approach the climax of the month-long celebration of the Silver Jubilee of the
Inauguration of Owerri Catholic Ecclesiastical Province and Installation of
Archbishop Anthony J.V. Obinna, which began on Friday 9th August to climax on
Saturday 7th September 2019, The Leader brings you special Editions, beginning
from this week, of our exclusive interview with the prelate himself.
Editorial team of The Leader comprising: Rev. Fr. Peter Ndukuba, EmekaAni, John
Agbakwuru and GozieUkasoanya were at the Villa Assumpta, Saturday August 17.
the one and a half hours chart, the Archbishop spoke on how it has been these
past 25 years, his challenges as a bishop, brushes with military and civilian
administrations in Imo State and the nation.
spoke on the long awaited appointment of an Auxiliary or Co-Adjutor bishop for
Owerri Archdiocese and substantive bishops for Ahiara and Aba Dioceses, as well
as the recent war he has waged against Osu/Diala segregation and the impact of
the Odenigbo Lecture Series which was founded by him.
How did you receive the news of your appointment as
Bishop and later Archbishop?
entered the seminary, all I was interested in was to become a priest because I
had become associated with many Irish priests from my childhood. What I looked
forward to was being ordained a Catholic priest and nothing more. God’s
mysterious kind of providence kept moving around. While I was in the United
States on sabbatical leave as a lecturer at the AlvanIkoku College of Education
Owerri (now AlvanIkoku Federal College of Education), I received a call
sometime in July 1993 that I have been appointed the bishop of Owerri Diocese.
I was actually having a lovely siesta that day when the news came.
literally went on my knees as I was listening to the news. I was shocked
because there were many good and qualified priests, some senior to me, some my
colleagues, contemporaries and all that. I said well, since the Lord has
already allowed this to happen, I can only give Him the glory. Then I prayed
for the grace to be able to serve especially, while I thought of the two giants
in the field of missionary work and educational service too: Bishop Joseph
Brendan Whelan, the pioneer bishop of Owerri and Bishop Mark Unegbu, my
Bishop Whelan confirmed me, it was Bishop Unegbu who ordained me priest. So
both bishops have something to do with me and I revered them and saw them with
a sense of awe, given their great missionary service to the land.
when I was appointed Archbishop, the appointment came again like a bolt from
the blues. I had hardly settled down as a bishop when within six months of my
ordination as a bishop I received a telephone call from the then Nuncio, Carlo
It was on
March 26, 1994, that the Nuncio informed me that Owerri has been raised to an
Archdiocese. I asked him what does that mean; he said “it means that you have
been appointed an Archbishop”. With shock and surprises, I said this is all
beyond my capacity and understanding. And again the timing was even more
surprising that I haven’t worked for one year before this was happening. So,
that’s why reflecting on my appointment as an archbishop and the fact that
archbishops are addressed as ‘His Grace’ or ‘Your Grace’, I decided to
translate the nomenclatures into Igbo – ‘Amarachi’.
in order to make me more fully aware that it is “Site naAmarachi” (By God’s
Grace) and not by my capacity or energy that I am holding this service position
as the Metropolitan of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province. So, it is the Lord’s
doing and surprising and amazing, here I am.
Your Grace, How has it been these 25 years?
again what can I say, God has blessed my service as an Archbishop with the
co-operation of the bishops of the province, especially when I remember that by
the time I was appointed Archbishop, I was the youngest from the point of view
of ordination as bishop.
other bishops were older, including Bishop Lucius Ugorji who is younger from
the point of view of priesthood. Yes, he was ordained bishop before me. Bishops
Mark Unegbu, Anthony GogoNwedo (The Great Emeriti), Anthony Ilonu, Victor
Chikwe, Vincent Ezeonyia and Gregory Ochiagha, all of them were my senior. So I
felt humbled, especially for the fact that I was appointed to be coordinator
among these chief servants. I thank God for their understanding. And for
Bishops Unegbu, Nwedo, Ilonu, Chikwe and Ezeonyia, I can only say may God grant
them eternal rest for the labours they carried on vigorously among us.
priests, they have also been co-operative as well as the religious and laity. I
have received their general support and co-operation. These have been exciting
moments except for the few periods of turbulence which you all know.
