Accountant, electrical and computer engineers ordained catholic priests
Life is a series of sometimes un-accidental coincidences by which Providence arranges seemingly unrelated puzzles into a composite whole. About 15 years ago, as a student in the Enugu Campus of the University of Nigeria, I came across two young men – Pedro Okafor and Frederick Oraegbu— and through them I also became acquainted with their mutual friend, Elobuike Asogwa. The news is that on Saturday, May 5, 2018, these three young men were ordained Catholic Priests of the Prelature of Opus Dei in Rome. It is interesting how these men veered off their civil career paths to morph into priests.
Pedro was born in Ibadan, studied Computer Engineering in Enugu State University (ESUT) and worked as an intern in the Information Technology department of Lagos Business School. Frederick, on the other hand, a native of Ibusa, Delta State, is a graduate of Accountancy from the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus. He was a mathematics teacher at Whitesands School Lagos, from 2010 to 2011. Similarly, Elobuike, who was born in Enugu, studied Electrical Engineering in the University of Nigeria Nsukka (2004-2010). The three of them later obtained Masters degree in Philosophy in University of Navarra Spain and PhD’s (or say doctorates) in varying ecclesiastical disciplines from the University of the Holy Cross, Rome.
Ordinarily, a journey to the Catholic priesthood usually begins from junior seminary (secondary school) for most boys. Later, they attend a major seminary, where they spend at least seven to eight years studying philosophy and later theology. It is usually after this long and rigorous training that they may be called by their bishop to priesthood. But these three Nigerians did not initially set out to become priests. Like most of their mates, they had ambitions to become competent professionals in their chosen disciplines.
This was the reason they enrolled in the university. At the same time, they wanted to live their Christian vocation to the full. But how can one become holy in the midst of ordinary life? As undergraduates, they got in contact with the message of holiness in the middle of the world, as espoused by St Josemaría Escrivá, Founder of Opus Dei.
Opus Dei aims at fostering the evangelical admonition that all men and women, despite their work, social condition and race, among others, have been called to become holy. In other words, Opus Dei seeks to re-echo a message old as the Gospel, that the ordinary work of a Christian is the means through which he/she can become a saint.
Pedro, Frederick and Elobike attended activities carried out in halls of residence in Enugu (Hillpoint University Centre) and Nsukka, (Uhere Study Centre) where they were undergraduates. Opus Dei guarantees the moral and spiritual formation in these centres. With time, they realised that God might be asking more from them. However, this exclusive call to serve God was to be realised within the world, without abandoning their secular careers.
As young undergraduates, Pedro, Frederick and Elobike decided over a decade ago to give their entire being to God in a commitment of Love, by becoming numeraries of Opus Dei.Numeraries are celibate faithful of Opus Dei – a Catholic organisation founded by St Josemaría Escrivá. In order to spread this message of holiness to the remotest part of the world, some members of Opus Dei live celibacy. On the other hand, majority of other members of Opus Dei are married and live with their families.
All members of Opus Dei – single or married, male or female – receive a continuous and intense formation in ecclesiastical sciences. This is usually achieved during annual leave (for professionals) or holidays (for students) of members. But some celibate men of Opus Dei can be invited by the Prelate to be ordained priests. Upon this invitation by the Prelate, these members have to obtain post-graduate degrees – usually a doctorate – in ecclesiastical sciences. This call to service is to provide pastoral attention to the numerous apostolic instruments, which Opus Dei provides in many countries. However, upon ordination, Opus Dei Priests cease to execute their civil professions and become “100 percent priests,” following St Josemaría’s example.
Thus, on May 5, 2018, Pedro, Frederick and Elobike abandoned their civil professions to become Priests of Jesus Christ. They were ordained with 28 other members of Opus Dei from 15 countries by Robert Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect of Divine Worship in the Basilica of St Eugene, Rome. It was a tremendous joy for the Equatorial Guinea Cardinal to have anointed the foreheads, palms and imposed his hands on these three Nigerians together with three other African new priests from Kenya, Ivory Coast and Uganda. The Prelate of Opus Dei, Monsignor Fernando Ocariz was truly elated on having 31 sons of his freely accepting to serve others by celebrating the sacraments.
But who is a priest? Robert Cardinal Sarah in his homily answers: “The Bible presents the priest as a man of the Word of God. A man chosen and sent by God: ‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you’ (Jn 20:21). ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt 28:19-20). As the second reading says, we priests are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us (2 Cor 5:20). And since we are sent, what are we to teach? Only the Word of God, the doctrinal and moral teaching of the Church, the truth about God, Christ and mankind. We are priests only to announce Christ. People today ask priests to show them Christ. About other topics (whether economic, social or political) they have so many other competent persons they can consult.”
I am truly happy that my friends said ‘yes’ to God and accepted this new but sublimely joyful ‘complication’ to their life of self-giving. I pray that they remain holy priests, forever—forever!
From now on, they will be engaged in their priestly duties – one that demands their entire existence, which they have to sanctify with the same zeal with which they carried out their civil professions. Revered Fathers Pedro Okafor, Frederick Oregbu and Elobike Asogwa are now living bridges between men and God; the tie that unites earth with heaven – Ukochukwu!
Akuika lives in Enugu, Nigeria
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