At our official inauguration in October 2, 2010, I wrote a reflection on the story of our journey and emergence as a circumscription. I titled it “Marching to Greatness”. Though we took off with practically no single “physical” structure unlike some other circumscriptions in Nigeria, yet “our lack”, for me, is our luck – a luck worth looking up to.
Our fundamental lack was “houselessness”. We had no place to call a base. We had no place “to lay down our heads”; we had no place to call an administrative headquarter. This explains why the Superior, Secretary, bursar and some other officers, who ought to live “administratively” under one roof lived separately in their various places of mission or parish. Thus,our official address became the address of where the Superior serves as parish priest. Sometimes, to hold claim that our headquarter is someone else’s house was somehow ridiculous. But we did not mind as long as our Superior does not sleep under a tree.
This state of houselessness was definitely a lack that eventually became a luck. It got us fired up to do something serious! We need a house and home of our own. We need to graduate from being tenant to being landlord. To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
OCTOBER 2, 2012…Dream Come True
In a beautiful liturgical ceremony, Spiritans from Southwest Nigeria and beyond joyfully witnessed the blessing and official opening of our New Provincialate. The Mass which began at exactly 10am was presided by Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Benin City and Bishop Hyacinth Egbebo of the Bomadi Vicariate. Among the host of priests concelebrating were Fr. Hyacinth Ogbodo CSSp, Provincial of Southwest, Fr. Peter Agbonome CSSp, Provincial of Southeast, Fr. John Atoba CSSp, Provincial of Northeast and Fr. Daniel Abba CSSp, Provincial of Northwest. Also in attendance was Fr. Mike Obi Onwuemelie CSSp, the immediate past General Councillor, who came from Rome to represent and deliver a special message of congratulations from our Superior General, Fr. John Fogarty CSSp. Hundreds of our lay Spiritan friends were also present while Religious of various male and female religious congregations were not left out.
In an inspiring homily, Bishop Hyacinth Egbebo thanked and congratulated the superior and confreres of Southwest Province for the landmark achievement of the starting and speedily completing a new Provincialate in a time when finance is had to come by. Greatness, he said, comes with suffering and sacrifice. We should therefore not be scared of suffering as this is and remains the core of both our Christian and missionary life. In obedience to the Father and out of profound love for humanity, Christ endured the Cross of Calvary. If Christ suffered even unto death on a Cross, then no Christian should disregard the daily crosses of life. He thus encouraged us to continue to emulate Christ and then follow the footsteps of the early Spiritan missionaries who worked tirelessly and even sacrificed their life in preaching the Good news. In all, it is out of love that Jesus accomplished this. Love can empower us to do much more we can imagine. An accomplishment like the new Provincialate and other successes of life should be seen from the perspective of using them to promote God’s love.
Before the Mass ended Fr. Mike Onwuemelie delivered a goodwill message from the Superior General Fr. John Fogarty CSSp. The message was one of joyous congratulations and encouragement to the entire confreres of Southwest Nigeria.
Thereafter, Fr. Hyacinth Ogbodo CSSp, our provincial superior, gave a vote of thanks. He stressed the great dual significance of the day as: first, the death anniversary of our Founder, Claude Poullart Des Places, who, though he was from a rich family, embraced poverty in other to make Christ known to the world by founding the Congregation of the Holy Ghost; and secondly, the day marks the second anniversary of our birth as an independent circumscription. He thus thanked God and all for making this landmark dream a reality today. It was not an easy road, he confessed. But he was glad that despite all odds, especially in terms of finance, the unalloyed and generous support of confreres and Spiritan friends made it possible for this edifice to be completed. He prayed that the love of God should continue to reign in this house and in the hearts of all Spiritans.
Rite of Blessing
Immediately after the Mass, the solemn blessing of the House followed. Archbishop Augustine Akubeze presided with the assistance of Bishop Hyacinth Egbebo and our Superior Fr. Hyacinth Ogbodo CSSp. Highlights of the blessing include the blessing of the Tabernacle in the chapel, the unveiling of the milestone and the planting of a tree in the quadrangle of the new Provincialate. The latter was performed by bishop Hyacinth Egbebo with the superior and all the priests around.
Finally, there was refreshment and entertainment for all, priests, religious and laity alike. Though it was rainy season, yet the joy of all was great because God blessed the day with a clement weather.
Good to note that the “house warming” took off almost immediately as all priest-confreres of our Province remained behind for our 4-day annual retreat, moderated by Fr. Jude Mbukamma, OP. We remain ever grateful to God for His blessing because our new house has definitely gingered a new hope. Indeed, we are marching toward greatness!