was when the responsibility of the Archbishop of Owerri Metropolitan Province
became very challenging as a result of the appointment of Bishop Peter Okpaleke
for Ahiara Diocese. The issue became so challenging to me as the head of the
province that I was caught between the feelings of the priests in the province
and the appointment by the Holy Father. So, I tried to wrestle with the situation
which was quite a challenging one. I thank God that the tension of that period
has been brought to the level of relative peace with the appointment of Bishop
Lucius Ugorji as Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Diocese. But while the
matter lasted, there was a lot of bad blood, resistance and opposition from
priests in Owerri Archdiocese and the Province itself.
outside of the Church, the experience has also to do with the wider society
specifically the government.
that regard, there has been good understanding and also tough moments. Given
that I am at the head of the Church within the state and the province, this has
brought about some confrontations with the people in government. To this end
there have also been quite some prolonged tensions between the government and
the Church and sometimes people say it was between the governor and the
way, I see it all as within the line of service and given the prominent
position one occupies, I’m bound to speak out on issues, irrespective of the
challenges. That’s why too, we had to confront Nigerian leaders both at the
federal and state levels, particularly Late General SaniAbacha, Col.
TankoZubairo and Navy Capt. James Aneke.
other hand the position has also given me the privilege and opportunity to
serve at the state level as the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)
and also at some point to co-ordinate the Christian Church body in the state,
as well as representing the state at some point within the national level.
the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, I served as Chairman in the
Pastoral/Liturgical Department, Chairman of the Education Committee, and until
recently, as the Pro-chancellor of the VeritasUniversity of Nigeria (VUNA).
This was an institution I helped to start off given my background in education
from infancy to doctoral level which are Catholic institutions all through.
when it comes to issues of culture I used my privileged position to look into
aspects of Igbo culture, wrestling with some of it and at the same time
introducing modifications, especially in the face of residual and resilient
idolatrous reflex behaviors. So the theatre of action has been very wide.
normal pastoral visits are also there with its increasing number of parishes in
the Archdiocese since I came on board.
interesting to note that nobody can do all the work alone just by himself. This
is the more reason for the Vicar General, Episcopal Vicars, Consultors,
Presbyteral and Pastoral Councils. All these have been on hand to help me do
the work which I cannot do all by myself.
the privilege of celebrating some historical highpoints in the Church. The
centenary of the arrival of the Catholic Church in our province came up in
2012, seven years ago, and here we are today marking another landmark event:
the 25th Anniversary of the creation of Owerri Archdiocese, the Owerri Province
and my appointment as Archbishop.
People are wondering why Owerri has not got
pray, because I have done everything I should do to get an auxiliary. I’m
expecting as you are expecting. So the matter is no longer in my hands. The
best thing is to ask the Nuncio, who has asked me to be patient. Having said
that, I must also inform you that it’s roughly three to four years since the
process got into gear. So I don’t know. It’s not within my powers. Not that I
don’t want an auxiliary, I even want two. But it looks like my time is running
out as I officially have two more years to serve as the Archbishop of Owerri.
It may be that I might be given a co-adjutor somebody who will succeed me
directly and no longer an auxiliary. So it’s not within my powers as I’m only a
servant. Just put it in prayers, I don’t know what else to do.
You’ve had brushes with the military and also
civilian administrations in the state, what were the contentions?
position of the Church with regard to politics first surfaced with the
military. The military intervention into democratic politics was an aberration.
It was not the right of the military to rule or govern. This is because the
military were not voted to do so. So, right from the word go, the Church saw
the military intervention as an aberration that had to go.
though they might have done some apparent good by providing security or
seeing that the civil service was operating, the fact that they were dictators
and people who stole the people’s mandate through a coup d’etat demanded that
we speak up on behalf of the people. This we did by challenging them to
relinquish the authority which legitimately belongs to the civilians. That’s
why again we continued to push and push and even went personally, seven of us,
to General SaniAbacha (the then military Head of State), September 26, 1994 to
bring this message across, that it is not the duty of the military to rule.
may have been their intention in intervening initially may have seemed to bring
some relief, but in the long run, the excesses we saw needed to be confronted.
side of the civilians, the problem again was almost as a hangover of the
military dictatorship. Governors were beginning to see themselves as dictators
and operating in highhanded ways. Like the military, who used the funds of the
nation arbitrarily, the same was also showing up among the civilian governors.
remember that at some stage, salaries were not being paid, or more recently
pensions were not being paid. These issues require that the church speaks up.
