By Rev. Fr. Francis Anekwe Oborji
The complicity of our silence over the New Phenomenon of Healers and founders of the so-called Prayer Ministry and their “Adoration Centres, – including those of the powerful “priests-healers” in our Catholic Church in Eastern Nigeria (Old Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province), and other parts of Nigeria, is too dangerous for the future of Christianity in our land.
There is no gain-saying the fact that one of the greatest dangers facing the church in Nigeria today, especially in the Old Eastern Region, are the activities of the so-called healers or founders of the “prayer healing ministry” and their distorted “Adoration Centres”.
Just in the last few days alone, the social media is awash with video clips and all sorts of posts detailing the embarrassing activities of some of the self-acclaimed priest-healers as well as the emerging women-‘founderesses’ of prayer healing centres in our land.
- For instance, just last weekend, we were all shocked by the posts of one Chika Uzim, a mother of three who runs what she calls a “Divine Mercy Ministry” in Obosi, Anambra State.
She claims to be both a Bishop and Priest in her ministry, and yet, a Catholic?
The most curious thing about this lady is that she uses and blesses members of her congregation, majority of whom are young women, with the Monstrance for the Blessed Sacrament. This is the most embarrassing and bizarre aspect of this comic lady and her so-called “Divine Mercy ministry”.
Nothing is yet clear about this lady, her intention and what exactly her Divine Mercy ministry is all about. But the fact is that she has a lot of followers already, especially among the women folks.
The ecclesiastical authorities of the local church where this lady and her ministry operate is yet to issue a public statement on the issue.
One would suggest that a Public statement from the constituted church authorities is very important in a matter of this kind so as to help protect the fragile faith of our poor and distressed local Christians, who are often the easy victims of these charlatan pastors and founders of healing ministry prayer/Adoration Centres.
- Also within the last weekend, we were also greeted in the social media by the advert-post of one lady called Sr. Favour M.E, advertising her crusade at her “God’s Favour Prayer Family”, Nkwelle.
She dotted her invitation card to the purported June Crusade with beautiful photos of three young Catholic Priests, who unfortunately, are also engaged in the same type of prayer ministry and healing crusades.
Although the three young priests have denied any link with this lady’s ministry and purported crusade invitation card, and a kind of recant apology of the lady’s God’s Favour ministry is circulating online since last Sunday, yet public statement of the ecclesiastical authorities is necessary to clear the air and protect the faith of the local faithful.
Because associating Catholic priests with a prayer ministry of a lay lady of this kind who has no ecclesiastical approval is very dangerous for the perception people may develop about our local church.
Already, there is confusion on the air since that invitation advert with photos of three young Catholic Priests surfaced online in the social media.
- In all however, the most painful aspect of the whole scenario are the activities of the so-called priest-healers or miracle workers.
- A) We are already tired with the utterances of the young man at Enugu who became a lord unto himself, that he abuses both his Bishop and state governors and presidents.
Till date, no public statement worthy of note has been issued to dissociate the local church from the menace of this young priest and his so-called “Adoration Center.”
- B) The most comic of all is the video post trending online now about another young powerful priest-healer at Uke, Anambra State, who in the video clip is seeing in his clerical vestments, leading members of his Congregation – “Holy Ghost Fire Adoration Center”, in an acrobatic “Mkponkiti” type of dance.
After seeing such a thing, one begins to wonder whether this a Catholic Church ministry/function or not? And if this young man is still a Catholic Priest?
This is a prayer ministry center that many people had died in a stampede few years ago.
Looking at the stupidity that led to that unfortunate stampede, one would have thought that the authorities concerned could have issued a serious warning to these powerful priest-healer, Marchall out stringent regulations about his unorthodox activities and these acrobatic shows during liturgical celebrations, especially, as concerned the regular abuse of benediction with the Blessed Sacrament done in his healing prayer centre.
- C) Not long ago, the world was greeted with the news of that young priest from Uyo Diocese who announced himself that he had resigned from the Catholic priesthood because he wanted freedom to dedicate full time to his healing ministry.
The young priest runs a tele-evangelical kind of healing ministry in Calabar.
However, not long after he made his announcement of resignation from the Catholic priesthood did we see him wedding with a young lady in a Pentecostal Church.
The rest is now history.
