By Bernard Balogun
“…l feel inadequate for this task because l am neither up to 70years in age, nor 40 as a priest and l do not know what it means to be a Bishop, not to talk of 13years as one…”
Rev Fr Dr Andrew Otu,
Lecturer, Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt.
That was the intro to Fr Dr Andrew Otu’s reflection on the occasion of Most Rev Dr Martin Dada Abejide Olorunmolu, Catholic Bishop of Lokoja Diocese, triple celebrations of his 70th birthday, 40th anniversary as a priest of the Catholic Church and 13th year Episcopal ordination.
The celebration proper began on the night of Thursday, February 07, 2019, which l have since christened “a night with the Bishops and Priests”, when the celebrant hosted the creme le da creme in society, not only of Lokoja but across the country, including over 18 Archbishops/Bishops, Priests/the Religious from various dioceses and congregations in Nigeria and of course the lay faithfuls were treated to sumptuous dinner at the Bishop’s official residence – Maryville with a still documentary highlighting the various milestones in the life of the Bishop. It was indeed a night full of nostalgia for the Bishop, who was constantly on his feet to receive his brother Bishops and others.
The morning of Friday, February 08, 2019 witnessed the Archbishops/Bishops and over 30priests across the country, including the two to be ordained priests, Fr Moses Ojonimi Ojobane and Fr Patrick Sunday Dada Owoleke, who were visibly in happy mood, filed into the Church with His Eminence, John Cardinal Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, who drove in that morning from Abuja to Con-concelebrate the Holy Mass.
In his brief but incisive welcome address the celebrant, Most Rev Dr Martins Abejide Olorunmolu recalled with nostalgia “….on November 4th, 2005 l was appointment as the 4th Bishop of the Diocese of Lokoja …and my subsequent Episcopal ordination on February 11, 2006 at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Lokoja with His Grace (as he was then known but now John Cardinal Olorunfemi Onaiyekan), the Archbishop of Abuja Ecclesiastical Province was the principal consecrator” It is important to add that both Cardinal and the celebrating Bishop are proud sons of Okunland in Kogi State.
The homily of the Mass was brilliantly delivered by Fr. Dr Andrew Otu, an eloquent speaker and a lecturer at the Catholic Institute of West Africa, Portharcourt. During the homily and at regular intervals Fr Otu would throw the congregation into a boisterous laughter with his innocuous remarks.
Fr Otu reminded the congregation “…today we gather to celebrate and thank God for the life of one born 70years ago into the world, called into the life of being another Christ as a priest, sacrificial lamb in union with Christ 40years ago…for the past 13years he has been the mind of Christ as a Bishop amongst us..” In addition to these robust credentials, the Bishop ordained and welcome two young men as priests into the fold.
Continuing Fr Otu recalled “…around 1981 was the first time l saw the Bishop, when he came to my home parish, Osisi in Okene, after late Fr. Guy Mallette returned to his home country, Canada. I got closer when late Fr
Chris Daudu was Bishop’s assistant at the Sacred Heart Parish in Kabba at that time. His Lordship was (so he still is) a hard-working priest who was very much involved pastorally….it was for this good reason that my happiness knew no bounds when he was appointed as a Bishop. His is simply a man without patience…one interesting trait of the Bishop is his ability to say ‘sorry’ even to his priests. He finds it difficult to call but he picks calls and replies every text messages”.
Concluding Fr Otu futuristically said “….by God’s grace you will live long in retirement (and the Church chorused a louder Amen) especially as the diocese was not privileged to experience late Bishop Joseph Sunday Ajomo as a retired Bishop of Lokoja…we need you at that level, where the wisdom of Christ that you prayed for at your Episcopal ordination would come into full glare for us to see and appreciate the light of Christ for guidance…”
After the Homily, the two to be ordained priests were invited to step forward and the entire congregation erupted in ecstasy, the fact that the number of their priests would increase could be responsible for this euphoric esctasy. The ordination rites was conducted by the celebrating Bishop assisted by Very Rev Fr Cyril Fanaiye and Very Rev Fr Jude Ododo. Before the Eucharistic rites, Bishop Olorunmolu informed the congregation that he had received a letter from the Papa Nuncio in Abuja, conveying His Holy Father’s approval and elevation of Very Rev Fr Dr Michael Sunday Sasa, Director of Studies, St Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary, Makurdi to the enviable rank of a Monsignor of the Universal Church. Again, the entire Church went into another round of ecstasy – a joy prompted by the fact that Mgnr Michael Sasa was the third priest from the diocese, who had been so elevated and Mgnr Sasa had gleefully accepted. The first two declined. To present the certificate of elevation sent in from the Holy sea and written in Italian language, Bishop Olorunmolu approached John Cardinal Onaiyekan for the presentation to the recipient. This aspect brought out the humorous element in His Eminence, who read out the document in a mixed language of Okun and Latin. Please do not ask if l understood what he read but that again provoked another round of ecstasy, clapping and dancing not only from the Okun sons and daughters but the entire congregation.
More years in the service of the Church my Lord.
Ad multos Annos.
Balogun (BenPino) writes from Wuse District of Abuja.