Because if the Church does not speak on these things, the Church will be
accused of colluding or casting a blind eye to issues.
face of our position that the common good of the people should be the criterion
of governance, and in the face of corrupt elections (remember that during the
military period, because of the distress we were going through under the
military) we had to compose a Prayer for Nigeria in
civilians came we remembered that bribery and corruption had been the bane of Nigeria, so we
initiated the Prayer Against Bribery and Corruption because of elections and
many other things and the manner with which they awarded contracts and appointments,
a lot of them carry the baggage of bribery and corruption. These dispositions
couldn’t make for a sane and equitable society.
So as the
voice of the Church in this case, I had to deal with these issues. Remember, I
also in 2006 composed a Prayer for Upright Voting, Accurate Counting and
Impartial Announcement of Election Results. These are all part of the attempt
to confront the ugly situation on ground.
a year and six months ago, we had almost the worst confrontation that nearly
came up, after the government people that had helped to nearly rubbish the
gubernatorial debate we had scheduled for here (at ObiriOdenigbo). That event
was scuttled by government forces. Yet the worst that happened was the attempt
to remove the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to replace the Maria Assumpta
Avenue with the name of MuhammaduBuhari by the
Imo State government. That’s the highpoint of irreverence and abuse by a
sitting governor, who was alleged to be a Catholic.
was for me the height of abuse from the state government and such requires a
direct confrontation. Luckily, the bishops of the province, who joined hands in
fighting the matter, wrote a joint letter which every one of them (the Bishops)
signed, demanding the restoration of the Avenue to its rightful name. Four days
after the matter went public and opposition to the matter went viral in the
social media, the governor had to step back and the sculptor concerned with the
matter had to restore the rightful name of Assumpta Avenue.
this is the kernel of the matter, that dictatorship whether under the military
or civilian government was not acceptable to the Church, to humanity and the
people at large.
Your admirers see you as a prophet and an outspoken
chief shepherd, whereas others see you as a politician, how do you react to
Aristotle, the Greek Philosopher who said “Man by nature is a political
animal.” To be a bishop does not stop one from being a political animal. But it
depends on the type of politics that one is involved in.
is about administering good to the people. Usually it is transferred more into
the secular sphere. But even in the Church, there are political dimensions that
come up whereby people also struggle for offices, for positions for one thing
or the other.
be called pastoral politics or pastoral administration whereby cases that come
up had to be adjudicated as magistrates would in the law (civil) court. But
here the difference is that I do not charge fees for making peace for people.
Otherwise the three to five hours I spent yesterday (Friday August 16) trying
to adjudicate in a parish within our Archdiocese would have attracted some good
fee.The Leader News Online
Rt. Rev. Dr. Monsignor
John Aniagwu is the Parish Priest of St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Ikeja, Lagos.
He is also the Vicar General, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos Episcopal Vicar,
Ikeja Region. He clocked 75 penultimate Friday, and to mark the event, a
committee of friends of Father John, as he is fondly called, organised a press
briefing and public lecture. Aniagwu, who spoke to journalists on his journey
to priesthood, called on President MuhammaduBuhari to change the Nigerian
Constitution, which he said favours the political class more than ordinary
Nigerians, among other issues.
How do you feel at 75; how has the priesthood journey been so far?
I became a priest in 1971, which is over 47 years. Then, the society was more
God-fearing. People still reckoned with values and principles. I’ll give you an
example. There was this gentleman I knew, who was in the police. It was
discovered that he took a bribe of 10 shillings. Then, the police had an arm
called Esquad, set up to counter corruption within the police force. The Esquad
arrested and prosecuted that man. He was jailed for six months, and was
thereafter dismissed from the force. Today, we have police officers taking
millions of naira and nothing happens to them. That is in terms of morals.
discipline then. Now, I think our problem is lawlessness. The laws are there,
but they are not being obeyed. And the worst lawbreakers are those enacting the
laws and those who are supposed to enforce them. When makers of the law and
enforcers are breaking the law, what do you expect the ordinary citizens to do?
Court issues an order, and the Executive ignores the orders. Everybody laughs
off the courts as if they are irrelevant.
Nigeria, the way to know a big man is that the person can break the law and get
away with it. This is what has caused the breakdown of law and order. There is
rampant lawlessness everywhere. Wherever you turn, Nigerians are breaking the
law every minute. The late Justice Anthony Aniagolu of the Supreme Court once
said in order to reform Nigeria, only two institutions need to be reformed. He
mentioned the police and the judiciary, and I asked why? He said a reformed
police will apprehend all offenders and prosecute them, and a reformed
judiciary will jail them.
