MOORESVILLE – After a long journey – both physically and spiritually – the Rev. Paul Asoh has arrived at St. Therese Catholic Church and become its new parochial vicar.
This week, he shared his thoughts about Mooresville, God and stubbornness.
Mooresville Citizen: Tell us about your journey to St. Therese and Mooresville.
Paul Asoh: My name is Fr. Paul Asoh, MSP, and I am from Nigeria and a member of the Missionary Society of St. Paul of Nigeria. I am third in a family of six; three men and three women. I would describe my journey to St. Therese and Mooresville as a long one both in terms of geography and time, having worked for 14 years in the Missionary Society of St. Paul Formation House/Seminary. It was God’s time to begin pastoral parish ministry. In terms of flight time it took about 32 hours with Qatar Airways, which was an indirect flight with eight hours of layover in Doha before getting to Houston, Texas – where my Society’s Regional headquarters in the United States is situated for some orientation – before flying to Charlotte and then Mooresville.
MC: What inspired you to become a priest?
PA: I was first inspired to the priesthood listening to my parish priest in the early 1980s, the late Rev. Pat Laffey, a St. Patrick’s Irish missionary who had spent decades working in Nigeria. I loved his children’s Mass on Sundays and his style of asking us kids questions during his homilies for which we got little gifts if we answered correctly. This ought to have been enough motivation, but I was very stubborn at home and in my neighborhood, which led my parents to seek the advice of a wise, old woman in my parish. She encouraged them to send me to the Catholic Minor Seminary (a boarding high school) some two hours drive from Lagos, where I might get reformed. Hence at 10 years (old) I remember telling my dad that I would agree to go to the Minor Seminary but had no intention of becoming a priest.
MC: What are some of the most impactful experiences you’ve had as a man of faith?
PA: Like the biblical Jonah who was running away from God, I did everything possible to get expelled, but my rector/principal just would not do it when he discovered that that was my goal. In my fourth year in Catholic school at the height of my juvenile escapades, God found me through a conversion experience and I had no choice but to open my heart to Him and promised that I was going to help bring others like myself to him. After nine years of major seminary training of philosophy and theology, at my ordination in 2002, I was sure this was what God wanted me to do and was completely willing to do so.
The second impactful experience for me would be from a place of pain and loss. Eleven years ago, I lost both of my parents within five weeks of each other while I was in Dublin, Ireland, on further studies and returned home twice to bury each of them. I was so angry with God that if I served him, how could He allow that to happen. He showed me the cross and the pain he had to bear for our sake. This has helped me to empathize anytime I minister to families or individuals facing the death of a loved one, illness or loss of job or fortune.
MC: How is Mooresville different from other places you’ve lived and worked?
JA: As a Catholic missionary, I have lived and worked in three different continents; Africa, Europe and America. In each place I have benefitted from their cultural, religious and human wealth of experience. I find Mooresville to be a picturesque environment with Lake Norman and (a) close-knit, large community. The seminaries where I have previously worked preparing young men for the priesthood is a much smaller community. I find Mooresville to be growing in its own unique multicultural identity.
MC: What role do you hope to play at St. Therese and in the Mooresville area?
JA: Since my assignment to St. Therese at the beginning of this month as the new parochial vicar, which I believe will be for some time, I hope to help parishioners grow in their relationship with God and a better understanding of Jesus who dwells in our hearts. My hope is that despite my limitations, I will be a silent and caring witness of God’s love to many others across creed, religion or race.
MC: Is there anything else you want the people to know about you?
JA: I am a good listener and love music, movies, the outdoors, adventures and traveling.