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 published: 2007-05-16

Vocations and Joy, part 2

A Nigerian deacon in the Shrine in Milwaukee - renewing his Covenant of Love


Retiro en Waukesha, Estados Unidos

Retreat in Waukesha, USA

Exerzitien in Waukesha, USA

Foto: Rasch © 2007


Diácono Bekeh Utientiang

Diakon Beheh Utientiang

Deacon Bekeh Utietiang



Santuario del Exilio, Milwaukee

Exile Shrine, Milwaukee

Exilheiligtum, Milwaukee

Foto: Rasch © 2007


USA, Christi Jentz. A typical Wednesday evening at the Milwaukee Schoenstatt shrine begins with a rosary at 7:00 pm and Holy Mass at 7:30. Occasionally, the Blessed Mother invites someone special to participate in our small community celebration. For example, on May 9th, a young Nigerian deacon processed in with Fr Marinus, also from Nigeria. This deacon, I noted, was particularly interested in Our Lady’s Shrine, much like a child in a candy shop. It was clear that he was very happy to be there. His sermon expressed some of his overflowing emotion. He explained that he had made his Covenant of Love about nine years ago and since then had only neglected to pray it in the morning, maybe a handful of times. He remembered that on those "lost" days, his work efforts seemed hollow… how true it is that a day without Mary is like a day without a dawn! Further, he was making a retreat at the International Schoenstatt Center because he purposely wanted to spend some time with his Mother, our MTA, before being ordained as a priest on June 2, 2007.

Send forth, O Lord, laborers into your vineyard and spare your people. Eternal Word, Redeemer of all creation, convert all souls to you. You have been obedient for all, even to death on the cross. Look on the merits of your Mother and of all the angels and saints who intercede for us. ~St. Vincent Pallotti

How is it that a young Nigerian deacon "turns up" at the Milwaukee Shrine one spring night in May?

Nigeria had yet to build a Shrine in the late 1990’s. Three Schoenstatt priests, one from Germany, another from Poland and a third from Switzerland had been working the fertile mission fields in that country. Already three priestly course groups had been formed. Bekeh Ukelina Utietiang, at the suggestion of a friend from Lagos, Nigeria, sought out the Schoenstatt Fathers because he was looking for a priestly order to join. After a short period of discernment, he made a formal application to join the Schoenstatt Fathers. "What I liked most about this spirituality", he shared, "was the whole idea of being a firm, free, priestly personality and I liked its practical teachings on the spirituality of everyday life. Finally, there was this young role model- Joseph Engling. My class group took him to heart immediately because we were young ourselves (all under twenty), so we identified with his youth. We called ourselves the Joseph Engling group. Engling captured me with his ideal ‘to be all things to all men’. Through him, I was able to formulate my own ideal which is "to be always present as Mary was ".

Call to the USA

Deacon Bekeh continued his education under the guidance of the Schoenstatt Fathers. They helped him to discern that God was calling him to work as a Schoenstatt Diocesan "missionary" priest wherever that might lead him. He eventually felt an urge to work in the United States. He had heard of the faith crisis occurring there and it touched him deeply. Primarily, he had read that Catholics were leaving the Church; Mass attendance was lower than in the past and that the young people were not active. For the young people he is especially anxious. "I want to make a difference. I want to help them stay in the Church beyond confirmation. I am interested in youth ministry… and I want to bring our Mother into the parishes."

This call eventually led Bekeh to The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington D.C. There is a story about an experience he had at CUA- one that determined his placement at the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia. It was "a coincidence… no, it was providential!" he laughs. Friends at CUA had told him about the Dioceses of Wheeling – Charleston, West Virginia. They told him how it had a very small Catholic population and that many people were unchurched. He truly prayed about whether to go there. Then after fasting and making a nine day novena he called Wheeling’s vocations director, Father John Gallagher. Unfortunately, Father Gallagher was out-of-town and Bekeh was told that he would have to wait to talk with him. Disappointed because the inquiry had not been resolved, Bekeh continued routinely with his day at CUA. Only hours after the phone conversation, he recalls walking down a flight of steps where he noticed a man waiting at a building exit. Kindly, he approached the man and asked if he needed any assistance. The man told him that he was waiting for a cab to take him to the airport. Bekeh told the man that he would drive him to the airport. All proceeded normally until the man introduced himself to Bekeh as Father John Gallagher. Exactly how do you share the surprise of that moment? "I just called you this morning!" Bekeh excitedly exclaimed… and the rest, as they say, is history.

"Schoenstatt has grown though selfless service to the individual; it must continue to grow in the same way in the future." Father Joseph Kentenich


At CUA, Bekeh received a Masters Degree with concentration in "Historical and Systemic Theology" and "Religion and Culture". Bekeh's area of specialization is in African traditions. He believes that it is this generation’s challenge- to reinterpret the riches of the African culture- bringing it into the fullness of the Christian Catholic truth. Often the African traditions are not opposed but very compatible, he states. The Church in Africa is a growing faith; the western cultures can profit from its simplicity and the West in turn can share the knowledge it has accumulated from mistakes already made. You can refer to Deacon Bekeh’s website,, for more information on his studies and books he has written including his most recent, entitled Afridentity: Essays on Africa. "He gives us an insider's view of Africa and its people, and in each essay, we learn a little more about the warmth, spirituality, and sense of community of a continent too often dismissed as ‘Third World.’ But most important, he makes a strong case for the use of traditional African culture – African languages, African religious customs, and African government systems – in rebuilding an Africa that is true to itself". (Excerpt from Africa Reads Books).

Deacon Bekeh’s scheduled ordination date is June 2, 2007, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling. Congratulatory emails can be sent to Father Bekeh Utietiang via his web site address.


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