Meet UIW’s Lead Catholic Chaplain, Fr. Hector Kalaluka, OMI

September 16, 2022

Fr. Hector Kalaluka, OMI A new member of the UIW community, Fr. Hector Kalaluka, OMI now serves as UIW’s lead Catholic Chaplain, presiding at Mass, sacramental celebrations and other special events hosted by UIW’s Office of Mission and Ministry. At UIW, he also puts his love of teaching to use as a part-time professor of Environmental Theology and Ethics in the Religious Studies department. Below, Fr. Kalaluka shares a little about his background, his favorite Bible passage, and why he felt compelled to serve God and others at UIW.

Q: Will you share a bit about your background prior to joining UIW?

A: Prior to joining UIW, I worked first in Zambia, my native country. That is where I was doing ministry, parish ministry, retreat ministries, youth ministry, etc. So, I spent about three to four years there. Then I came to the U.S. to do my Ph.D. in Christian Spirituality at the Oblate School of Theology. I was with a formation community, which is a community of young people, seminarians who are training to become priests. I was with them for about three years. Then I moved to a small parish (Holy Family) here on the west side of San Antonio, where I ministered for a year. I was also working with the Archdiocese criminal justice ministry, where I was involved in going to say Mass and reconciliation at different prisons two or three times a week. Primarily, my work was in the parish. When I was done with that, I applied to come and work with the UIW community as a chaplain.

Q: What drew you to becoming a priest?

A: My vocation story starts when I was young. I grew up in a Catholic home, practicing Catholicism. Then while I was in primary school, I had the desire to become a priest. I was just impressed by the way we used to have foreign missionaries working in my parish. Towards the end of high school, I decided to join the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. That journey with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate took me ten years before I got ordained. In those ten years, the journey took me to probably six different countries.

What drew me is the love for the people, especially the poor. The Oblates in my native country, they work in rural areas, in places where other missionaries wouldn’t want to work – very difficult missions. I was always motivated when I saw the people who were there, especially American missionaries. But I never knew, I never dreamt that I would come and work in the U.S. What has been keeping my faith is basically prayer, scripture, and the relationships that I’ve built over the years with the people I’ve met through ministry. They encourage me and they sustain me through their prayers and through the relationships we have developed over the years.

Q: What is your favorite Bible passage?

A: My favorite Bible passage is actually John 10:10, “I have come so that they may have life and have life in abundance.” That’s what Jesus tells us, that’s the purpose of His coming. Wherever I go, I want to bring life to those people. I want to resurrect life in communities that are dry or that sometimes may have difficulties when it comes to faith. It is my hope and prayer that through my ministry, they will be able to get new life. I believe that the purpose of my existence is so that somebody else may live. And not only live, but have life in abundance. Therefore, I need to make sacrifices for my neighbor, for my community and so on. That calls for me to live a structured and disciplined life by being aware of others in need and living within the basic needs that are enough for me. But if we are able to share what we have, whether it is material, financial or spiritual, that provides life to somebody else. That verse is what motivates me to keep working and listening to the voice of God. It directs me in the way I need to go so that those people may have life, because Christ lives in me. The more I interact with people, the more I evangelize to people, the more I am bringing the person of Jesus Christ to them and the more they are able to have life through Jesus, especially through the ministry. The ministry that I am engaged in as a priest is that of bringing Jesus, of transforming the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Christ. Whoever partakes in that will definitely have eternal life, so that is my belief.

Q: What drew you to UIW? What classes will you be teaching?

A: What drew me to UIW is first and foremost that it’s a Catholic university, and I’ve always wanted to work at a Catholic university. I went to Catholic schools all my life, but those were not universities. My experiences, especially being in Rome at the Gregorian, which is I think one of the oldest and most powerful Jesuit institutions, have inspired me to want to do what I am doing today. I want to share that with young people, especially those who are in academia. When an opportunity arose to come to UIW, I had to offer myself to be available. Then, after the processes and everything, I was given an opportunity to work here and to do ministry here, which I love so much.

My ministry puts me in contact with young people, especially given that my area of interest and research is ecology and social justice. Environmental Theology and Ethics, to be specific, which is a class I actually teach here at UIW. It’s a class that helps the students become more conscious of their existence within the universe. It helps them realize that they are not separate from the environment, but that they are one and that there is a new interpretation to the Genesis text where God puts human beings in charge of the universe in terms of dominion. We seek to answer what does that mean?

As Pope Francis would put it, ‘integrity and ecology,’ what does that mean? That is what I try to share with the students. How they can be responsible adults, especially as they get into the world. They’ll be sitting with corporate leaders in board rooms. How can they hold those boards accountable so that in whatever they do, whether making profits or making the products, they are looking at how friendly they are to the environment. Because this environment – the whole of creation – has been entrusted to us so that we can pass it on to future generations as a healthy place, more than we found it. Basically, that is what I teach, and it helps me. When I’m in class, it’s a different reality, and it gives me a different view of meeting different students. Some are not even Catholics, and I reach out to them through this teaching ministry. They are able to experience the love of God, and they are able to know how much God cares for them and how much God wants them to take care of their environment.