what do you say to yourself?
CC:I say 'Hey, what would Jesus do here?' He is always challenging me to be better. He wants me to be the best version of myself. He says so many things. You have to look at yourself and be really honest. I think maybe I need to push myself harder in other areas.