That is how one woman described the historic celebration earlier this month, marking the first African priest ordained for the Diocese of Palm Beach.
Leonard Dim wiped away tears as he witnessed his first-born son, Leonard Onyeukwu Dim, receive the sacrament of holy orders and become the first African priest ordained for the Diocese of Palm Beach.
His tears of joy shined upon his smiling face. “I am very happy,” said Dim. “This is a very happy day.”
Father Dim was ordained May 4 at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola during grand evening celebrations. Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito served as principal celebrant for the ordination, and clergy, seminarians, friends, family and acquaintanes traveled from near and far to support and rejoice with the newly ordained priest and his family.
“We wish to offer a warm welcome to the parents and family of Deacon Leonard Dim as we gather this evening to celebrate his ordination to the priesthood,” said Bishop Barbarito. “You have made a long journey to the Diocese of Palm Beach from Nigeria to be here for the ordination of Leonard, and we especially thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Dim, for the gift of your son to the Church and in particular to the Diocese of Palm Beach.”
Many Nigerian priests and Nigerian religious sisters were at the ordination and traveled from around the United States, showing great support.
“I have come for the ordination of our brother from Nigeria,” said Sister Rose Henry from Hollywood in the Archdiocese of Miami. “It is something glorious. It is something that is really great. In my country, Nigeria, and especially in my tribe, Igbo, most of the people are Catholics. They like to worship God in spirit and truth.
“The initiative to become a priest or a nun is a call that is glorious, a vocation,” Sister Henry continued. “It is a great thing. It is something from God, and that is why we are happy and come to pray, honor and praise God.”
People sitting in the pews wore colorful clothing and ornate headpieces, representing the culture of Nigeria and the people there to whom the Dim family is linked. Father Dim grew up in Amike, situated in the state of Imo, one of 36 Nigerian states. Igbo people there have their own unique language, dress, music and culture, and at one time, young Igbo men faced societal and cultural obstacles. In years past, the first son of a family was regarded as the immediate family heir, and the first son held responsibilities at birth to carry on the family name and the culture.
“My vocation journey would have been impossible some years ago in Igbo land and cultures,” said Father Dim. “My father would have been ridiculed and termed a failure to the community for allowing this to happen. Thanks to God that it is not the same today.”
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