The August Du Quoin Ministerial Alliance meeting will be Tuesday, Aug. 13 at 11:30 a.m. so that local pastors can extend their appreciation to Father Nick Junker, who will be leaving Sacred Heart Church Sept. 1.
"We will be saying goodbye to Father Nick Junker who is moving to a new position in Belleville and welcoming Father Joseph Oganda who is moving to Sacred Heart. All area clergy are invited to attend this lunch meeting at Alongi's Restaurant," said Donna Blythe of the Sunfield United Methodist Church.
Father Nick is returning to the Belleville Diocese to serve in a recruitment role. That announcement came immediately after the church celebrated its recent 150th anniversary.
Also of note, the September meeting of the ministerial alliance will be on the second Tuesday of the month due to the Labor Day Holiday at 9:15 a.m. on Sept. 13 at Sacred Heart. A light breakfast will be served.
The newspaper of the Belleville Diocese of the Catholic Church --The Messenger--gives Du Quoin a glimpse of the church's new priest.
The Rev. Mr. Joseph Oganda: A quiet, thoughtful man, he was born and raised in Nairobi, the capitol city of Kenya in East Africa. While he never imagined he would come to the United States to minister as a priest, he sees "the hand of God" in his journey to the Diocese of Belleville.
One of 14 children, seven of his siblings died before their first birthday. Recently, two more of his brothers died, so now he is one of five boys. Both parents also died — his father in 1995 and his mother in 2001.
At an early age, young Joseph was attracted to a religious community that had a house of formation near his home parish in Nairobi. Joseph decided to join this community of Quebec Missionaries because "I was interested in the missionaries and how involved they were in evangelization and reaching out to the poor."
It was during this time that he began working with the poor in the Kibera slums, "the worst slum in Africa," he said.
He visited the poor and the sick, many of whom suffered with HIV/AIDS. About 30 percent of Kenyans are afflicted with HIV/AIDS, he added.
As he studied, Deacon Oganda realized he did not want to join a religious community, but he was still drawn to missionary work. He continued to meet with his spiritual advisor, a Jesuit priest, and through his discussions, he decided to leave the religious order and continue to pray and reflect on what God had in store for him.
While his prayer and reflection lasted almost four years, he continued working with the poor and marginalized even after he left the religious community. During this time, he realized a need for a school for the young people whose families had been ravaged by HIV/AIDS, leaving many to fend for themselves as orphans.
The result, working with others, was the opening of a high school, St. Joseph's, which is now being run by the Jesuits.
"In the long run I have to come to hold those experiences so dear to me," Deacon Oganda said. "They have been a real strength for me."
In May 2007, a friend in Chicago, also in the seminary, contacted Deacon Oganda after attending the ordination of Father Steven Beatty in the Diocese of Belleville. After discussions and conversations about his future, Deacon Oganda decided to come to the diocese to finish his studies and become a priest.
Staying in Herrin for his pastoral year, Deacon Oganda has come to know and love the people of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and its pastor, Msgr. Ken Schaefer. "The people have a love of their church; they love their school so much; and the parish is a central place for them to gather," he said.
Msgr. Schaefer has a genuine love of the people at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, he said, and "he was so welcoming" as were the people of the parish. Deacon Oganda has also enjoyed the size of the community. Growing up and living in the capitol city of Nairobi, "it was so hectic and noisy," and Herrin has afforded him the opportunity to reflect and pray about his upcoming ordination in a much quieter atmosphere.
Staying close to his family has been made much easier with the internet. He writes emails to his family in the evening, and the next day he can receive a reply.
Deacon Oganda has seen the journey to the diocese as one of moving closer to God, whom he said has been his constant companion, "always traveling with me."