Fr Francis Okoro has been appointed priest-in-charge of the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (OLMC), Sandyhill Road, in Banff. Fr Francis arrived in Aberdeen diocese in 2016 and since then he has served in different parishes before he was assigned to OLMC on May 4th 2018, following the absence of a resident priest for three years.
RC Bishop of Aberdeen Hugh Gilbert OSB said: “In the 19th century many heroic Europeans, Scots included, gave their lives bringing Christianity to Africa. In the 21st century, here in the diocese of Aberdeen, we are now benefiting from their sacrifices and are blessed with the presence of many energetic, faith-filled and warm-hearted African ‘missionaries’ working for us. Fr Francis Okoro is one such. As the Bishop of Aberdeen I wish him well in his ministry in Banff.”
Father Francis became a Catholic Priest of Okigwe diocese, Imo State, Nigeria, having been ordained in September, 1999. He served in different parishes in Nigeria, and in a couple of Parishes in England for 12 years before he left for further studies in Ireland during 2012/15 and served in many parishes there.
He maintains a close interest in subjects he read at Dublin City University where he completed an MA in both Leadership and Pastoral Care, and in Management for Community and Voluntary Services, at All Hallows College.
Father Francis said “It is a joy to find myself as a full time priest in residence at Banff and for the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, having already been in post on a temporary basis in nearby Fraserburgh. I have grown to love the people and the distinctive communities of the region, including people like myself, who have made this area their home having come from various parts of the world.
“OLMC has an open door and an open heart, to all. We all have a hidden seed within us and my ambition is to cultivate that, so that it blossoms to give witness to the glory of God in Banff and the surrounding towns and villages where our parishioners may live. We are in the process of organising a Pastoral Parish Council and I am keen to embrace and enthuse anyone in our church community who wishes to play a part in rebuilding this church, following many years without a full time priest in residence. I pay enormous tribute to all those who have kept the church going in recent times and am pleased to now celebrate mass every day (9.30am weekdays and Sunday, 6.00pm Saturdays). The church relies on volunteers and I am here to love, listen and nurture whatever they can do to be part of our family.
Aberdeen Diocesan Communications Director and parishioner, local Councillor Dr Glen Reynolds said: “This is wonderful news for the church community in Banff and nearby communities including Aberchirder and Turriff. Fr Francis is a real grass roots community-driven priest who will be a welcoming voice to all who walk through the door. The Holy Spirit has brought him to us and it is now up to us, to respond. As a secular Franciscan, it would be remiss of me not to hope and pray that Fr Francis will rebuild the church in Banff, following in the footsteps of Saint Francis whose life was transformed when told to do the same in Assisi.”
The church is located at Sandyhill Road, Banff and the office telephone number is 01261-815405, with an online presence: Facebook – Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Banff-Parishioners; website: https://catholicbanff.weebly.com