Mark Nimo inspires people to be on fire for the Lord

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Mark Kwaku Nimo, director of evangelization at St. Moses the Black Parish, provides music at an ecumenical service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on Jan. 20, 2024, at St. Josephine Bakhita Catholic Church, 2132 E. 72nd St. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Mark Kwaku Nimo wants to set you on fire.

Or, more accurately, he wants you to become the fire, the fire of the Holy Spirit, so that you can give off sparks that will set other people on fire with the Holy Spirit as well.

“After a log catches fire, there’s a point when it changes — it’s almost like you can’t tell the difference between the fire and the wood; it has become fire, right?” Nemo said. “Then the third stage is to spread the fire. That is all through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Nimo, the director of evangelization at St. Moses the Black Parish, has also been active in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, at one point serving as the liaison between International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services in Rome and the Anglophone and Portuguese-speaking African countries.

He came to Chicago to study at Catholic Theological Union in the early 2000s and stayed, eventually earning a master’s degree in pastoral studies and a doctorate in ministry.

“To know Mark is to know his love for Jesus,” said Father Matt O’Donnell, pastor of St. Moses the Black. After ministering together for 11 years, O’Donnell said Nimo is “family.” “His approach to ministry is simple and can be summarized in one word: invitational. As our parish’s director of evangelization, he is always inviting someone to know the love of God and to know our parish is a place they can belong.” In addition to serving at St. Moses, he frequently gives confirmation retreats and speaks at events around the United States and internationally.

He has been a good friend and colleague to Lauretta Froelich for years.

Froelich, a member of the service team for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Archdiocese of Chicago and a member of the national board of Pentecost Today USA, had Nimo as her first guest when she started hosting a radio show.

“First of all, Mark Nimo’s nickname is ‘Man of God,’” Froelich said. “Whenever I see him, that’s what I lead with, and he always returns it to me and calls me ‘Woman of God.’ Mark is someone who calls you to be who you were created to be from the first instance.”

Froelich, a confirmation catechist at St. Luke and St. Bernardine Parish, has had Nimo speak at confirmation retreats in her own parish, and he has done music ministry and emceed at many parish and archdiocesan events over the years, including the archdiocesan Day of Renewal in Rosemont in November.

Nimo attributed much of his faith life to his parents, who were married for 57 years and raised seven children.

His father, a psychology professor, was part of a Pan-African lay council and, after the Second Vatican Council, the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Nimo attended Mass and prayed the rosary with his family. He attended a Catholic boys high school, but by then, he was getting himself into trouble.

“I was partying a lot,” Nimo said, going to clubs and dating lots of girls as a teen. When he was 20, the age at which high school in Ghana ended, it came crashing down on him.

“One of my girlfriends got pregnant,” he said.

The girl wanted to get an abortion, and Nimo went with her to the clinic to make an appointment. But as he thought about what they were about to do, he began to feel worthless.

“I contemplated suicide,” he said.

So he did what he had been taught: He went to Mass. There he met a woman who was part of the Catholic charismatic renewal, and she invited him to a prayer meeting, where people were praying and praising God while he sat in the corner.

“They had such joy,” Nimo said. “And I wanted that.”

Nimo went to confession then, and explained his situation to the priest, who told him that the baby did not have to be aborted and he must live the rest of his life because God had plans for him. His penance, he said, was to tell his parents what was going on.

“They weren’t happy,” Nimo said. “But they said they would support me so that I could go to college.”

That story is familiar to nearly everyone who knows Nimo, O’Donnell said.

“Mark is a man of great humility, but is also a man who believes in giving witness,” he said. “Mark shares his story —struggles and successes — to be a witness to how good God is! Mark is unashamed of his past and his love for Jesus ... he tells everyone, always with the hope of encouraging someone.”

Nimo was able to go to college, an “exciting time” for him as he got more involved in the charismatic movement. He got a degree in economics, and then taught for a year before going to Malta for six months to participate in a “discipleship training school,” created in response to St. John Paul II’s call for a “new evangelization.”

Nimo then spent two years as a lay missionary in Uganda, on the other side of the African continent, where he did AIDS/HIV ministry as well as working in a discipleship training school there.

That led to his decade working in the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services office.

“I had been doing all this without any degree in theology,” Nimo said.

So he decided to study at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

He has been at St. Moses the Black and its antecedent, St. Columbanus Parish, for 20 years, serving as the director of faith formation and now as director of evangelization, and he and his wife, Mercy, have two daughters, 19 and 14 years old. His oldest daughter, who lives in Ghana, will turn 29 this year.

Nimo said his first vocation is as a lay, married man, supporting the domestic church of his family. His next commitment is to his work at St. Moses the Black, where he coordinates sacramental preparation and religious education, helps run events such as the annual revival, and also works with a number of smaller faith-sharing groups, including, for example, one called “Balm in Gilead,” for those who are grieving, and “Pockets of Disciples,” or PODs.

“People are looking for the connection,” Nimo said. “We need to give people a sense of belonging. One thing that happens in these groups is we are able to exercise the great gift of hospitality, which is what is very important in evangelization, you know, because to be hospitable is to love the stranger.”

It is in those small communities that people learn to become missionary disciples and to share the Gospel with others, Nimo said. Those are lessons he learned in charismatic groups and in Malta.

“The job can’t be done by the pastor or the pastoral staff alone,” he said. “We need so many people to get on board. But it’s so unfair to tell people go and evangelize go and share about your faith when you’ve not equipped them go do this.”


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