This is the third in a series of three profiles of the men to be ordained new priests for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on May 18.


Rev. Mr. Bernard Ekeagwu

“My parents taught me the faith from an early age,” says Transitional Deacon Bernard Okechukwu Ekeagwu, reflecting on his childhood in Imo State, Nigeria.  “All of my education has been Catholic.”

Ekeagwu will be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia May 18 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.

One of eight children – number five of six boys – he was born in 1993 to Sir Patrick and Lady Esther Ekeagwu of the Order of the Knights and Ladies of St. Mulumba, established in Nigeria in June 1953.

Coming from a large family, he says, “You always have people to talk with.  It helped me with my social relationships.  Talking with people is not a problem [for me].”

His mother worked as a school teacher and his father worked in business. Ekeagwu says he was cared for mostly by his older siblings.

Ekeagwu fondly remembers playing ping-pong with his five competitive brothers, while growing up. They played on a homemade ping-pong table cut from plywood.  “All of the men in my family can play ping-pong very well,” he said.

He attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel Nursery and Primary School in Lagos, Assumpta Minor Seminary in Naze for junior high school, and Saint Peter Claver Minor Seminary in Okpala for senior high school. It was at Saint Peter Claver that he first learned the game of tennis.

From his many years of playing ping-pong with his competitive brothers,  Ekeagwu found that the tennis racket felt very comfortable in his hand. He eventually won the gold medal in doubles in a tennis tournament.

Ekeagwu went on to study philosophy in a Nigerian College Seminary, Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary in Ulakwo, and played in a Nigerian National Tennis competition, winning the bronze medal for both singles and doubles.

He spent a pastoral year after college before embarking on further studies in theology. Ekeagwu then planned to come to the United States for the next phase of his life. A friend recommended Villanova University, where Ekeagwu continued his studies in 2018.

During his year at Villanova, Ekeagwu started attending Saint Colman Catholic Church in Ardmore, where he “met some good people who were very kind to me,” and it became his home parish.

He also reached out to Father Stephen DeLacy – then Vocation Director at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood – and Ekeagwu expressed his interest in the priesthood.  He says Father DeLacy “was so gracious and welcoming.”

“And five years later, I’m preparing for my priestly ordination,” said Ekeagwu

At the close of their final semester each member of the Ordination Class of 2024 was “clapped out” by the Seminary’s student body, faculty, and staff on Friday, May 3. (St. Charles Borromeo Seminary)

As a transitional deacon, Ekeagwu was assigned to Mary Mother of the Redeemer Church in North Wales, where he enjoyed visiting homebound parishioners.  “I enjoyed bringing the presence of Christ, the Eucharist, to those who were not able to join us for the Sunday celebrations and Holy Days,” he said.

His favorite saints are Saint Patrick, who sent missionaries to Nigeria and is the patron saint of Nigeria, and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, his patron saint.

He says without Saint Patrick, “I may not be here, a Christian.”

Ekeagwu’s first Mass as a priest will be at his home parish, Saint Colman’s Catholic Church, on May 19 at 3:00 p.m. Father John J. Large of Saint Anselm Parish in Philadelphia will be the homilist.

On his advice for any young man who may be thinking about the priesthood, he says, “If you have this burning desire to answer the call to the priesthood, you should not let that fire be extinguished.  You should nourish that desire by talking to a vocation ow what God wants for you.”