The author, Anthony ISAH CSSp, a Spiritan scholastic currently doing his “stage” or one year perfecting programme at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church Oyede, is seen in this picture boarding a boat ready for mission beyond borders. In this article, he narrates his personal encounter of missionary life in the rural Niger Delta village of OYEDE – a village that for long suffers environmental degradation due to the oil spillage and is now faced with the horrible effects of torrential super flood that has claimed many lives and property of Oyede people.
“The evangelization of the “poor” is our purpose. Therefore, We go especially to peoples, groups and individuals who have not yet heard the message of the Gospel or who have scarcely
heard it, to those whose needs are the greatest, and to the oppressed. We also willingly accept tasks for which the Church has difficulty in finding workers” (cf Spiritan Rule of Life #4).
When I made my First Religious Profession to be a Spiritan Missionary on September 20, 2008, little did I know nor understand the implications and challenges associated with the Spiritan Mission in the Church. It is clearer to me now that the call to Spiritan life is a call to total self-surrender in preaching the Good News to the poorest of the poor!
When I received my Prefecting Experience Programme (PEP) posting to work at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church Oyede, I could not envisage what the Apostolate holds for me. But I was certain that it was providential; hence, my being in Oyede was not an act of mistake but that of providence. I remain fervent in Spirit, despite all odds.
Oyede: The People, Culture and Faith
Oyede is a small community in Isoko North Local Govt. Area of Delta State, with Isoko as the major language amongst the people. Oyede kingdom is headed by a traditional ruler called an ‘Odiologbo’ and his council of Chiefs. The people are generally hospitable and kind especially to visitors.
The community is made up of Schools, Market, Health Centres, Churches, and Community Shrines. There is a high level of single motherhood (children born out of marriage), cultism, and an alarming promiscuity amongst its youth. The people are basically farmers and their major crop production is Cassava. Ninety percent (90%) of the people depend largely on farming in order to make ends meet.
The people are very religious and have a strong belief in the active existence of witchcraft and other ancestral practices. African Traditional Religion (ATR) and Christianity are the two major religions amongst the people. There are over twenty different Christian denominations in Oyede Community; Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Jehovah’s Witness, to mention but few.
However, there are two Catholic institutions in Oyede: a Parish, which is administered by the Holy Ghost Fathers (Ss Peter and Paul Cath. Church) and a School (Good Shepherd Catholic Boys Secondary School), run and managed by the Catholic Diocese of Warri.
The Catholic Church in Oyede is made up of a population of approximately three hundred Parishioners with six outstations (Okpe, Ivrogbo, Ada, Uro, Ivori and Orie). Named after two great apostles, Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Oyede was recently given to the Spiritans; and Rev. Fr. Boniface Ugwo, CSSp appointed as the Parish Priest.
Although the Parish is nascent yet it looks promising. The Parish also organizes some extra spiritual activities such as Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament on Fridays and, an all night Eucharistic Procession, Mass and Prayers on every first Friday of the Month. The people have a high regard and respect for the Catholic Church due to the outstanding positive impact and the development Catholic Church has brought to them. Hence, the Church-people relationship has been a cordial one.
Amongst the many challenges confronting this young parish is the financial quagmire. A befitting Church is yet to be constructed. Likewise, a Father’s house (priests’ residence) is yet to be set up. Both projects, undoubtedly, are very important and quite capital intensive. We have a task/project of making Oyede a catholic community in the nearest future. You can be part of this project with your spiritual and financial support. Simple put, Oyede is a mission of primary evangelisation.
Flood, Environmental Terror
The recent flooding has drastically affected this community (Oyede), the number of deaths and displacement of the people remain overwhelming as a result of massive flooding that has ravaged this community. The Parish is cut-off from her six outstations due to the devastating flood of high currents. The monster flood wrecked havoc on Churches, Farms, Properties, Schools, Health Centres, Market and Electricity Installations. The people now use speed boats and Canoes as the major means of transportation. It is simply appalling especially as it has escalated the level of poverty in Oyede. A situation where vast acres of farmlands were submerged in water undoubtedly open wide the doors of hunger and hardship.
Oyede and Spiritan Presence
In the face of this year’s deadly flooding, our Spiritan Missionary presence in Oyede has been a source of consolation and succour to the people. We decided to remain with the people and be one with them, sharing their sufferings and challenges of life. The people have been very active in the Church during this trial and challenging period, and even when their Parish Priest went on pastoral recess. The community has lost two old women who capsized from a canoe while returning from their farms where they went to harvest cassava. As it is in their culture, that anyone who dies in the waters is not given a befitting burial and the person is not buried in the town, so, the two women were buried besides the river. May their souls rest in peace.
After much prayers and reflections on the people, their community, way of life and the effects of the flood disaster, I have come to appreciate more fully the gift of the Spiritan Missionary Apostolate. Thus, despite the challenges, I’m still “Proudly Spiritan”. Please remember us in your prayers and support the work of the Spiritans in Oyede Community and Niger Delta as a whole.