Nigerian Priest Recalls Journey to Priesthood after Converting from Islam to Catholicism

Fr. Idris Moses Gwanube, ordained to the Priesthood on February 25 after he converted from Islam to Catholicism. Credit: Fr. Idris Moses Gwanube

A Catholic Priest recently ordained in Nigeria’s Jalingo Diocese has, in an interview with ACI Africa, recalled his journey to the Priesthood after he converted from Islam to Catholicism.

In the Monday, March 14 interview, Fr. Idris Moses Gwanube said his journey to the Priesthood was characterized by challenges, including threats to end his life.

“My vocation journey began in December 2004. At the age of fourteen, I was hawking bread and I went to sell bread to children in Sunday school. That day, I made good sales; as a result, the Church became a business center for me,” Fr. Idris recalled his teenage years in a predominantly Muslim area.

He continued, “The Catholic Church was and is still far from our house, so when the decision to become a Christian came, though accidental, I was happy because my parents wouldn't find out because the Church was far from my home. And my family never got to know on time until I was already deep into the faith and a catechumen before they discovered it.”

“Two of my half-sisters are Christians but not Catholics for they got married to Christians,” Fr. Idris said, and added in reference to his half-sisters, “They too never found it funny, but it was easier for them because they are female. I am coming from a culture where women seem not to have a religion of their own. As such her husband's religion becomes hers,” the Nigerian Priest told ACI Africa.


He added, “Mine was more severe because I am the only son of my father that got converted.”

Credit: Fr. Idris Moses Gwanube

Born into a staunch Muslim family in Mararraba in Taraba State in Northeast Nigeria, the convert to Catholicism recalled life-threatening experience saying, “When my family realized I was going to Church, each time I went to Church I was always beaten up by my older brothers.”

“I lost all my friends. At some point I was starved by my mum,” Fr. Idris recalled, and added, “I remembered being locked up in a room because I was going for Catholic Charismatic program, but through the help of God, I escaped through the window to the Parish house.”

He continued, “After one of our neighbors sought permission to take me to a juvenile prison. It came to a point when on that unforgettable night under the rain, my dad asked me to leave his house.”

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“I went to my baptismal sponsor's place in person of Mr. Anthony Ishaya. My sponsor in baptism was also threatened with a court warrant. It was at that point that my then Parish Priest, Fr Kieran Danfulani, stepped in,” Fr. Idris said.

He recalled Fr. Danfulani facilitating his departure from his hometown and enrolling into Sacred Heart Minor Seminary in Jalingo where he graduated in 2012.

“Shortly before my graduation in 2012, I applied to become a Catholic Priest under Jalingo Diocese,” Fr. Idris told ACI Africa, and continued, “After successful training at Bishop Timothy Cotter Memorial Seminary in Adamawa State, I moved to St. Augustine’s Major Seminary, Jos where I studied philosophy and theology.”

He was ordained a deacon on 18 July 2021, years after he had completed his yearlong pastoral experience at Bishop Patrick Sheehan Memorial College in Wukari in 2017.

Credit: Fr. Idris Moses Gwanube


Recalling his years as a Seminarian, Fr. Idris said, “I had a good relationship with both my formators and fellow students.”

“While in the seminary I was made the choir master,” he further recalled.

The Nigerian Catholic Priest went on to recount some challenges he faced as a Seminarian, saying, “There were moments that I packed my things to leave but God used some of my mates and friends like Samuel Fidelis Odidi and others, the spiritual directors, the present Rector, Rev. Fr. Mark Nzukwein and the Vice Rector, Rev Fr. Timothy Barga to speak to me and give me reasons to stay back and discern well.”

“I faced so many crises both within and outside the system.  But since the hand of God was there, I surmounted all to my destiny (Priesthood),” he said.

In carrying out his apostolate, Fr. Idris said, “There are some times when I had to sleep in an unkempt room or be rejected by some local churches in the country side, treating malaria as a result of mosquito bites, and eating some foods (that) are not good for my system.”

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On February 25, Bishop Charles Michael Hammawa ordained him a Priest alongside five others at Our Lady Queen of Peace Cathedral of Jalingo Diocese. 

“I was happy that my parents attended my ordination. It shows all my sacrifices did not go in vain,” the Nigerian Priest who has been assigned to minister as Assistant Parish Priest at Holy Family Takum Catholic Parish of Jalingo Diocese told ACI Africa March 14.

Fr. Idris Moses Gwanube with his parents. Credit: Fr. Idris Moses Gwanube

“I have already reported to my mission and I am doing my best and ever ready for whatever mission or apostolate the Church will ask me to carry out,” he said.

He continued, “I am now a Catholic Priest; it gives me more joy than ever, especially now that it is more vivid seeing myself celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifices and other Liturgical functions; like conferring the Sacraments and counseling people.”

In the March 14 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Idris also reflected on Christian persecution in Africa’s most populous nation.

“Christian persecution is actually a reality in Nigeria, though not in all parts,” he said, and added, “There are some places in Nigeria where Christians cannot freely worship; for security reasons I can't mention names.”

“There are some job opportunities or positions that as a Christian you cannot be offered in some places,” Fr. Idris said, and added, “In fact, on Fridays there are some roads that people cannot pass simply because they have been converted to a place of worship. As such all have to wait till prayers are done before people can use them.”

He continued, “In some States in Nigeria, land cannot be sold to Christians to build places of worship; many Priests, Pastors have been killed, kidnapped and churches burnt down as a result of their faith.” 

“In some states in Nigeria, Christians do not stay in the same area with Muslims,” the Nigerian Priest who converted from Islam to Catholicism said.

Credit: Fr. Idris Moses Gwanube

As a way forward, the Catholic Priest recommends that Nigerians “outgrow fanaticism and be real about religious freedom just as it is obtainable in some Western world where people are allowed to practice the religion of their choice.”

“People should stop thinking or fighting for God, for He can fight for Himself if things are not right for him,” Fr. Idris cautioned, and added, “Our idea of religious freedom should be real and not book knowledge. If all these are considered, gradually we shall overcome Christian persecution in Nigeria.”

For those who want to convert to Catholicism but are afraid of persecution, Fr. Idris said, “They should be convinced about what they want and stand firm for it and be ready to give up all for it, even if it means their lives; after all Christ gave up all for us and urges us to leave everything and follow him.”

“If as young as 14, I stood my ground and never let whatever persecution or beating or threats that came my way stop me from being a Christian, which I was and is sure by faith as my way of salvation, I think anyone can,” he told ACI Africa during the March 14 interview. 

He added, “We should all be concerned about the wellbeing of humanity, for religion is a matter of faith in the Supreme.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.