Father Eyinla ‘called to love and serve’ wherever he goes

MOUNT PLEASANT—Father Patrick Eyinla is living proof of how important strong role models can be.

As a child growing up in Nigeria, he was steeped in faith, led by his mother and father, who was a leader in the family’s parish. His parents raised their nine children to be strong, devout Catholics, but it was a member of the clergy who prompted him to begin thinking about his own vocation while still a child.

“His name was Father Joseph and he served as our pastor for a long time,” Father Eyinla said. “He was a wonderful pastor. I would watch what he did all the time.”

“I remember traveling with him in a truck he had to help out in far locations of the parish,” Father Eyinla continued. “I would watch what he did and that was the beginning of my vocation. A vocation does not grow without priests who talk about it, who live it, who mentor young men like I was.”

Father Joseph’s example bore strong fruit. Father Eyinla admits he put aside the idea of being a priest for many years, intending instead to become a lawyer. The call of God won out, however, and on Aug. 22, 1992, he was ordained for the Diocese of Ondo in Nigeria.

“When I was in school I used to write my name on the back of my notebooks followed by the title ‘advocate’, which is what we called lawyers,” the priest said. “However, when I finished school, I realized I didn’t want to follow that career. Instead, I wanted to be an advocate for Jesus!”

Today, Father Eyinla still has that same enthusiasm for his ministry as he celebrates his 25th anniversary.

The vocation sparked by the example of Father Joseph has led him far from his home country. He had visited the United States frequently because one of his younger brothers became a U.S. citizen in 1998, and often the priest spent his summers serving in areas with a shortage of pastors. He first visited South Carolina in 2012 at the invitation of Dominican Father Samuel Oleyede, another Nigerian priest who used to work in the Diocese of Charleston. Father Eyinla then decided to come for an extended time in 2014 at the invitation of  Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone.

Since 2015, Father Eyinla has worked in the Diocese of Charleston as parochial vicar at St. Michael Church in Murrells Inlet, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and St. Mary of the Annunciation Church in Charleston, and Christ Our King Church in Mount Pleasant, his current assignment.

Father Eyinla brings a wide variety of knowledge to his ministry. He graduated from Ondo State College and studied for the priesthood at the Seminary of Sts. Peter and Paul, located in Ibadan, in the Oyo State in southwestern Nigeria. He also received degrees in law and social justice and the politics of development from the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. In 2010, he received a masters in applied spirituality from the Miltown Institute of Theology in Dublin, Ireland.

He has served many roles during his years with the Diocese of Ondo, including assistant pastor and pastor at several diocesan parishes, diocesan secretary, and leader of the offices of Justice and Peace and Church and Society. From 2005-2007, he was also director of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, and from 2008-10, he was a visiting priest in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

He is enjoying his time in South Carolina and has high praise for the weather, the scenery and the people he meets. His only dislike?

“Here you have too much of pollen!” he said with a laugh, “We really don’t have that in Nigeria “

Father Eyinla said he enjoys the variety of parishes he has served in the diocese so far. He recalls the challenges of ministering to large crowds at St. Michael in Murrells Inlet, and speaks reverently of “the aura, the great history and the awesome, solemn Masses” at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

At Christ Our King, he said he constantly encounters “the most receptive, loving people”  and especially enjoys assisting with the prison ministry program.

Father Eyinla said a deep devotion to the Eucharist is what fuels him. Besides celebrating Mass, he spends one hour a day in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

And even though 25 years has passed since he was ordained, Father Eyinla said it seems like yesterday. Whether he stays in South Carolina or returns to Nigeria, he sums up his priesthood in a few sentences:

“I am called to love and to serve,” he said. “I feel privileged to serve God’s people and to love them.”

Miscellany/Doug Deas: Father Patrick Eyinla, who celebrates 25 years as a priest, prepares to give the sacrament of the anointing of the sick to Rosemary and Jack Cantey of Mount Pleasant.