Cameroonian priest reflects on his decision to permanently make his home with the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan

When one answers the call of God, life is full of surprises.

When Fr. Eucharis Ndzefemiti was ordained a religious priest with the Society of Divine Vocations in Nigeria, he could hardly have imagined that one day he would be leaving behind his family and friends, his home country of Cameroon, and even this religious order itself, just to make way for a permanent life as a missionary in the vast, isolated, and often-bitter cold lands of northern Canada.

On his trip home to Cameroon last year, Fr. Eucharius had fully confirmed his decision to seek incardination as a permanent diocesan priest with the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan. As that vacation came to its end, it was a bittersweet moment for Fr. Eucharius – to leave behind his family there who he cherishes so deeply, and return to his new Canadian “family” as a pastor and rector of the cathedral in McLennan.

“At the airport, a lot of my family – especially some of my nieces – started crying. They were saying, ‘Oh we will not see you anymore,’” Fr. Eucharius recalled.

“I too was sad when I left them. As I got on the plane, the reality started to sink in and it shocked me: I’m alone. It was not easy to walk away. But after some time, we all come to accept the reality.”

Fr. Eucharius preaching at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in McLennan.

Back in Canada, in the small town of McLennan where he oversees a grand cathedral and a four-story rectory all to himself, Fr. Eucharius’s life has certainly taken some unexpected turns.

Over the past three years, the priest discerned and finally was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan as a diocesan priest. In January, he received his Permanent Residence from the Canadian government.

This milestone has been one more reminder for Fr. Eucharius that his priesthood is an always ongoing mission, and only by trusting in God can he ever be assured of where this mission will take him.

“When I was ordained, I thought I had arrived. But that was just the beginning of my mission,” the priest reflected. “My spiritual director would always say ‘Go to God. He will guide you. He will direct you.’ And I give glory to God. He has always led me to the right path.”

Fr. Eucharius arrived in the archdiocese in November of 2016, marking his first assignment serving abroad as a missionary priest for the Society of Divine Vocations, also known as the Vocationists. By January 2017, he was assigned as the rector of the St. John the Baptist Cathedral in McLennan, where he has remained since. He was one of three Vocationists who came to serve the archdiocese around this time.

Fr. Eucharius hopes to play a prominent role in advocating for youth ministry in the archdiocese, especially through Camp St. Martin.

Some priests may have been intimidated not only by an immediate assignment as rector of the archdiocese’s cathedral, but also by his new living quarters. He made his home at the former chancery building that neighbours the cathedral, with its many bedrooms, bathrooms, archives, library, conference rooms and offices, that was now a rectory for just this one priest.

However, it was not long before Fr. Eucharius felt at home amongst the people he served. Serving Mass in McLennan and Guy, he grew close to his parishioners and cherished more and more the time he spent ministering to them.

By 2020, the Cameroonian priest started to have thoughts about the possibility of staying in the archdiocese permanently. As these thoughts stirred within him, he began to re-think his mission as a pastor.

“I started realizing that I have a special mission with the people of God here,” he said. “Our mission is all about the salvation of souls. And if you don’t save your own soul, you won’t be able to save others. And before you can extend the joy and peace of God to others, you must first have that joy yourself.

“When I came to the archdiocese, I started experiencing a deeper and deeper joy and peace.”

This is only an excerpt. Read the full story in the May 2024 edition of Northern Light