- D) Lastly, but not the least is the news of how one Fr. Chilaka in an hospital in Owerri, framed a story of how he raised somebody in the mortuary from dead.
The priest in question was even seeing testifying and telling the crowd who gathered at his healing center how he performed the miracle.
However, it was not long when the hospital personnel began to deny that such a thing happened in their hospital, and that it was also framed up by that priest and those working for him.
Considering all these, it is clear that healing ministry, especially the unorthodox activities of these priest-healers and other founders of prayer-healing centres, pose the greatest danger to Christianity in Nigeria today, especially in Eastern region, that is regarded as the most Christian zone of the country.
It is therefore, a great challenge to the local church.
All this means is that:
Attention must be given to the type of formation candidates for the priesthood receive nowadays in our local church.
This is because, looking at some of those young priests engaged in Prayer-healing ministry, it is interesting to note that they share almost the same age-bracket of years of their seminary training.
Most of these priests are those who studied in the Seminary from between early 1900s and 2000 onwards.
Although, one is sorry to say it, the truth is that by early 90s, and especially, by mid-1990s, most of those model seminary professors, well-experienced and educated for seminary formation and teaching, and who took over the mantle of seminary formation leadership in our region immediately after the horrors of the Nigeria-Biafra War, have started to be reassigned to areas or post outside seminary.
For instance, by early 1990s such great professors my generation met and who taught us philosophy at Ikot-Ekpene and Theology at Enugu, have started to leave the Seminary:
Frs.T. Okere, T. Ihejiofor, P. Iyang-Etoh, B. Eboh, Ndigbu, among others at Ikot-Ekpene.
At the Bigard theology faculty at Enugu, by 1990, Fr. P.D. Akpunonu, one of best and most energetic Rector Bigard had had in recent times, was transferred to CIWA.
Again, this was the period some of the lecturers were chosen and consecrated diocesan bishops, e.g. Bishop L. Ugorji, among others.
Some who didn’t become Bishops returned to their respective dioceses or went for foreign missions.
Thus, the problem started with the loss of the cream of those priests who studied in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s and came back to teach in our major seminaries, immediately after the civil war.
This cream of priests and Seminary professors gave their entire-self in forming the young people in the Seminary.
There is today the feeling that some, not all, however, of those who succeeded these priest-formators from the 1990s were very sympathetic to the then prominent powerful priest-healers in the region.
I remembered how in the early 1990s, Seminarians of Bigard Seminary Enugu complained about one prominent priest-healer their new Rector had invited to conduct their annual retreat that year.
In fact, things began to fall apart after this retreat conducted in the Seminary by this powerful priest-healer.
It was even alleged that the Rector of the Seminary frequent the healing-center of this man so often to assist in the healing ministry.
These are now the role models Seminarians then had started to emulate. The result of which is what we are seeing today.
In any case, though the above point needs to be looked into, one question needs to be asked:
where are all the studies in Catholic philosophy and Theology as well as the human and spiritual formation these our young priests engaged today in a bizarre healing-ministry, have spent their years doing in the Seminary?
Again, what is it that attracts them into this type of prayer ministry?
For experience has chosen that a good number of these young priests who engage in the prayer-healing ministry do so primarily, because of their inordinate lust for money, power and influence!
The damage these priests healers do to the authentic Catholic faith and tradition in our land means that all hands must be on deck to check-mate their excesses.
Again, our ecclesiastical authorities should review the program for seminary formation in our local church.
Attention should be given also to the calibre of priests been approved to teach in our Seminaries.
Any priest that exhibit those traits of healing ministry should not be allowed to train our seminarians.
Again, seminars and theological conferences should be organized for Parish priests and others in different dioceses for a re-orientation on health-care and healing ministry in the Catholic Church.
Our local Catechism should have a section on health care and prayer-for-healing in the church.
It is painful that up till now the local Catechism in use in our local church has no sections dealing on some of these situations of our particular concerns in our land: eg. Healing ministry and Christian-Muslim Dialogue as well as inter- ethnic dialogue and co-existence in a pluralistic society such as Nigeria.
These are issues the local may need to look into for the future of authentic Catholicism in our land.
Fr Oborji, is from Archdiocese of Onitsha, and a lecturer in Rome
(Editor’s Note: A reader sent this article to Nigerian Catholic Reporter. We published it to encourage other readers and writers.)
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