Now that you’ve clocked 75, are you going to retire? What will you be
doing in retirement?
In the Catholic Church, you retire at 75 as a bishop. This means you stop being
in charge of the diocese. For instance, my brother in Abuja, Cardinal Onaiyekan
was 75 on January 29, 2019. The law is that once you are 75, you must tender
your resignation. But that doesn’t mean they will accept it immediately. They
can tell you to hold on until they find a successor. However, this applies only
to Bishops. With priests, there is no such law. As long as you are still
healthy mentally and physically, you can carry on with your assignment. In our
church, you retire when you are no longer able to function effectively. For
instance, some of our priests that are not yet 75 have retired because of
In your days, young people were willing to join priesthood. Is that
still the case?
They are more willing. We have more people in the seminaries than we can
accommodate. In fact, they are plenty.
Who influenced your going into priesthood?
As a child, I came into contact with missionary journey early in life. I went
to a parish school, Holy Cross School, Lagos, and from the age of seven, I
started interacting with priests. I was an altar server until I grew up. I grew
up admiring what they were doing and so, it was just natural that I wanted to
be like the priests; to do the kind of things they were doing, serve God and
humanity. That was the reason.
So, what are the challenges you encountered on your way?
I must confess that I haven’t experienced any real challenge. I’ve had some
personal tragedies in my life. I’ve lost a number of people, relations at a
rather young age. For instance, I barely knew my father. I was two years old
when he died. My mother died at the age of 60. My only brother was 57 when he
died. Those were personal tragedies, but aside that, there are no others.
Things were not always rosy. My mother had to raise my elder brother and I as a
single parent. There was a time it was difficult paying school fees and eating,
but my mother had to shoulder all that. And God so kind, I was doing very well
in school. I was not born with a silver spoon. We struggled, but there was a
lot of social support. I never had challenges with my superiors or in the
Before government took over missionary schools, fees were affordable and
ordinary Nigerians could afford to send their children to school. Today, only a
few people can send their children to missionary schools and those owned by
churches. Why is it so?
The government helped us in terms of infrastructure, when they returned our
schools. We had to build our schools, which cost money. We are to meet certain
standards and employ qualified teachers. If you don’t pay them adequately, they
leave. For instance, we have the Augustine University. If a department is to be
accredited, there must be a certain number of professors, lecturers and the
library must meet certain standard. The government also tells us the kind of
building we must have. All this costs money and government doesn’t give us
money, so we depend on the fees.
instance, at Augustine University, the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos had to
cough out the sum of N20m every month to support the institution, as fees
cannot cover everything. We can’t ask government to support private
universities so we can bring down the fees, when government is not even funding
public schools. Education costs money. Like someone said, ‘if you think
education is expensive try ignorance.’ If we don’t have the required number of
professors, they will withdraw our licence.
Catholic schools, be it nursery, primary,
secondary or university, charge the lowest fees among decent private schools.
Augustine University charges between N500, 000 and N800, 000 per annumincluding
accommodation. Some schools charge much higher.
… With over 90,000 Catholics displaced from Gwoza, Pulka and Madagala axis …About 5,000 Catholics killed, lost about 22 rectories where the priests live … Lost dioceses especially in the northern part of Adamawa where the campaign is every intense and northern Borno … Lost about 17 schools, 4 clinics, and three convents
Photo: Fr John Bakeni, the secretary of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri and the Humanitarian Director of Internally Displaced Catholics in Maiduguri.
The Catholic Church in Northeast Nigeria has been facing wanton persecution and suffering in the face of the Boko Haram insurgency. Thousands of Catholics have been killed; many priests and religious have been displaced, including hundreds of local parishes, convent, rectories, dioceses and seminary schools destroyed. Recently, Nigerian Catholic Reporter’s ace writer, Festus Iyorah met with Fr John Bakeni, the secretary of the Maiduguri Catholic Diocese and the Humanitarian Director of Internally Displaced Catholics in Maiduguri. FrBakeni discussed the depth of Catholics faith despite persecution and how the universalchurch, Catholic agencies, and diocesess across Nigeria have been assisting the Diocese of Maiduguri.
How has the diocese of Maiduguri been affected by the conflict?
