Good night Bishop Kevin Joseph Aje
My second catechism class was for the sacrament of confirmation and Catechist Michael Iyala (God rest his soul), did the best he could for us by training us correctly, more so since no-person other than the Bishop of The Archdiocese of Sokoto State, Bishop Kevin Joseph Aje was going to give us that sacrament. You had to pass the catechism class, because the Bishop did not believe in half-measures. He could ask questions from catechism handbook to be sure participants knew what they were doing and he may ask you to go back to class if such questions asked weren’t answered aptly, so we were told. And many of us were scared.
Our path finally crossed on d-day when I took the sacrament, the Bishop appeared to be a gentle man, and he conducted mass at SS Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Gingiya Barracks, Sokoto State.
Looking back today he was young then but he looked old to us in appearance, you wouldn’t blame us, we were in our teens and saw many people who were older than us as giants. I was happy to see a Bishop for the first time and in outfit different from that of my parish priest (then Captain Peter Malu).
Not long after my confirmation, I became an altar server (mass server, altar boy) and knew the Bishop from very close quarters. I served many masses that he superintended in the barracks when he visited.
Our parish priest always advised us to be of good conduct whenever he was around as he does not put up with nonsense and we were trained to end our greetings to him with, “My Lord,” and he responded in his baritone voice. He was friendly and from time to time, asked if we were interested in joining the priesthood. I was at a point until my sister Augustina let the cat out of the bag to my uncle and he left me with fleas in my ears with severe forewarning to squelch the ambition.
In retrospect, I might have made a poor priest because I love Eve, priests sacrifice a lot. Many times I visited Holy Family Cathedral, his official residence to attend ordination mass. He ran an open door policy, attended to people without hurry and made sure you visit the kitchen to eat before leaving, he was so hospitable.
He was so self-effacing, very thorough and insisting. He hated pride in any shade. He believed solution is always available in any difficulty. So people do not go to him and say they couldn’t carry out an assignment. He loved to indigenise the liturgy with practical examples. He told us to always add value to responsibilities given to us. He found time to leave his place in the cathedral to visit my boyhood friend Daniel Anthony in Ginginya Barracks when Daniel was sick and prayed for him.
You may be the son of a rich man today to get such visits from some other clergy men. I can’t forget his advice to women on all ordination ceremonies, “women leave my priests alone.” Priests and Diocese will miss him. Good night Bishop Kevin Joseph Aje
Simon Abah wrote in from Abuja.
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