McHenry Parish Celebrates Two Anniversaries in One
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
May 25, 2023
MCHENRY—St. Patrick Parish, here, celebrated two important anniversaries at Masses the weekend of May 20-21, each followed by a reception.
“It’s been a good ride,” Father Godwin Asuquo, pastor, says of his 20th anniversary as a priest.
He has served at St. Joseph in Aurora, at the Newman Center in DeKalb, at St. Mary Parish in Maple Park and now in McHenry since 2011.
“There’s a lot happening here (at St. Patrick Parish),” he says, noting his parish’s 41 ministries, active St. Vincent de Paul Society, “one of the strongest” Knights of Columbus councils anywhere, and a strong small Christian community that meets at a restaurant each week welcoming questions about the faith.
“Over the years we’ve been able to unite and have a common front,” Father Asuquo says. “We’re getting younger families … a lot of family devotions … daily confessions before Mass … Younger families see what is good here ….”
And, he adds happily, “St. Patrick has been debt-free for almost 12 years … and is now financially strong.”
The second anniversary celebrated is something that contributes to the upbuilding of the parish community.
ImaBridge Africa (IBA) began 15 years ago in 2008 when Father Asuquo was at the Newman Center/Christ the Teacher University Parish in DeKalb. Responding to a request from a student for an authentic African meal, the priest cooked a Nigerian dish for parishioners. It generated funds and led to having five people travel with the priest to Nigeria to distribute about $6,000 in donations for scholarships for 32 university students there. The ministry developed from there.
Primarily focused on health needs, IBA has held annual medical missions that outgrew its first small clinic. The medical missions, along with donations of an ambulance and ultrasound to one hospital and other donations of medical equipment and assistive devices for handicapped individuals, eventually grew to IBA’s largest project so far: a new, 50-bed hospital that was dedicated in December 2021.
The IBA ministry also has assisted education in Nigeria, sponsoring some 400 university students to date, along with providing donations of pews, desks, and uniforms. Hopes are to start a boarding school, Father Asuquo says.
Additionally, ImaBridge Africa has built 11 wells, with each providing water for some 6,000 people who used to travel to a lake for water, and IBA also has built a palm press to process food and hire women in the villages.
As important as all of that is, Father Asuquo is passionately focused on building relationships and unity between the parish and the Nigerian people.
He says he sees a theme of “Parish unity in faith, hope and love (found in) the Eucharist as a prelude to reach out to our brothers and sisters in God’s love that has no boundaries.”
“God keeps calling us to open ourselves to charity,” says long-time parishioner Cecilia Adams,  music director at St. Patrick’s and current board president of ImaBridge Africa.
“Father (Asuquo) is always encouraging prayer” for the parish and IBA, she says, noting also the “one thing that has really been big with the hospital has been the awareness” among the Nigerian people that encourages them as they try to help themselves overcome challenges.
“It’s both ways,” Adams says. “We want to help (and) they see we care and we’re in this together.”
The double anniversary looks back, but also forward in faithful unity and love.
Father Asuquo notes that some people have attended 15 trips to Nigeria through ImaBridge. “They build friendships (with the people) and say, ‘I receive more … from them’ than they gave.”
“I think,” he adds, “the idea of ImaBridge is simply to connect our world … We come to the recognition that the basic unit of the human heart is the same everywhere. 
“We need (this) ‘Bridge of Love’ to see how we are connected.”
St. Patrick Parish, he adds, “is the one place I’ve been the longest my entire life.” His time in high school and college were both away from home, he says. “I am an honorary citizen of McHenry.”
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