By Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – Father Clement Olukunle Oyafemi (a.k.a. Clemente de Dios) joined the chancery office as the Coordinator of Intercultural Ministry for the Department of Faith Formation on Oct. 19.
The Office of Intercultural Ministry is tasked with the primary goal of “cultivating the empowerment of Black Catholic, Hispanic, Vietnamese, Native American and other culture communities throughout the diocese.”
Last year, Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Fran Lavelle, director of faith formation, saw a growing need to combine the mission of the Hispanic and Black Catholic ministries to better serve the needs of emerging cultural communities in the diocese. This vision connected to the past with Sister Thea Bowman.
In 1978, Sister Thea was appointed by Bishop Joseph Brunini to direct the Office of Intercultural Affairs for the diocese to sow the seeds of promoting cultural awareness and sensitivity. Sister Thea’s example of mission and life showed Catholics in Mississippi and nationwide how “to embrace our common faith while celebrating our diverse cultural heritages.”
Father Clem’s background fit the vision to continue Sister Thea’s mission. His goal during his mission to the Diocese of Jackson is to collaborate and engage with God’s people in an ongoing effort to see each other as members of the same family of God. “He truly sees the work of this new role as a calling,” says Lavelle.
Father Clem was born and raised in Southwest Nigeria, into an ecumenical family, and is one of six living children. Ordained in 1994, Father Clem is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Osogbo. He served in the chancery office and parishes for 18 years before he was called to a full-time hospital ministry in 2013. He served as a staff chaplain, manager and director of pastoral care until the summer of 2019 when he returned home briefly after 18 years of missionary service in the United States.
Father Clem has studied and lived with people from various ethnic groups not only in Africa but also in England, Puerto-Rico, Mexico and the United States and it shows. His impeccable Spanish has accents, mainly Mexican with Latin American and Nigerian flavors. Father Clem enjoys singing, dancing, telling jokes, cooking, walking, playing table tennis, volleyball and soccer. He looks forward to visiting all of the parishes and meeting with the people from all across the diocese.
“Raised in a multi-ethnic, an intercultural, and interfaith environment, Father Clem is a people person who sees God in every human being regardless of race, color, ethnicity, language, age or orientation,” said Lavelle. “Father Clem is compassionate, hardworking and has a great sense of humor. He sees life as a short journey and believes that his calling is to serve and not to be served.” (Cf Matt. 20:20-28)