The Catholic diocese of Maiduguri has had its own share of the destruction of the whole campaign of the Boko Haram. Let me take you back a bit—theChristians are a minority in Borno State, more so northern Nigeria. There are challenges Christians have been living with before the coming of this insurgency. These are some challenges Christians have learnt to live with. The campaign of the insurgents accelerated and gave a pronounced level of destruction and suffering the diocese have been facing. The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri comprises of the whole of Borno State, Yobe and some part of Adamawa. It is the largest in terms of land mass. But in terms of population we have about 300,000 Catholics. Now, we cannot keep the record. At some point we have over 90,000 Catholics who were displaced from Gwoza, Pulka and Madagala axis including some parts of catholic diocese. We have been affected in terms of physical destruction. We have lost quite a number of churches and people. We lost about 5,000 Catholics, about 22 rectories where the priests live. We lost over 200 dioceses especially in the northern part of Adamawa where the campaign is every intense and northern Borno. We lost about 17 schools, 4 clinics, three convents. These are some of the records we have.
Is this why you call the victims lost to the attack Maiduguri Martyrs?
Yes, it’s deliberate because the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri is a suffering church. It’s a persecuted church. Given what we have been going through a lot of Christians have been killed, they are about 5,000 Catholics killed; some of them died in the bush in the process of running and nobody can account for them. These are some of the experiences we have and people try to place a historical timeline that it started in 2009 but before 2009 we’ve been having experiences of churches being burnt. For instance, in February 2006 one of us, Rev FrMicheal was murdered in cold blood by some Muslims hoodlums. In fact they were coordinated attacks that same day. Many churches were burnt. We had another incident where the Bishop’s house was even burnt too. Before this whole crisis came to limelight all these were going on but people have not been able to classify them.
How is the diocese of Maiduguri reacting to the conflict?
Some internally displaced persons lives in official IDP camps of about 1.8 million and but 70 per cent of these IDPs live in host communities; they are not in official government camps. And that was the situation of our Catholics too. So we established a new camp for Catholics displaced by the crisis. They’re just in our new secretariat which is located in a town in Maiduguri with about 500 families living in the camp. At some point here in the cathedral at the beginning of the crisis we were distributing food to IDPs irrespective of their religious affiliations. So far we have about 70,000 Catholics displaced in our care. Incidentally most of the Christians find it difficult to live in the Muslim camps because of discrimination so they stay in our camp instead.
What is the Catholic Church doing to see to their welfare?
Well, I can tell you because I have been involved personally. The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri has spent a lot on displaced persons. As I speak to you now, within the last three years we have spent over aN150million on displaced persons. Incidentally when distributing relief materials we do not discriminate. We pay for medical bills. Every month we also pay for medical bills. We supplied them food and other relief items. We also have a very large group of displaced persons in Yola and thanks to the Catholic Bishop of Yolawho really did very well in providing for them. As I speak to you in terms of aid or relief materials we receive very little or nothing from the government or even from the internationalagencies involved. So all this spending is from the diocese coffers. And thanks to some church agencies that assisted us and then some because at some stage the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri was declared an emergency diocese by the Catholic conference Bishops of Nigeria. So, that necessarily meant that dioceses were obliged to contribute towards this diocese. Many of them did and most of those resources went into catering for the displaced persons. So we are trying to take care of the displaced persons not just Catholics. It may surprise you that the Catholic Church was the first agency to take relief materials to Muslim camps when these Muslims were displaced, so we have tried to do what we can do within the limits of our resource.
What can you say about the level of faith Catholics here have exhibited despite the fact that they’ve been hit by the crisis and persecution?
What we have seen in our Catholics which I think it’s the only gift we have to the universal church is the resilience and the depth of their faith in the midst of this crisis. I have testimonies of many who were fortunate to have escaped from the camps under the threat of conversion but refused to convert. In fact this whole experience has purified the faith of our people. We have about 11 Catholic parishes within Maiduguri. If you go there they are always filled to the brim with parishioners in every mass. Even when there is a bomb explosion you will find Catholics going to the church; they are never deterred from even coming for church activities. So that is the kind of resilience and faith that people have really put up—theywere never discouraged. In fact all I can say is that their faith has been tested and proven. What we are going through here is for the purification of the mother church. It is in such moment that the church is defined.
Photo: Internally displaced catholics praying rosary at proposed catholic secretariat turned IDP camp for displaced catholics in Maiduguri
What is the universal church, Nigerian dioceses and Catholic agencies doing to support the church in Maiduguri?
With every sense of gratitude, agencies like Missio, German based Catholic charity, Aidto the Church in Need,Misserio, Caritas and Catholic relief service have done a lot but our backbone have been Aid the church in need and Missio. Thanks to the Nigerian bishops, we have also received support from the dioceses across Nigeria, especially Lagos Archdiocese and Enugu diocese.
