MADISON -- After 15 years of living in the United States, Fr. Paul Ugo Arinze is now a citizen of this country.
The priest of the Diocese of Madison took the Oath of Allegiance on February 18 at the Federal Courthouse in Milwaukee.
||Fr. Paul Ugo Arinze proudly shows his certificate of citizenship. (Contributed photo)
Msgr. James Bartylla, vicar general, expressed congratulations from the diocese, “The Diocese of Madison is thrilled that Fr. Paul Arinze has become a citizen of the United States of America. Since his arrival in 1995, he’s been a faithful seminarian and priest serving the people of God of our diocese.
“The journey to citizenship took 15 years, and we’re very appreciative of Father Arinze’s perseverance in achieving this great distinction,” said Monsignor Bartylla. “The honor and stability of being a U.S. citizen gives Father Arinze and his excellent priestly ministry an added perspective on Catholic life in America.”
Native of Nigeria
A native of Nigeria, Father Arinze applied to become a seminarian for the Diocese of Madison in 1995. He studied at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois and was ordained to the priesthood in the year 1999.
Father Arinze has served as a parochial vicar and pastor in several parishes of the diocese, most recently as pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Dodgeville.
He was recently appointed diocesan vocation director with residence at St. Dennis Parish in Madison.
Happy to be a citizen
He is clearly happy to be a U.S. citizen. “The diocese has been my home since 1995, so it’s good that my home is now my country,” he said.
“I felt that I have a flavor of what it means to be an American. It’s good to know that I’m an American now and can proudly say so.”
Father Arinze explained the citizenship process. “After five years of permanent residency, you are eligible to apply for citizenship,” he said.
Prospective citizens have to be of “good moral character,” noted Father Arinze. They have to pass oral and written English tests. This was easy for Father Arinze, because he was already fluent in English when he arrived in the diocese 15 years ago.
He also had to demonstrate a good knowledge of American history and government. He had to be prepared to answer questions chosen from among 100 possible topics. He passed that test easily, too, on January 5 in Milwaukee.
The tests are administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service operated under the Department of Homeland Security. The district office for Wisconsin is in Milwaukee.
Oath of Allegiance
On February 18, Father Arinze completed the appropriate paperwork and took the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony at the Federal Courthouse in Milwaukee. There were 73 people in his group representing 43 different countries.
In the oath, Father Arinze promised to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
The judge administering the oath gave a 40-minute talk to the new citizens about the constitution, their rights and duties as citizens, and what makes America special.
“He also talked about his own family background,” said Father Arinze. “His grandparents had come from Hungary.”
Rights as a citizen
As a citizen, Father Arinze said he will now have the full protection of the Constitution of our country.
He is especially pleased to be able to vote in federal elections. As a citizen, he could also run for federal offices (except for president) and serve on a jury. He can now travel as an American citizen with an American passport.
At a party on February 19, employees of offices at the Bishop O’Connor Center congratulated Father Arinze on his citizenship.
The priest couldn’t seem to stop smiling as he described his journey to becoming a citizen. His enthusiasm reminded those present not to take their own citizenship for granted.