Sr. Chilee’s appointment as Director of the Ministry of Life, Dignity and Justice has made diocesan history. She is the first Nigerian and medical professional to be appointed a department director and member of the Curia, a top consultative body to Bishop Gerald Barnes. The Ministry of Life, Dignity and Justice includes the Office of Social Concerns, Office of Restorative Justice, Pro-Life Catholic Ministries and the diocesan Justice for Immigrants campaign, and also works with Catholic Charities.
“I feel highly honored and privileged to be considered for this position,” Sister Chilee said. “For an immigrant to be given the opportunity to work in close collaboration with the Bishop for the work of God shows the universality of the Church.”
Drake’s journey has taken her from volunteering at her son’s Catholic school to formation ministry at her home parish, St. George, Fontana, to the upper reaches of lay ministry in the diocese, most recently as director of the diocesan Ministry Formation Institute (MFI). As the director of the Ministry of Educational Services, she oversees the Office of Catholic Schools, Ministry with Youth Office, Office of Small Faith Communities, Office of Charismatic Renewal, Office of Catechetical Ministry and the MFI.
“The people I have met and who have touched me over the years have been a blessing,” said Drake, who will also serve as a member of the diocesan Curia. “I’m more blessed than I would have ever been if I hadn’t taken that leap of faith.”
Elias succeeds Drake at the helm of the diocese’s innovative lay formation institute, the MFI, He had served as coordinator of the Spanish language Formation Coordinator for the Coordinator of Ministers Formation Program (CMFP)for six years. He now oversees the operations of both the CMFP and the Parish Ministers Formation Program (PMFP) that the institute offers.
“In my experience, I have gained an understanding of the Catholic Church in the United States, especially in the richness of its diversity and in the participation of the laity in leadership roles,” Elias said. “I hope to offer a clear vision of the richness of our Catholic faith and the value of lay formation in order to promote and serve the needs of this diocese.”
Sr. Chilee’s vocation was strengthened during her studies at the University of Nigeria, where she was involved in reaching out to the rural areas of East Nigeria to provide social services and healthcare to those in need. She worked for three years at a mission hospital in Nigeria and became involved in a mobile clinic, often times traveling to remote areas of Nigeria where few would travel.
Since 2007 Sr. Chilee, a member of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy, has been teaching biology at Aquinas High School in San Bernardino and serving as the moderator of the Healthcare Academy recently established at the school.
As the director of the Ministry of Life, Dignity and Justice, Sr. Chilee hopes to use her talents and skills to help promote and achieve the goals of the department.
“I saw that the ministry involves pro-life, Catholic social teaching, reaching out to the poor and justice issues. That is what my order is about. I feel all my training has been for this,” she said.
Drake says she is looking forward to working with the other offices of the Ministry of Educational Services to promote the vision of the diocese and to give people the opportunity to encounter God.
“The diocese is a great place to work,” Drake said. “I’m doing what I love.”
Before ministering in the diocese Elias spent seven years as the director of faith formation at two parishes in Los Angeles (St. Rose of Lima and St. Anthony) and was an instructor at the Instituto de Pastoral y Evangelización (Pastoral and Evangelization Institute) in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Elias looks forward to collaborating with the rest of the MFI staff to ensure the ministry continues to provide solid formational opportunities for the diocese.
“I assume this position with a clear understanding that this is a ‘we’ position,” Elias said. “Only together, with the sum of our gifts and talents, can we accomplish our mission.”