IN THIS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, THE FIRST PARISH PRIEST OF OUR LADY OF THE HOLY ROSARY CATHOLIC CHURCH ARIDA, THE FOUNDER OF ADORATION FAMILY LAGOS, MULTI TALENTED REV. FR. DR. LAWRENCE EZE, SPEAKS HOW IT ALL STARTED … HIS EXPERIENCES. EXCERPTS:
Dear Fr. We know you as Rev. Fr. Dr. Lawrence Eze, but for the benefit of our numerous readers who may not know you, can we know you more, your family background,etc.?
This could also mean, a kind of biography … Okay, my name, you already know, Rev. Fr. Dr. Lawrence Eze. Born 5th September, 1973 of fore most educationists: Remy Eze and Lucy Eze (nee Obilor), Ordained a priest 2003 by His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. A.E. Ilonu of Okigwe Diocese. Hails from Ehime Mbano L.G.A, Imo State. The schools I attended are: Isiorie Primary School Umuezeala Owerre Ehime, Boys Secondary School Umualumaku Umuihim Ehime Mbano, St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary Ihitte, St. Peter’s Seminary Okigwe, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Ehime, Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary Owerri and concluded with three Bachelor Degrees, in Philosophy (B.Phil), Theology (B.D) from Pontifical Urban University Rome and Bachelors Degree in Religious Studies (BA), Imo State University Owerri. Others are: Masters of Arts Degree (M.A) Religious Ethics, and Ph.D, Religious Ethics in-view, Imo State University Owerri. Award of Doctor of Divinity (D.D) by Abundant Grace University of Theology Austin Texas U.S.A, L.L.B. LAW (Hons.) Civil Law, from the National Open University of Nigeria, P.G.D. Education NTI, Kaduna. Fellow EWTN USA. And has authored so many books and so manyvideo productions. The Spiritual Director Adoration Family, Victorious Family Okigwe Diocese. While on academic research, presently, the Parish Priest of St. Charles Catholic Church Umunumo, Ehime Mbano L.G.A.
Though, as a Priest where you work is not a matter of choice. A Priest must be ready to work within the geographical jurisdiction of his incardination. As Priests we submit to the directives of the Bishop who knows best where our services are needed most within the Church. Inconveniencing as it was, to tidy up to move as a young missionary Priest to the Archdioceseof Lagos, immediately after my ordination, I had no objections but to obey my Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Anthony Ilonu of blessed memory. Remember Obedience is the greatest of the three Evangelical Vows, others being Poverty and Chastity. And thanks to His Eminence Anthony Cardinal Okogie, who welcomed us with all the fatherly care and Christian love. I worked firstly as the Assistant Priest of S.S. Joachim and Anna Marian, later as the Parish Priest of the following Parishes: St. Michael’s Parish Lafiaji Lagos Island, the Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Ogba Ikeja, and next was the newly created parish which has the same name with Ogba Parish – Holy Rosary Arida, not very much known earlier by us and too many people. Now let us begin the story!
How did you feel when you were posted to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church as the First Parish Priest, coming from a bigger Parish?
Firstly, I don’t believe in anything like bigger parish, because the anointing makes a place big and great. If you are anointed in the Spirit, every opportunity is to make a place, or people great. Moreover, I like facing challenges forcefully and frontally too. My success in life is attributed to God’s grace and sheer will-power to face challenges. I was so delighted to start from scratch, and my joy was in the love of Mother Mary and her maternal care, the newly created Parish has the same name “Our Lady of the Holy Rosary” from Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Ogba Ikeja to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Arida. I don’t want to rule out the fact that every new beginning has its problems and challenges, thanks to God’s words that says “I will be with you … as I was with Moses…”
During your stay in the Parish can you share your experiences with us.
Empowered through the intercession of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, and in partnership with the Holy Spirit, we began an explosive Adoration Ministry. Thus, an adoration ground was opened which laid the spiritual foundation of this great parish, thanks to the members of the Adoration family and the good members of the C.C.R.N of our Parish. Suddenly, Holy Rosary became a spiritual pilgrimage centre for all. We made a lot of conversions and so, Holy Rosary Arida became so spirit filled that made many members of other religious sets and other Christian denominations to return to the Catholic faith. We started with a very few worshipers (members) in an ugly batcher, but in a couple of months we started counting and recording thousands of worshipers.A very unprecedented growth, both spiritually and physically was recorded. And so, my experiences are tripod experiences namely: Spiritual, Pastoral and Developmental experiences.
