On September 8, 2022, Mustard Seed Communities celebrated the ordination of Fr. Ernest Chikwata at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Kingston, Jamaica. The Mass was celebrated by the Most Reverend Kenneth Richards, Archbishop of Kingston, and the Most Reverend Donald Reeves, Archbishop Emeritus of Kingston. Family and friends of Fr. Ernest joined in the occasion alongside MSC residents, caregivers, mission volunteers, and staff. Viewers from around the globe, particularly from Zimbabwe and the United States, prayed virtually over a livestream. It was a momentous celebration of the faith and spirituality present among members of the Mustard Seed community.
Fr. Ernest is the first priest to complete his discernment process in the St. Andrew’s House of Formation located at Jacob’s Ladder, MSC’s apostolate in Moneague, Jamaica. The formation house opened in May 2019 and has since hosted seminarians and novices. It stands as part of MSC’s mission to establish a Canonical body called the Mustard Seed Missionaries, a Society of Apostolic Life which will guide and promote the spirituality at the heart of the organization’s mission. Fr. Ernest is the second priest to be ordained in this body, joining Fr. Philp Omondi.
As a native of Zimbabwe, Fr. Ernest became involved in MSC Zimbabwe as a youth choir member and a volunteer for the nutrition program. He remained with MSC throughout his journey to the priesthood, and reflects on those years of discernment:
“11 years ago, while playing with the residents at Mustard Seed Zimbabwe, one of the Brothers approached me and asked me if l desired becoming a priest and my answer to him was NO. A few weeks later he asked me to come and stay with the brothers for a few days just so l could experience their way of life. While in the brothers’ house, l got to spend more time with the residents and that was the beginning of my priesthood journey, even though l was not 100% sure if it was my calling. Through prayer, inspiration from the just-ordained Fr. Garvin, and guidance from my Spiritual Director, l decided to take a step forward with my vocation which was inspired by the residents.
After spending a few years in Zimbabwe l then came to Jamaica where l did my academic formation. On the 2nd of February 2022 l was ordained a deacon and served for 6 months as a deacon. The 8th of September 2022 was a day filled with mixed feelings. I was happy because my family was in Jamaica to witness my big day. At the same time, l was nervous because this was the day my decision was to be confirmed in front of the Archbishop of Kingston and the Church at large. Listening to the Archbishop reading the ordination prayer brought tears of joy in my eyes. Seeing the joy that my mother had, as she vested me, lifted off all the nervousness in me and l just felt relaxed in her arms as she hugged me after the vesting.
There are so many people who played a vital role in the years of my formation, especially my mother who prayed for me every single day. Becoming a priest was not in my plan as a child, but it was in God’s plan. For me, priesthood is about serving God and His people. My hope is to be able to help people recognize God’s grace in their lives and spread His love through works of mercy, and also to care for the most vulnerable in our society.
I am just an instrument that God is using to spread His message to His people.”