Beloved Plattekill priest forced to leave parish amid green card application review
A Catholic parish in Plattekill is rallying for the return of their beloved priest, after they say a problem with his immigration paperwork forced him to leave the country this week.
Father Michael Omachi has been the head priest at Our Lady of Fatima Church for the past five years. He returned abruptly, however, to his native country of Nigeria on Tuesday after parishioners say his work visa expired while his green card application is pending.
Parishioners say they found out earlier this month that Omachi was going to have to leave.
“There weren’t many dry eyes,” says church trustee Richard Mott. “It was quite a blow.”
Mott says they were hoping the priest’s green card would be approved in time and reached out to local federal officials for help to no avail.
“We have lost our shepherd, I pray only temporarily. We need people who are in places of power to wake up,” Mott says.
A representative for Rep. Pat Ryan’s office says they’re working to make sure Omachi's application gets immediate review.
Parishioners say they also reached out to Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. News 12 reached out to their offices but did not immediately hear back.
In the meantime, Mott says they’re at a loss and feel frustrated without the priest who has done so much for their community.
“We have people flooding into this country illegally. We are sending someone who belongs here away from us. That’s not what God intends,” Mott says.
A representative for the Archdiocese of New York says it’s also working to get Omachi back.
“He is a good and effective priest, who is loved by his parishioners. Unfortunately, the way the current regulations work, he and other foreign-born priests have religious worker visas which expire and need to be renewed,” says Joseph Zwilling, director of communications. “We hope that the parishioners will also write to their Senators and Congressional representatives, as the archdiocese has, asking them to examine the law and fix it so that priests like Father Omachi can stay and continue their effective ministry with their parishes.”
A representative for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement says the agency does not comment on individual applications due to privacy considerations.
Parishioners say Omachi was known for his community outreach and started a popular Sunday school program for children in both English and Spanish.
The priest oversaw one of his final Mass services at the church on Christmas during which he spoke about pride and forgiveness.
“It is pride that makes us think we are always right,” said Omachi. “If we are always right, you are wrong. You cannot always be right. Peace comes with forgiveness, with compromise, and letting others have their way. Not because you are a fool, but because you’re wiser.”