St. Francis Getting New Priest

By LORETTA FULTON

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church is losing its priest effective April 25.

Rev. Isidore Ochiabuto has served St. Francis since July 1, 2017. His new assignment, announced by Bishop Michael Sis, will be as a full-time chaplain at the federal prison in Tucson, Arizona.

The new priest at St. Francis will be Rev. Innocent Eziefule, current pastor of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Parish in Junction and Sacred Heart Parish in Menard. 

Rev. Isidore Ochiabuto

Ochiabuto is one of five priests in Abilene churches. All were born in countries other than the United States, bringing diversity to the city and to the Diocese of San Angelo. 

The Catholic priests in Abilene are:

  • Very Rev. Santiago Udayar, India, serving Holy Family since July 1, 2021
  • Rev. Albert Ezeanya, Nigeria, serving Sacred Heart since July 1, 2019
  • Rev. Isidore Ochiabuto, Nigeria, serving St. Francis of Assisi, since July 1, 2017
  • Rev. Emilio Sosa, Mexico, serving St. Vincent Pallotti since July 1, 2019
  • Rev. Bhaskar Morugudi, India, serving Our Lady of Grace Catholic Community at Dyess AFB. 

Rev. Ochiabuto has been here the longest, serving since July 2017. He arrived in the United States, and in the diocese, in 2007 and began his ministry at Big Lake. Since then, he has made a number of stops in the diocese, serving congregations in Odessa, Fort Stockton, Garden City, and now Abilene. When Ochiabuto arrived in the diocese, he immediately noticed something different.

“I spoke very good English before my arrival,” he said, “but my accent was different because I learned English with a British accent.”

English spoken with a British accent may sound like a foreign language to West Texans, but Ochiabuto and the other priests have managed to fit in and have found a welcoming environment here. Abilene is home to an office of the International Rescue Committee and, since 2004, hundreds of refugees have been resettled here. Many attend Catholic churches in town. 

Priests from other cultures bring a variety of gifts to local congregations. For Ochiabuto, that meant bringing joyous ways of celebrating the liturgy of the church from his native culture and introducing them locally. 

Loretta Fulton is editor of Spirit of Abilene 

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