The Redemptorist Solidarity Office for Africa and Madagascar has received an uplifting profile document announcing a series of events to celebrate the silver jubilee of the Vice-Province of Nigeria. The story on the Redemptorists in Nigeria is one of graces and achievement. Fr. Vincent Ezezue is Chairperson of the planning committee for the forthcoming Silver Jubilee.
The Chairman of the planning committee Fr. Vincent Ezezue, CSsR outlines the significance of the Silver Jubilee celebrations:
The aim or apostolate of the Congregation in the mind of Alphonsus our founder is explicit proclamation of the Good News to the poor. The zeal for Good News that led Saint Alphonsus to Scala moved the Redemptorists of the then Oakland Province (now part of Denver Province in USA) to come to Nigeria to begin what we have today as the Redemptorist Vice Province in Nigeria. The foundation was started on 30th September, 1987 when four Redemptorist missionaries (Fr. William Peterson, Fr. Bill Cleary, Bro. Dan Hall and Bro. Richard Fisher, CSsR) arrived the at shores of Nigeria to begin a new parish at Saints Michael, Raphael and Gabriel Catholic Church, Satellite Town, Lagos at the invitation of the then Archbishop of Lagos, Cardinal Anthony Okogie through the intervention of John Burke, SMA now of blessed memory.
In 1990, the Redemptorists opened formation houses for training of priests and brothers in the Archdiocese of Ibadan. At this time 3 more priests arrived from Ireland (Frs. Alphonsus Doran, John O’Riordon and Patrick Scott also of blessed memory) to join the first missioners. And several other hosts of redemptorists missionaries have since worked in Nigeria.
In 1993, what was formerly known as the Redemptorist ‘Mission of Nigeria’ became a Region’ and in January 2008 it became the Vice Province of Nigeria. As a Vice-Province, we have 15 parish-based foundations, two formation houses in Ibadan and Enugu.
Here are the lists of the parishes:
1 ) Saints Michael, Raphael and Gabriel Catholic Church, Satellite Town, Lagos (1987).
2 ) Saint Patrick Catholic Church, Ojo Alaba, Lagos
3 ) Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Ughelli, Delta
4 ) Saint Anthony Catholic Church, Jabi Abuja
5 ) Our Lady of Mercy, Iva Valley, Enugu
6 ) Saint Francis Catholic Church, Gonin Gora, Kaduna
7 ) Saint Mulumba Catholic Church, Alakia, Ibadan
8 ) Saint Fidelis Catholic Church, Aduwawa, Benin
9 ) Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Ilemba Lagos
10 ) Saint Gerard Majella Catholic Church, Oba, Onitsha
11 ) Corpus Christi Catholic Church, Ikorodu, Lagos
12 ) Saint Stephen Catholic Church, Agboju Lagos
13 ) Saint Martin de Porres Catholic Church, Agric Lagos
14 ) Saint John Catholic Church, Ilufe, Lagos
15 ) Port Harcourt
Among the parish-based foundations, two are given to us in perpetuity (Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church Enugu and St Fidelis Catholic Church, Adawawa, Benin). We have also worked in Saint Peter Claver Olanyinega Otukpo Diocese of Benue State. With these parish-based foundations, the presence of the Redemptorist is felt across the six geo-political zones of the country.
The personnel of the Congregation has also grown tremendously since the foundation was established 25 years ago. Presently there are over 60 Redemptorist priests of Nigerian origin, one foreign missionaries, 3 Reverend brothers in final vows and 1 in temporal vows, 47 students with 3 Ghanaians and 2 studying theology in South Africa, 2 transitional deacons to be ordained priest on the day of the celebration, 9 students on pastoral year, 7 novices (2 from Ghana), 7 pre-novices. Among the students 6 brothers on final vows will also be ordained deacons by God’s grace on the day of the celebration and 6 other brothers would also take their final vows as part of the celebration. Indeed the growth is tremendous.
Other apostolic endeavours include:
- Parish Missions
- Retreat Ministries
- Mission Preaching
- Prison apostolate
- Orphanage and Vulnerable Children
The Vice Province of Nigeria provides assistance to other Redemptorist units like Denver, South Africa and Thailand Provinces. We have also in the past collaborated with Canada, the Caribbean, and Brazil in the area of assigning confreres. Also the novitiate in the past hosted students from Zimbabwe, South Africa and is still hosting students from Ghana. Recently we have been having students from Burkina-Faso who visit during summer vacation to improve their English language.
Difficulties and Challenges:
Finances have always been a major problem for the Redemptorists in Nigeria. As a young Vice Province, we are still struggling in the areas of sourcing funds for all the major projects that we have. Nigeria is a multicultural nation. Thus mission in some areas is somewhat difficult.
The silver Jubilee
The three-day event will begin in our Ibadan communities on Wednesday 26 September 2012 with a seminar on Leadership and Administration. In the evening of the same day, there will be a quiz between philosophy students and theology students on the Constitutions and Statutes of the Congregation as well as the History of the Congregation.
On 27 Thursday morning, some of our confreres will be making their final vows. The seminar continues in the evening. There will also be a quiz between the philosophy students and the theology students on the History of the Redemptorists in Nigeria. At the final vows of our brothers, John K. Schmidt representing the Provincial Superior Harry Grile will be the chief celebrant flanked by Guy Arnaud representing the Superior General Michael Brehl and the Vice Provincial Superior of Nigeria, Callistus Nwachukwu. William Cleary will preach at the final vows Mass. Also Alphonsus Doran and William Cleary will give retreat (the last eight days) to the brothers for final vows. Daniel Hall and another confrere will sign as witnesses.
Friday 28 September 2012 the seminar continues and ends on time for the football match between students and brothers in the active ministry. There shall also be GALA NITE later on the same evening. Like the psalmist says, ‘How lovely it is when brothers dwell in unity.’
On Sunday 30 September 2012 is the grand finale. The ordaining prelate is the Archbishop of the Benin His Grace Augustine Akubueze. Award of recognition will be given to some of the friends of the Redemptorists. There will also be cultural display. A book titled History of the Redemptorist Congregation in Nigeria: The Journey So Far will be unveiled during the Mass and will be sold to all. The sub-committee working on the history is putting final touches to it before it will be set to the Central Planning Committee for final vet and printing.
Some goodwill/congratulatory messages have been received from the Superior General, Provincial Superior, William Peterson, Daniel Hall and Larry Kaufman the Province of South Africa Province. Confreres are free to send theirs through the planning committee at this address firstname.lastname@example.org. The Vice Province is open to welcoming confreres and friends who wish to attend this memorable event in the history of the congregation in Nigeria.
Today, the mustard seed that was planted 25 years ago at the Archangels’ parish has grown to a level of providing spiritual shelter for many people in the Nigerian Church. It is with a grateful heart that was we thank the Denver Province for providing funds and facilities for the students and the novices. We remain ever grateful to those that planted this seed and pray in every special way for the repose of the souls of late Fr. Bob Wirth and Patrick Scott.