“It is fair to say that a Catholic priest in Nigeria is an endangered species now.”
Father Raymond Tyohemba
Father Raymond Tyohemba didn’t dream of living in America. As he sees it, God brought him here. He was appointed administrator of St. Finn Barr Parish in San Francisco in 2021.
Born in the Diocese of Makurdi in central Nigeria and ordained in the Via Christi Society, Father Raymond was pastor of its oldest church when Islamic terrorists violently attacked the community for a second time in 2016.
“I remember one day waking up to the sound of automatic rifles,” he said. “I would say that I saw death come for me.”
Stories of Christian persecution by Islamic forces are too numerous to count, underreported by the media and ignored by the global community, said Father Raymond.
Father Raymond came to San Francisco in 2018 when his community sent him to study Catholic educational leadership at the University of San Francisco. He helped celebrate Mass several days a week at St. Finn Barr while completing studies.
“What we are seeing in Nigeria now has never been seen,” he said of the violence against Christians. It’s a battle for resources in the fertile grazing lands of central Nigeria, as much as for religious domination. The intention is to cause terror and displace Christian people in order to take away their land.
On Pentecost Sunday this year, 50 people were gunned down in a Catholic church. In 2018, two Via Christi priests were shot dead in their vestments near the altar as they were celebrating Mass.
“It is fair to say that a Catholic priest in Nigeria is an endangered species now,” said Father Raymond. “Islamic terrorists understand that if they do away with the shepherd, the sheep may not stay.”
In addition to his parish responsibilities, he now serves as a chaplain at UCSF Mission Bay. “Dealing with my own traumas has greatly helped me support others with theirs,” he said.
The above comes from the Sept. 20 Immigrant Journeys story on the site of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.