Father Linus Umoren has only been on the job since Aug. 16, but he can already tell he will enjoy serving as pastor at Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Waterloo.
“This parish has good structure,” Umoren said. “That is a very beautiful thing about here.”
Umoren is replacing Father Osang Idagbo, who is taking over Umoren’s previous parishes in Dupo and Cahokia.
Prior to coming to this area in 2014, Umoren worked in several administrative roles after he joined The Vincentians, a religious order of priests and brothers, in 1988 and took his first vows in 1989.
He has served as director of multiple seminary formation levels in his native country of Nigeria, coordinator of international Vincentian students and provincial director of vocation in Rome.
Umoren, who has a master’s in clinical psychology and psychotherapy in addition to his religious degrees, also briefly served as an associate pastor in Buffalo, N.Y.
“Over the years, I have not actually worked for a long time in parishes,” the 51-year-old noted.
After so many years in administration, Umoren’s superiors wanted him to get more pastoral experience, so they sent him to lead Holy Family Catholic Church in Cahokia and Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Dupo.
Umoren said that experience has helped him as a priest by making him consider life from new perspectives.
“It has brought me in touch and connected me to people,” he explained. “Seminary is so structured a place, but when you work with lay people in the church with different perspectives of life and their own life stories and realities, this challenges you more and makes you a better person and understand life better.”
After the bishop asked him to move to Waterloo, Umoren thoughtfully considered the move before accepting it.
“It was a struggle for me, at first,” he recalled. “Having been in Cahokia, I got used to the place and the people. It became a home.”
He is now making Waterloo his new home with the help of the volunteers at the parish, who Umoren jokes are “the West Wing of the White House”’ because of all their expertise.
At his new church, Umoren said his two main goals are to be involved at Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School and bring some of himself to the parish.
“I take education very seriously, and I value education and schooling very highly,” he said. “I love that there is the school here. I love to go to the classes and interact with the kids. Because of COVID restrictions I haven’t been able to do that as much as I want, but when things get better I plan to visit them more.”
As far as his personal contributions to the parish, Umoren gave wanting to have music during Mass as an example of a way he hopes to make an impact.
“I’m very joyful, and I tend to celebrate my Mass with joy. I’m looking forward to bringing that joy to the people,” he said.
But Umoren said he will not be quick to make changes, noting this is a larger and more demanding parish than he has worked at before.
“What I want to do first is to be open,” he said. “I’m not going to rush into anything. I’m going to listen.”
“I’m here to serve,” Umoren continued. “I’m the priest. So, however people would like me to serve, the better.”