Spiritually, we discovered some spiritual infestations of demonic forces in various manifestations; we victoriously over powered them in Christ Jesus, through prayers of Adoration and the Mercy of God. Thus Holy Rosary Arida became a Parish built on a strong Christian Faith and Prayer.
The evidence of the Spiritual Foundation of Holy Rosary Arida is visible in its rapid structural development and the number of worshipers who joined us every day at the Mass and other Spiritual activities.
Developmentally, as you already know very well, within a space of one year plus, we not only completed the Reverend Father’s House, donated a set of Lister generator, but also finished the newly acquired uncompleted school building, where we presently have the Maryhome Schools, started one of the biggest and finest Church (complex) buildings in the Lagos Archdiocese, which was rapidly moving towards its decking completion, before I was recalled to my home Diocese for greater assignments, in and outside the Diocese. Thanks to the present Archbishop of Lagos who refused and rejected my request for incardination here in Lagos.
I like to say pastorally, Holy Rosary though a very young Parish was so exemplary to many neighbouring Parishes and their Priests. You will also recall that I always devote a greater part of my Pastoral work to helping those who fall victim to the devil through deliverance prayers. Among other things, helping the younger ones to find their vocations in life, especially those who wish to become Priests and helping the less privileged who came knocking at our Church doors every day for help,were too many … I believe not only in Structural Development, but also in the Integral Development of the Human Person.
Fr., as the first Parish Priest that started the foundation of the Church Holy Rosary Arida, how do you feel about its dedication today?
As the first Parish Priest of Holy Rosary Arida, and the one who started the Foundation of the Church Holy Rosary Arida, I am very happy about its Church Dedication because it takes a visionary leader to start this gigantic church edifice; it is my mission, my vision, and my dream! Besides,who would not be happy that the good seed he/she planted has now grown into a mighty tree, like the mustard seed of the Bible? I am happy that I started a Parish just like the early Irish Priests and Missionaries that came to Nigeria. This Church structure in its gigantic nature, is a legacy of selfless service to God and to the Church.
To God be the Glory! on this note, I want to thank God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for making me His Priest and for using me this far. And to congratulate the present Parish Priest Fr. Usman, for completing this wonderful edifice. I will not forget the support of Barr. Emeka Maduabuchi (KSM); who was the first Vice Chairman of this church, and Chief Emma Ibegbu, the first C.M.O Chairman and the leader of C.M.O. for their great support at those difficult times. Special thanks to Chief Dr. (Lord Mayor) O.C. Godson, who spent a lot of his time and resources in the building of this Church. With him are men and women of good will. Thanks to Okey Emeribe for really doing the workings. May God bless all the members of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Arida, the Adoration Family, Victorious Family.
Fr. what words of advice do you have for your beloved Parishioners?
My words of advice are words of Faith, Love and Holiness of life as you begin to use this dedicated Church. In the words of the Psalmist: “who has the right to go up the Lord’s hills? Who may enter His Holy temple? Who are pure in heart and thought, who do not worship idols or make false promises. The Lord will bless them and save them. God will declare them innocent. Such are the people who come to God. Who come into the presence of the God of Jacob” (Psalm 24:3-6).
It means we must be sincere Christians, sincere with Our God and sincere with our neighbours. We must aspire everyday as we use this Church to be holy onto God. And to all I say: Stop Hating People! Learn to love and appreciate others who are not from your own tribe. We must as good human begins appreciate people who help or helped us in any way in life. Appreciate the good things others do, it attracts blessings. You must thank people when they have done well. The culture of appreciation, not “the use and dump” culture…
Take note: whatever we are doing as Children of God, we must try and make Heaven at last. May we not reduce our Christian faith and our universalistic philosophy of our Christian brotherhood, taught by the Word of God and our Catholic Doctrine, into ethnic content, tribal content, leading us (Church leaders and followers) to loss of Christian spirituality and a gain of hell fire. Note: these sentiments tribalor ethnic are dangerously affecting the Nigerian Church today, and may prevent us from asking the right questions, so as to get the right answers. This can never produce the best or give excellence and merit a chance; rather they become factors that breed mediocrity and divisions, a good chance for the mediocre to be a leader.
My dear Parishioners, no man grows by destroying others or the good works of his fellow man and no Christian will succeed without the love of his or her neighbor. Learn to forgive others.
