Man travels from humble beginnings to higher ed
By Frank Lee
St. Cloud Times
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The Rev. Vincent Bulus says his family is "very happy" about the life he’s chosen to lead.
St. Cloud is probably the last place you would expect to find Bulus, a short man from Nigeria with big dreams who overcame even bigger obstacles in real life.
He grew up poor in a village with 11 siblings, only four of whom are alive today. Bulus, the baby of the family, had a twin sister who died when she was an infant.
"Life was really hard. My father had nothing — a farmer, a hunter. We were barely living. ... But my father got in touch with missionaries," Bulus, 35, said of the road to his salvation.
The St. Cloud State University graduate student will receive his master’s degrees in higher education administration, and educational administration and leadership in May.
"I hope to be able to provide service to humanity within and out of the church in the field of education ... in any administrative capacity the church requires," Bulus said.
"My poor background really helped me to be what I am today because my father told me, ‘Nothing good comes easy. ... Anything you get so cheap, it doesn’t last,’" Bulus said.
Bulus worked hard on the family farm from dusk to dawn, which did not allow him much free time to attend school to receive a good education, he said.
"I came to the United States on Dec. 28, 2005, to study in Minnesota," said Bulus, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology from a Roman university in 1995.
The former monk was ordained a deacon by Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri in 1995 and became a priest a year later because there was a shortage in his diocese in Nigeria.
Bulus encountered missionaries from Ireland as a child, and he thought to himself, "They look beautiful. They are like angels, wearing white. And they are not suffering like us."
One of his sisters took him to church after he expressed an interest in religion, when he was about 7. He became a Mass servant and the rest, as they say, is history.
"I used to walk on foot for almost an hour and a half every day just going for morning Masses," said Bulus, a Catholic.
Hardship was nothing new to Bulus as a youth — he walked two hours to his primary school for almost five years — so he was determined to be somebody, to become a priest.
"They saw me as a betrayal of the culture because every child who is a male is seen as somebody who would ... marry and have children," said Bulus, of people’s reaction.
"But my family is very happy (about the life I’ve chosen to lead), and they are proud of their son, who has struggled to reach this level in life."
Bulus, an international student, does research for St. Cloud State’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness with his supervisors, David Sikes, Lisa Foss and Deborah Bechtold.
"I will return back to Nigeria to apply this wonderful education because they need professionals in this field," said Bulus, who intends to pursue a doctorate.
The ordained priest often attends Mass at the Christ Church Newman Center near St. Cloud State, but he belongs to St. Augustine Church, which is near his apartment.
"I’ve never regretted being a priest. I love being a priest. I love being a mediator between God and people. That is what really gives me joy ... that personal service," Bulus said.