As the saying goes, kill not the chicken that lays the golden egg! On February 12, 1962 two young boys made their first religious profession in Nigeria. But have you ever thought what it is like to be a golden egg? Have you ever thought what it means to dedicate yourself to someone else’s life-project? That is exactly what happens when a religious, or priest, consecrates him or herself to God: they lay down their nets (their projects) and take up that of God, and follow Him.
This year 2012, the Spiritans in Nigeria felicitate with two of their great confreres who are celebrating 50 Years of Religious Profession. Nigerian Spiritans celebrate the ‘yes’ cum “Fiat” of two confreres who have been following the Lord’s project through their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for a combined 100 years! Let me introduce them.
Benjamin DARA’TUEGWU CSSp, fondly referred to as “Fr. Dara” and more fondly still as “world man” and Vincent Valentine Egwuchukwu EZEONYIA CSSp, fondly referred to sometimes as “Brother Vin”, were pretty young but filled with the Holy Spirit in 1962. February 12, 1962 was no doubt an awesome as both novices prayerfully knelt before the Blessed Sacrament and in the presence of the provincial Superior to publicly pronounce their willingness to serve God as Spiritans through the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. Many years later, 1968 to be precise, they were ordained to the priesthood.
On the one hand, the ‘diminutive’ Fr. Dara tirelessly served and continues to serve the Holy Ghost Congregation as a “pastor-missionary.” His natural cheerfulness and passion for mission have earned him so much love and admiration from the people of God in the various parts of Nigeria where he served as parish priest. He is currently the parish priest of St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish, Ekwegbe in Nsukka diocese of Nigeria.
On the other hand, “Brother Vin” progressed from “pastor-missionary” to “shepherd” as he was appointed bishop of Aba diocese on April 2, 1990 and was ordained bishop on July 1, 1990. The entire catholic faithful of the diocese of Aba continues to testify to the fact that, our confrere, their bishop, remains an epitome of a good shepherd.
The fearlessness with which these living legends, till date, commit themselves to the mission of the Church and congregation is worth commending. This should, however, not be a surprise to anyone because the word “egwu” in Dara’tuegwu means exactly the same thing as the “egwu” in Egwuchukwu. From an Igbo linguistic cultural purview, “egwu” as contained in their names means “fear”. Thus while “Dara’tuegwu could mean a son of the soil (“Diala” or “Nwa afo”) who is fearless because he is a true son of the soil and should therefore not be scared of nothing or any task assigned to him (cf. Galatians 4:6), “Egwuchukwu” means the fear of God that propels one to remain focused, courageous and Spirit-filled in all circumstances (cf. Isaiah 59:19) that comes one’s way.
It is my submission, therefore, that our Golden Jubilarians – Fr. Benjamin Dara’tuegwu CSSp and Bishop Vincent Egwuchukwu Ezeonyia CSSp – are indeed invaluable assets to both the Church and the Spiritan Congregation. February 12, 2012 remains a golden day for these golden Spiritans celebrating their golden jubilee of a golden religious profession.
As they commemorate the golden memory of the day they pronounced their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience at the feet of the Superior, we thank the jubilarians for the witness of their faithfulness to Christ the Divine Master. We invoke on them the gift of perseverance in the full configuration to Christ. We are grateful to God and Our Blessed Mother Mary for the gift of these two living ancestors to the entire Spiritan Family and the gift of their vocation to the world! Ad Multos Annos!