An Address presented by the Clergy, Religious and Laity of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu to Most Rev. Dr Callistus Valentine Chukwuma Onaga on the Occasion of His Episcopal Ordination and Installation as the Bishop of Enugu on 2 May 2009
Moses said to the people, the Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me among you, from your brethren - him you shall heed - just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, 'let me not hear the voice of the Lord my God, or see this great fire anymore, lest I die.' And the Lord said to me, 'they have rightly said what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him ... (Deuteronomy 18:15-20).
It was with a brief reflection on the above scriptural text that Most Rev. Dr Anthony Okonkwo Gbuji, on 9 February 2009, announced to us the good tidings of the appointment of Msgr. Callistus V. C. Onaga as the new Bishop of Enugu, in the Caritas Hall at Bishop's Court, Enugu. This long-awaited news was received with loud enduring ovation and great rejoicing. Many people instantly ran towards the "service table" to rejoice and identify with Msgr. Onaga, and shake hands with him; some of them came very near to raising him shoulder-high. Others immediately reached for their phones to inform loved ones; for a good news not passed on to others is either not heard or not good enough. It was such a hilarious atmosphere that greeted the announcement of the Bishop-Elect. What, then, appeared as twilight of hope, has, today, manifested as luminous daylight of reality. Indeed, "This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).
We express sincere gratitude to God for the emergence of Most Rev. Callistus Valentine Chukwuma Onaga as the fifth Bishop of Enugu. With him, a new chapter has been opened up in the history of the diocese. We are immensely grateful, too, to his predecessor, Most Rev. Dr A. O. Gbuji, for the unfaltering effort he made to procure a successor. May God bless him abundantly.
Certainly, our sentiments of joy cannot be kept within bounds on this memorable day. We rejoice with, and pray for, Most Rev. C.V.C. Onaga, who was born on 29 September 1958 at Agbudu in Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State. Soon after his primary education in 1972, he entered Sacred Heart Seminary, Nsude, in 1973. Thus his journey to the priesthood started. After a long period of formation, he was ordained to the Catholic priesthood on 8 August 1987. He worked in the Diocese for few years and was sent, on further studies, to Germany where he obtained a Doctorate Degree in Theology. Now as our new bishop, we ask the almighty God to grant him the wisdom, health and unction necessary for him to fulfil the demands of his office creditably well. May our diocese prosper under him.
Of course, God's favour has always accompanied this diocese, especially in respect of its bishops as a brief presentation of its history shows. Enugu became a diocese in November 1962. It was carved out of Onitsha Archdiocese, and comprised of old Enugu and Nsukka districts. Rt. Rev. Dr. John Cross Anyogu, who had been the Auxiliary Bishop of Onitsha from 1957, was its first bishop. He was installed on 15 January 1963. He shepherded the diocese for four years and passed on to eternity on 6 July 1967 at the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war. Msgr. S. N. Ezeanya had to administer the diocese during the war, a job which he creditably performed well.
In 1970, after the civil war, Bishop Godfrey Mary Paul Okoye, a former Bishop of Port-Harcourt, was chosen to succeed Bishop Anyogu. On 17 March 1970, he was installed Bishop of Enugu. As a dynamic, foresighted bishop, he acquired uncountable assets for the diocese, and initiated and accomplished many pioneer projects. He was the renowned founder of the enterprising Congregation of the Daughters of Divine Love (DDL). On the day of his seventh anniversary as the Bishop of Enugu, being 17 March 1977, death snatched him away from us.
But God could not relent in propping us up and providing us with fatherly figures. Msgr. Michael Ugwu Eneja was appointed on 10 November 1977 to succeed Bishop Okoye. He was ordained and installed Bishop of Enugu on 26 February, 1978. Bishop Eneja was a loving father and a spiritual guru who gave Enugu Diocese a remarkable spiritual base and focus. His leadership experienced enormous growth which led to the creation of Nsukka Diocese in 1991. After 18 years of service, he retired on 8 November, 1996.
Following the retirement of Bishop Eneja, Bishop A. O. Gbuji, who had been the Bishop of Issele-Uku, was appointed to come to Enugu. He was installed on 8 February, 1997. We saw him as an experienced, energetic, resourceful and ebullient bishop. His spirit of motivation was immense. This was why he was able to move the diocese further ahead. He recorded successes in many areas. For instance, he brought many religious congregations to Enugu Diocese; and, with them, he attracted the Paulines of the Book Apostolate, who now have their seat in Holy Ghost Cathedral premises. He founded St Paul International Institute of Evangelization (SPIIEE) and St. Bernard Seminary Hostel Nchatancha, among other achievements. Bishop Gbuji is today handing over the pastoral care of the Diocese of Enugu to Most Rev Dr Callistus Onaga.
We know it is not going to be very easy for you, Bishop Onaga, for the office of bishops is enormous and exceedingly challenging. This is so since it is the summit of sacred ministry, which preserves and ensures the continuation of the divine mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles. According “to the testimony of St Irenaeus, the apostolic tradition is manifested and preserved throughout the world by those whom the apostles made bishops and by their successors down to our own time" (Lumen Gentium, no. 20). This means, in God's place, bishops preside over the flock of God, and nourish and govern it. As dispensers of the mysteries of God (cf. 1 Cor 4:1), they are prime missionaries in their dioceses and they have the responsibility to see that the Good News is brought to all creation. Equally, since they act in the person of Christ, and eminently and visibly take his place as Teacher, Shepherd and Priest, they are not only symbols, but also points of unity and communion for the flock. Indeed, the episcopacy is a demanding office.
