I was in a training college when I found him. He was one of my teachers and he took an intense interest in me. After every lecture, he would call me, “Diana, come help me with my books.” I would pick his books and walk him to his car. While walking, he would ask me about my parents, life as a student and sometimes ask if I needed something he could help with. He was a catholic priest and wore his cassock proudly anytime he came around to teach. I saw the intentions of his heart and judged him as being kind.
I remember one day, I visited him in his house and all he did was to tell me his life stories and how he ended up becoming a catholic priest. He said, “I’m the third person in my family to become a catholic priest. My parents have four children. The one who didn’t become a priest is our sister. She didn’t want to have anything to do with the priesthood and stood against all the pressures from my parents. In the end, they allowed her to have her way but she didn’t escape being called a witch.” I asked him, “So were you also pressured to become one?” He answered, “No, not at all but if you look at it critically, you could see the pressure wasn’t physical but psychological. I was told almost every day to emulate the life of my two brothers who were priests. So I spent time at the mission. Served at the altar and when the time came to choose, being a Catholic priest became the natural choice.”
On some Sundays, he would call and ask me to follow him to church. I’m not a catholic but because he had become a friend to me, I followed him to church. Not once and not twice. Whenever he requested, I said yes to him. One day, during the last months to the end of my training school days, he called me to his office, and while looking deeply into my eyes, he said, “I’ve known you since you came here and we’ve been very good friends but soon you’ll leave and that creates a huge vacuum in my heart. I don’t want you to leave but you’ll have to leave so I’m going to tell you what’s in my heart for you.”
Immediately he mentioned, “What’s in my heart for you,” my heart skipped a beat. I took my eyes off him and focused on the Jesus’ crucifixion that was hanging on the wall. I wished he wasn’t going to say what I suspected he was going to say but before I could rest my restless mind, he said, “I want you to be my girlfriend. I’d come to love you deeply and seeing you go is hurting my heart.” He waited for a response but I didn’t know what to say. He’d been a good friend for all these years, providing support here and there, and to be honest, I liked him so much but as a friend and human. There he was, trying to take our friendship a notch up.
So many questions ran through my mind, “But you’re a catholic priest? How can you have a girlfriend?” “What’s the future of us if I say yes?” “Ain’t you afraid you’re jeopardizing your chosen call to serve the Christ?” So many questions but I lacked the courage to ask any of them. Instead, I did what I always did when a guy proposed to me. I said, “This is hard for me to think about it but give me some time. I’ll call and tell you my answer. I wanted to disappear—just turn into a thin air and blow away but it wasn’t possible. He let me go but called every day to ask for a response. So one morning I texted him, “What becomes of us? What’s the future for us?” He said, “Leave that one to me. When push comes to shove, I’ll lay my cassock down and choose you.”
Not that I believed him but a piece of me had already fallen for him—his person and how calm and helpful he had always been. I said yes to him. I had completed my exams and had a few days to stay on campus. Maybe I felt leaving campus would make him forget about me and move on so I was comfortable when I said yes to him. A day before the day I left campus, I went to his office and while talking, he walked over from his desk and kissed me. I was reluctant at first but when he persisted, I responded. For close to two minutes we were locked up in a passionate kiss. When he finally let go, my eyes went straight to the Jesus crucifixion on the wall. He looked weary and disappointed. Surely, he didn’t die on the cross for me to have a catholic priest as a boyfriend but my sinful heart won’t listen.
I left campus and traveled back to live with my parents. For the next two years, he worked it out for me to be posted to where I wanted to. He rented a place for me and furnished it for me. He came around often, bringing a lot of gifts and money even when I hadn’t asked for it. He never wore a cassock to visit me so I was able to shake off the imagery of him wearing a cassock and celebrating mass from my mind. He became the guy next door who you loved because he was a normal person. We spoke about the future often. I asked the hard questions; “What’s in for us?” One day he said, “When I leave the priesthood, I’ll disappoint my parents the most. Luckily for me, dad had died and mom is quite old and sick. Soon she‘ll go and I would have the freedom to decide to leave the priesthood.”
Within the same two years, I got pregnant for him but we decided not to have it. I remember telling him, “If something of this sort happens again, I’m going to have it and you’re not only going to be a father for a flock but also a father to our baby.” I don’t know how he took it but I wasn’t lying. Not too long afterward, I was pregnant again. When I delivered the news to him, he said, “Yes, let’s have it. I can even use that as an excuse to lay my cassock down.”
Nine months later, we had a baby girl—Cassandra. Casandra because that was the name of her mother. Not too long afterward, her mother died. I never brought up the topic but I was waiting to hear him say it himself. To walk up to me and say, “Diana dear, I’m leaving the priesthood for you.” I wanted to feel chosen than giving him pressure to choose me over his priesthood. But he never mentioned it. He kept providing for both of us. He kept coming around, carrying our daughter and taking care of her as all serious fathers do. He loved us and it showed in everything he did. It was a shame we had to hide a love this pure.
Our baby is one year old. He comes home for us to celebrate. I ask him what has taken him too long and he says, “I’ve gathered the courage to discuss it with my senior brother. He’s disappointed but he advises me to continue keeping it secret but I know it wouldn’t be so long until I spill it out.” “Bold step,” I said in my head. One day he visited with his brother. His brother called me beautiful and looked happy to meet us. A month or two later, his brother came to see me all alone. He said, “The harm had already been caused but don’t push my brother to do what he doesn’t want to do. Do you know the ramifications? The bible says, these stumbling blocks must come, but woe to the man through whom they come. Don’t be the one. God’s anger would descend on you.”
It was clear his brother had chosen sides and it was against me. He kept calling me, telling me all sorts of things. Sometimes he sounded like a threat. So we both decided I change my number and also leave where I was living to avoid his brother who came like he liked us but ended up being the thorn.
Since then it’s been on and off. Some days he talked as though he had left the priesthood. Other times he sounds so confused I didn’t know where to place him. I remember one day he told me, “It’s becoming hard for me to initiate the move so why don’t you do it. I’ll give you the Bishop’s number. Call him and tell him. When they call me, I would not deny it and that would begin our journey to freedom.” It sounded like a great idea but I didn’t want to try. I want to be the chosen and not the one he was pressured to choose. I told him, “It’s you who have to do it. Don’t push it on me. I’m not forcing you. I’m here for you but I’m not a child. When things get hard I will decide for myself.”
I will decide for myself, yes. I’ve given myself up to a year. If nothing happens, I’ll relocate with my child, change numbers, and begin to live my life afresh. Without all the drama. After all, I’d been able to hide his identity from my family all these years though they never stopped asking so what else can’t I do? I thought it would be easy so I didn’t prepare for all this drama but what excites me most is his dedication towards us—his constant and unwavering care. I understand the struggle but I can’t wait for too long.