By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Editor | Published January 21, 2021
ATLANTA—Father John-Paul Ezeonyido, pastor of Christ our Hope Church in Lithonia, died Dec. 25 after a long illness. He was 50 years old.
On Jan. 14, Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III celebrated the funeral Mass for the Nigerian-born priest at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta. Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, along with Father Ezeonyido’s brother priests, concelebrated Mass.
Father Paschal Amagba, CMF, pastor of Corpus Christi Church in Stone Mountain, eulogized his friend, whom many in Atlanta called “Father JP.”
“There was a surrendering to the will of the Almighty,” said Father Amagba of the priest’s last days.
The second reading for the Mass was taken from the fourteenth chapter of Revelation—”Happy are those who die in the Lord.”
“Believe me, Father JP died in the Lord,” said Father Amagba.
In the homily, he spoke of how an honorable age is “not measured by numbers, but quality of life.”
In Father JP’s 50 years and three weeks of life, “he touched so many souls,” said Father Amagba. “He was there to console. JP loved to work and be with the people.”
Not only did the priest minister in Atlanta but started a medication ministry in villages in his native country, and he supported others with funds for rent, education and utilities costs.
“Father JP worked from his heart and gave from his heart,” said Father Amagba.
The priest lived the gospel of life, said the homilist.
“The only thing JP is taking with him is the good deeds” of his life, said Father Amagba.
Journey to the priesthood
Born in Igbo-Ukwu, Nigeria to Lawrence and Theresa Ezeonyido on Nov. 30, 1970, Father Ezeonyido was baptized at Our Lady of Fatima Church.
As a young boy, he attended St. Paul’s Primary School, and St. Dominic Savio and St. John Bosco Seminaries for secondary school.
He first wanted to be a doctor, but then answered God’s call to explore a priestly vocation. He attended Bigard Memorial Major Seminary in Enugu, Nigeria, and he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy there.
Father Ezeonyido began discerning travel to the United States as a missionary priest. His missionary call was affirmed as the Atlanta vocations office asked to meet him and invited him to Georgia, recognizing that the Nigerian Igbo Catholic community in the archdiocese needed more spiritual support.
He came to the United States in 1999 and continued his seminary formation, earning a master of arts and a master of divinity in theology with a specialization in Old Testament sacred Scripture at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. During his seminary training, Father Ezeonyido lived and worked with Hispanic and multicultural communities in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, as part of an immersion program, picking up some Spanish along the way.
He was ordained to the priesthood by the Archbishop John F. Donoghue on June 7, 2003. He first served as a parochial vicar at Holy Cross Church in Atlanta for three years. In 2006, he was assigned to be a parochial vicar at Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City. He was also a parochial vicar at St. Stephen the Martyr Church, Lilburn, from 2009-2012.
In 2011, he earned a third graduate degree from the University of Georgia in social work. Father Ezeonyido earned certification in marriage and family therapy during his time at UGA.
He earned certification as a hospital chaplain and served as chaplain at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. He served as chaplain for the Nigerian Igbo Catholic community for 17 years.
The priest later earned a doctoral degree in human services with specialization in public health from Walden University in Minnesota.
He enjoyed traveling and playing tennis.
Father Ezeonyido was named pastor of Christ Our Hope Church in 2012. In a 2013 interview with The Georgia Bulletin, he shared his view of being a pastor.
“I have always understood being a pastor as being a shepherd, helping to bring people closer to Christ,” he said.
Father Ezeonyido is preceded in death by family members, Felicity Y. Ezeonyido, William Ezeonyido, Anastasia C. Ezeonyido and Peter O. Ezeonyido. He is survived by his mother, Madam Theresa Tumancha Ezeonyido; brother Anthony O. Ezeonyido; sisters Lady MaryDorothy Muolokwu and Ebere A. Igboanugo; brothers Clement O. Ezeonyido, Paul C. Ezeonyido and Cele Ezeonyido as well as 29 nieces and nephews, and 14 cousins.
The funeral Mass was followed by burial at Arlington Memorial Park, Sandy Springs.
Father Ezeonyido’s funeral Mass may be viewed at livestream.com/archatl/funeral.