Nonetheless, we know that you, Bishop Onaga, are already fashioned for the office. Your exposure and the different administrative posts you had already held, have prepared you for the great responsibility of a bishop. During the years of formation and afterwards, you had many responsible functions that have helped you mature into a seasoned personality. You were the First Auxiliary in Bigard Memorial Seminary in 1987. You were at some points in charge, in Enugu Zone, of Professional Certificate in Education (PCE) Sandwich Course Programme organised by the Institute of Ecumenical Education, Thinkers Corner, Enugu. While in Germany, you were the Hospital Chaplain to St Joseph Hospital, Troisdorf (1991-1996), Lecturer in the Social Institute in Bad-Honnef (1997-2001). Back to the Diocese, you were Deputy Director, Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace (CIDJAP), Enugu (2002-2003), Parish Priest, St Mary's Parish Uwani, Enugu (2003-2005), Vicar General and Cathedral Administrator, Enugu, (2003-2009), Chairman, Pastoral Commission, Enugu (2003-2009), Chairman, Politics Commission, Enugu (2003-2009). So, with you, we are full of hopes and expectations.
It is said that people who succeed in life are those who know their future, visualise it and allow themselves to be propelled by it. In Msgr. Callistus Onaga, our diocese has such a person as our experience of you reveals. Indeed, our diocese, because of its strategic historical position and the diverse people who populate it, requires a chief pastor who has vision and is able to lead his flock to a known pasture of luxuriant fodders. Such a pastor must have an idea of our future; he must know where we are going to; and he must have a map that orients to our destination. We have no doubts that we are going to enjoy all this in our new bishop who has had a fruitful contact with the German world known for its systematic and well-planned life with farsighted blueprints.
A diocese without a programme is without a vision; it wakes up each morning to new surprises and fumbles with them. It is a diocese without direction and focus. Like the deer that yearns for running water, so do we stand in need of a blueprint for the diocese, a master plan, according to which we should direct our efforts and avoid a dissipation of energy and resources.
It is our expectation that you, Bishop Onaga, will consolidate and enhance positive developments that your predecessors have put in place and move Enugu to ever greater heights. Among other things, we think especially here of the attention given to the formation of our seminarians. The seminary has often been regarded as the apple of the eye of bishops, and rightly so, since it generates the priests who are co-workers with the order of bishops. The future of each local church depends on the quality of priests turned out from the seminary. Therefore, our seminaries deserve and are, indeed, in dire need of genuine and focal attention of the diocese. We need priests of no mean quality for tomorrow. On the other side of the coin, the quality of future priests depends not only on attention given to seminarians, but also on the measure of concern we have for the formators and the environment within which they function.
Very importantly, Christianity is a religion of communion, communion with God and communion of the faithful amongst themselves. Communion is the hallmark of the Church of Christ. The Second Vatican Council emphasizes this communion when it writes, in reference to the people of God, that God "has, however, willed to make women and men holy and to save them, not as individuals without bond between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness" (Lumen Gentium, no.9). At this moment, the people of God in Enugu Diocese are in terrible need of cohesion. We need cohesion as a people to coexist and enjoy our communion as a gift from God. Our lay people cannot succeed with any project unless they work with unity of purpose and collaborate among themselves. Our clergy cannot be exemplary and true symbols of Christ when they destructively disagree and take refuge in their tents and camps. We share a common patrimony, the Diocese of Enugu. We have a common mission, that of Christ for the salvation of all. Unity must be achieved for the Glory of God and for the good of all. To succeed, we need to pool our talents, resources, strength and whatever together. We, therefore, need a fatherly bishop that will be able to gather us together as a hen gathers her young. He is to be our rallying and healing point. This implies a patient, compassionate and forgiving father who will be ready, also, to welcome prodigal sons and daughters on their return.
Consequently, we need a bishop who will be disposed to listen to us and know where it hurts us. Our new bishop is an expert in Social Ethics; we are confident, therefore, that justice or fair play will always determine his decisions and dealings with people, and that he will be able to take care of the interests of all, especially that of the weak, the poor and the voiceless.
Besides, we can already sense Bishop Onaga’s spirit of ecumenism. We can perceive his spirit repeat those fatherly and ecumenical words of Jesus Christ, "I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice" (John 10:16). In this ecumenical spirit, he would want to reach out to other Christians and religious groups to tell them that we are children of the same Father, and that what unites us is stronger than what makes us different.
Bishop Onaga is already poised to bring them to an all-embracing unity. In Lumen Gentium we read about that "Catholic unity of the people of God which prefigures and promotes universal peace. And to it belong, or are related in different ways: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all of humankind, called by God's grace to salvation" (LG, no. 13). May God sustain you, our nes Bishop, in your efforts to do this.
Again, spiritual maturity is a must for every individual who is serious in his relationship with God. In the same vein, any society that pays less attention to its relationship with God is bound to totter to self-destruction. If this is true of any society, it is then much more disastrous for a society, like a diocese, already linked up to God. Our spirituality in this diocese is to be given serious attention. Our diocese aches for that spiritual depth that would inspire us (priests and laity) to raise our minds to the things above, and not focus them on things below (Col 3:2); to render selfless services not propped up by the spirit of quid pro quo; to give out and expect no return in kind or the like. We have no doubts that the grace of God will assist you, our new Bishop, in leading Enugu Diocese to an enviable spiritual height that we thirst for.
Certainly, to be able to discharge your responsibility efficiently, you will have immediate co-operators and people you would work with. It is our prayer that God may surround you with sincere, disinterested and Spirit-filled advisers who would help you in proper discernment of issue, and work for the progress of the entire diocese and the salvation of souls.
In addition to prayers for you, our Chief Shepherd, we also have the obligation to assist you with material resources to enable you do his work efficiently. We pledge that we will do this as and when due. For now, we present you some gifts to enable you take off without material stress.
Love live Bishop Callistus Onaga
Long live the Catholic Diocese of Enugu
Long live the Nigerian Church.