Fr. Maurice Emelu, a Nigerian priest who has made a name for himself as a television host-producer with EWTN. Photo courtesy of EWTN

Charismatic gift takes Nigerian priest to airwaves of North America

By  Maria Dalgarno, Catholic Register Special
  • October 4, 2014

Growing up in Nigeria, Fr. Maurice Emelu never imagined his calling would take him around the world and eventually put him in front of TV cameras that reach up to 230 million homes in 144 nations.

As a young priest he saw ahead of him a life of service in his local diocese.

“I was warming up for a massive, joyful evangelization outreach… with a keen interest in the pastoral care of the sick, the needy and the dying,” said Emelu.

But Emelu’s charismatic gift of communicating the faith caught the attention of his bishop, and soon, despite reservations, the young priest was off doing graduate studies in communications in the United States.

It was hard “to submit to my local ordinary for media ministry when I thought my natural propensity was to preach and pray for people in the parish,” he said. “But the Church is the real prophet…”

His studies led him to internships at a California TV station and at EWTN in Alabama. EWTN, the world’s largest religious media network, then offered him a job as a television host-producer. It was there that he realized the “power of Catholic media.” He offered a message of hope to watchers and listeners, and they shared with him stories of suffering and healing. He knew then that he was in the right place at the right time doing what God wanted.

Today he is making an evangelical mark both on and off screen as a popular media personality and event speaker. The first African host and producer for EWTN, Emelu has produced two television series. He followed up the success of The Faith with Father Maurice with his current series, Word For A Wounded World. The latter comprises 24 episodes shot at five locations in Nigeria and Cameroon that are doing much to inspire the spiritually wounded in Africa and the West.

When not in front of the camera, Emelu is a missionary in the Diocese of Fresno and is sought after globally as an inspirational retreat speaker. He will be preaching in Mississauga, Ont., Oct. 24-26 at a retreat presented by the Toronto-based lay Catholic movement Gethsemane Ministries, founded by Suresh Dominic.

Emelu has been drawn to a ministry of healing most of his life. He attributes that to his mother.

“My late mother Grace — I called her Gratia — was my icon,” he said.

She suffered a stroke at a young age and was bed-ridden for many years until her death. From her sickbed his mother was his best tutor, Emelu said.

“Her suffering opened my eyes to the reality of sufferings, pains and sickness, and ever since this has impacted my priestly life in a great measure,” he said.

Emelu’s arrival in the United States was not easy for the young priest. He had many moments of culture shock, not the least being the road rage and anger he witnessed among “people who are in a constant rush…”

But he found North Americans very welcoming and encouraging at whatever parish he was assigned. As in Nigeria, they were searching for answers for their wounds.

He produced Word For A Wounded World because he felt a great pastoral need in Africa and in the West. The series relates everyday African events to a quest for reconciliation and healing of the emotional, spiritual, moral and psychological wounds afflicting society. It recalls Emelu’s experience growing up in Nigeria and lessons he’s learned in his adopted home in America, drawing on both to examine incisively the modern problems of both cultures. He critiques these issues based on the Gospel and urges a return to Christian virtues.

For information about the Gethsemane Ministries’ retreat featuring Emelu visit www.prayer-group.ca.

(Dalgarno is a freelance writer.) 

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