Catherine Okoronkwo was ordained deacon at Lichfield Cathedral on 26 June and is serving her title at All Saints’, Streetly, near Sutton Coldfield.
She puts her decision to become a priest down to a chance meeting ten years earlier with the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, at the Birmingham church where she worshipped.
“I was introduced to him, and, as I shook his hand, he just said: ‘Have you thought about ordination?’ There was no preamble, no discussion: that was it. I was ‘Oh? Gosh!’ I hadn’t really thought about it, It was just so bizarre.”
Ms Okoronkwo, who is 44, and the daughter of a Nigerian diplomat with the UN, had always thought she would take up some form of work with the church, possibly as missionary, and had attended Redcliffe Bible College in Gloucester; but she had opted for a career as a teacher. “However, I kept thinking about ministry and service to God,” she said.
“But it was not until I went to Keele University in 2013 to do a Ph.D. that I said: ‘OK, Lord, I am ready to re-engage with this whole thing about ordained ministry.’ That chance meeting with the Archbishop was a key moment in helping me to take this calling seriously.
“I think I needed to get through the teaching and have a bit of life experience first, but I think I will make a better minister for having had that experience.”