Hatred for others because of anything at all, does not make you a Child of God. And the idea of using others as a means to an end will only provoke God’s anger. Try to see the good qualities in others and encourage them. Help, not hinder. “Do unto others as you wish to be done unto you” the precepts of fairness and equity will override the wickedness in the world today especially in Nigeria, where the Christians are killed every moment by “unknown gun men”, in a country we have security men, security system and a government. As a good Parishioner, be your brother’s keeper, protect your Catholic/Christian faith, through regular Daily Masses. Keep all the Christian doctrines that we know. There is nothing new that has not been said so far. But then, we try to do these things well now. That is it.
Speaking strictly as a Catholic Priest, we encourage the people of God to support their parish and the Church, using their time, treasure and talents. See 2nd Corinthians 8 and 9.
The faithful have a primary responsibility to support the local Catholic community to which the Lord has called them. Such donations (like tithes) are used to support the priests, pay workers salaries, construct relevant structures and embark on charity and missionary activities, within and outside their immediate dioceses. However, that does not mean that a Catholic is forbidden from donating to other worthy courses outside of the Church where expedient. It is a matter of one’s conscience and not a matter of compulsion.
The Roman Catholic Church, being the Mother Church, does not discriminate. Her doors of mercy and compassion are open to all of God’s children. This is why she operates the highest number of charity based-endeavors across the world.
Can men of God be trusted with confidential issues?
Again, I will only respond as a Catholic Priest. By virtue of our training and calling as Priests, we are disposed to hearing all forms of confidential issues and confessions from the faithful. Confessions, for instance, is a very private affair. It is therefore forbidden for a priest to disclose information — under any circumstances — obtained in the form of religious confession. It is called “the sacred seal of confession.” Any priest who breaks such seal would attract the wrath of the Church’s hierarchy. It is even more sacred than the relationship between a Doctor and his patient or a Lawyer and a client.http://catholicherald.com.ng.
The stories of sexual assault and harassment that emerged last year seemed to touch every industry — Hollywood, hotels, restaurants, politics and news organizations, including this one. Many of those stories focused on what happened, but most didn’t or couldn’t get to the question of why: Why do some people, mainly men, sexually harass their colleagues?
Psychologist John Pryor has been thinking about this for more than three decades, and he has created a test in an effort to measure a person’s tendency to harass someone. It’s called the “Likelihood to Sexually Harass Scale.”
Pryor, who is a professor at Illinois State University, created the scale in the 1980s, a time when many researchers were looking at rape.
“There was a scale that was developed then to measure the likelihood that people would rape if they thought they could get away with it,” he says. “So that inspired me to think about sexual harassment.”
Pryor spoke with NPR’s Michel Martin about his research and his thoughts on the national conversation about harassment and the #MeToo movement.
On what the scale looks at and how he created it
Now, the “Likelihood to Sexually Harass Scale” focuses only on one kind of sexual harassment, something that researchers used to call sexual coercion – a quid pro quo situation where someone is offering a bribe or maybe threatening a punishment for sexual cooperation. So I designed the “Likelihood to Sexually Harass Scale” using some common stereotypes about men in power situations. So I asked college men to imagine that they had such a job, and one of the things that let me know I was on to something when I first started working on this was that there was a high level of consistency. Men who would say that they would perform this act in one situation were highly likely to say they would do it in another situation.
On his reaction to the #MeToo moment
I’m not surprised at all that many women across all different kinds of walks of life are coming forth to say this has happened to them, because we know that the majority of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Admitting that you are a target or a victim of sexual harassment is somewhat of a stigma, but when you start to see people coming forth in public, one of the things you start to do is remove some of the stigma. When women hear other women say, “Oh this happened to me,” they think, “Yeah, it happened to me” and they’re less likely to think that they’re going to be treated negatively for coming forth and saying it happened to them.
On if there are specific characteristics harassers share
There are a series of beliefs that people have about sexual harassment that represent kind of a psychological underpinning — basically justifications for the behavior. So beliefs like women asking for it or women making false complaints. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve been interviewed by who ask me,”What about the false complaints?” Well, there are not many false complaints. There are not many complaints period. We can reduce the willingness of men to engage in sexual coercive sexual harassment by inducing them to think long and hard about perspectives of women.
NPR’s Isabel Dobrin produced this story for the Web. Adhiti Bandlamudi, NPR Kroc Fellow, produced for it for radio.www.npr.org