If you have ever been to a funeral led by Father Kevin Njoku, you have experienced his warm spirit, candid humour and depth of humanity.
His love for the people of Beaudesert, where he has been parish priest since 2017, shows as much in the way he values having a beer with mates as it does in his heartfelt sermons.
In local sporting circles, Father Kevin is affectionately known as ‘Kev’.
He trains and plays every week with Beaudesert Soccer Club and Beaudesert Tennis Club, conveniently located either side of St Mary’s where he lives and works.
“I love the opportunity to run around with mates and afterwards we share a beer together, tell stories and it gives me that sense of belonging,” he said.
“I’ve always felt welcome and free, there is no segregation and they’ve never seen me as just a priest, but a good number have come to church, bringing their children for baptisms through that connection.
“The day I was installed as a parish priest here, the tennis and soccer club members put on their uniforms and came along – it meant so much to me and I’ll never forget that day.”
When Fr Kevin arrived in Australia in 2015, it felt like travelling to the edge of the earth.
His mother Beatrice, his biggest influence growing up as the youngest of four siblings in Umuahia, Nigeria, encouraged him to follow his calling.
He came here as an ordained priest with degrees in philosophy, theology and economics.
When his mum died just three months after his arrival to work at a church in Capalaba, he experienced the support of the Australian people, who made it possible for him to travel back for the funeral despite being only a few months into the job.
There are thousands of parishioners across the nine churches Fr Kevin is responsible for.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they all attend church.
“We have more than 6000 parishioners, but the thing is people keep to their faith but they’re not quite active,” said Fr Kevin.
“A good number still connect with the church for birth, weddings and death. When someone dies, people come back to faith – that’s what keeps us connected.”
Connecting with people from a different culture to your own in tight knit country communities can be tough, but Fr Kevin believes in the power of humanity.
He leads churches at Beaudesert, Palen Creek, Rathdowney, Christmas Creek, Kerry, Canungra, Tamborine, Tamborine Mountain and O’Reilly’s, trying to visit each one monthly.
“There is God in every human being – whatever you do for another person, you have done for God. If someone is kind to you, God is being kind to you,” he said.
“So, it doesn’t really matter if people are going to church or not. What matters is people being kind.”