Priest learned to trust in providence

Fr. Joseph Salihu

Fr. Joseph Salihu

May 30, 2016
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

If we don't go out as witnesses of Jesus and tell stories about our experiences with him, then our faith will become extinct.

So says Father Joseph Salihu, a Nigerian priest currently serving in Spruce Grove. Salihu said God works in our lives, and "We need to be aware of what he is doing and give glory to him when he does it."

Salihu, associate pastor at Holy Trinity Parish, was the speaker at the charismatic prayer breakfast at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre May 14. Members of a prayer group at Holy Trinity accompanied him to the breakfast.

Every person has stories, but some refuse to involve the Lord in their stories. Salihu told many stories from ordinary life at the breakfast but involved God in each of them, linking each of them to a specific passage of Scripture.

The 45-year-old priest said he could give a secular interpretation to all his stories, "but I refuse to do that because in each of them I see the hand of God. I challenge you to trust in the Lord because he never fails those who trust in him."

One of eight children in Barnawa, Nigeria, Salihu entered the seminary in 1987 and was ordained a priest in 2004.

After ordination, he taught post-secondary school, served in parishes and studied in Dublin and South Africa.

In 2010, Salihu was appointed rector of a major seminary in Kaduna, Nigeria. After completing his four-year term, he decided to serve the Lord in the Edmonton Archdiocese.

He told the story of a man who was vocal about giving his life to the Lord. Every day the man told people the things God had done in his life.

The people eventually got fed up and told him these were all coincidences. "And the guy said, 'Well, call them coincidences or whatever you want to call them. All I know is that whenever I pray, coincidences happen. When I do not pray, coincidences do not happen.'"

That has become Salihu's motto. He sees the hand of God in everything, even a last-minute donation that helped him complete a half-built church hall or the 4,000 euros that arrived just in time to relocate his parents after their house was flooded.

GOD PROVIDES

"I'm a living testimony to the fact that when the Lord sends you out on a mission he doesn't leave you lacking. He provides for all your needs," Salihu said.

He related a lengthy story about travelling to a faraway convention in a car filled with young people and few provisions. He linked that account with Luke 10.3-4 where Jesus told his disciples, "Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals."

Salihu said he owes his priesthood to his dad who, like Abraham in Genesis 12.1-3, left his father's farm and went to live in the city. "Because he moved out of the village today I am what I am - a priest," he said.

Once he was sent to a little parish where the Sunday collection was tiny, but he said he was not afraid because "I knew God always provides."

Two weeks into his assignment a gentleman, whom he had not seen for a long time, came to see him. The man asked Salihu if he needed anything. "I said, 'Well, I'm in a parish now that cannot take care of me and cannot take care of itself adequately."

The man said not to worry: "At the end of every month, just tell me your needs and the needs of the parish (and I'll cover those needs)." After that, Salihu was not only able to take care of himself but "I expanded the church before leaving."

MARVELLOUS THINGS

In another parish, a rich man in town donated $60,000 to Salihu to build the parish hall. "The Lord can do marvellous things in our lives if we are open to him."

A similar thing happened when Salihu was a school principal. He needed about $29,000 to expand the school. After a lot of prayers, he got a grant for $39,000.

"One thing about you guys out here is life is so comfortable that you don't get so challenged to really depend on God," he told those at the breakfast.

"But when you are dealing with the basic necessities of life, you are challenged to trust in the Lord so completely. No wonder Jesus said, 'Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of God.'"