Callistus Valentine Chukwuma Onaga was born as the fifth child of Vincent and Victoria Onaga on 29 September, 1958. Victoria, Cally’s mother, was the daughter of the legendary Chief Chukwuani of Ozalla Nkanu. Cally’s father, late Vincent Onaga, was a well educated, prayerful, tall and handsome police officer, who was trained by the British Royal Force. Vincent Onaga was known for his self discipline, high integrity and investigative prowess. His good character endeared him to the colonial masters.
The synergy between the two famous and influential families of Onaga (Agbudu) and Chukwuani (Ozalla) saw the marriage of Vincent and Victoria. The families’ character is summed up in their self discipline, hard work and dogged determination to always succeed in any assignment and excel in life.
Cally was very young when the father died. His uncle Chief Henry Yaro I. Onaga and the wife, Mrs. Maureen Nwankwo Onaga, became Cally’s foster parents.
Cally attended St Anthony’s Primary School, Agbudu (1964-1972). His secondary education was at the Sacred Heart Seminary, Nsude (1973-1975) and St John Cross Seminary, Nsukka (1975-1977).
While in the Minor Seminary, he held outstanding functions. He was a house captain, class prefect, infirmarian, and was once the president of Counterpoint, a debating society for the best growing minds in the seminary.
He studied Philosophy at St Joseph Major Seminary, Ikot Ekpene (1978-1982). After his philosophical studies, he was sent on one year apostolic work to the Institute of Ecumenical Education, Thinkers' Corner, Enugu. This was a year he experienced as a great opportunity to serve in a free, challenging and inspiring responsibility under Rev. Fr. Prof. Stan Anih, who was the then Rector of the Ecumenical Institute. This same year, he had his greatest vocational crisis of either continuing or withdrawing from the journey to the priesthood.
Fr Cally owes special thanks to his then Rector, Prof. Stan Anih and Prof. Ignatius Onaga, Fr Cally’s elder brother, who guided him well through the period of crisis until he decided for the priesthood.
Cally continued the journey to the priesthood in Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu for studies in Sacred Theology (1983-1987) and obtained the BD from the Urban University, Rome. While in the Bigard Seminary, Cally distinguished himself as a seasoned seminarian in both character and learning. No wonder he was entrusted with such functions as the House Master, Assistant Editor of the Spring Magazine and the prestigious first auxiliary of the seminary. These duties he executed excellently well.
During his formative years, Cally had his yearly apostolic work experiences at Adani (1979), Agbani (1980), Obollo-Afor (1981) Umana Ndiagu, (1982), Institute of Ecumenical Education, Thinkers' Corner, Enugu (1982 - 1983), St. Joseph, Emene (1985), Ogbaku in Imo State (1985) and St. Theresa, Abakpa (1986).
In 1984 he was installed a lector and in 1985, he became an Acolyte before he was ordained a deacon in 1986. On 8th August, 1987, he was ordained a Priest, and he celebrated his first Mass in his home town, St. Anthony's Church, Agbudu on 9th August, 1987.
After his priestly ordination, he worked for three years in St. Joseph Parish, Emene, under the late Fr. Tim Buckley, CSSp. Up till now, Fr Cally remembers with gratitude the time he worked with Fr Tim Buckley. According to Fr Cally, "It was a very inspiring experience working with Fr. Tim Buckley at St. Joseph's, Emene". In the same vein, Fr. Buckley kept recalling that Fr. Callistus was "an excellent lad", and never stopped calling him "The Bishop" until his death on 1st October, 2007.
In 1991 Fr Cally was sent to Germany on further studies by Most Rev Michael U. Eneja. While there, Fr Cally lived at St. Hippolitus Church, Troisdorf and helped in the pastoral care of the patients and staff of St. Joseph Hospital, Troisdorf. He studied Systematic Theology at the University of Bonn, where he wrote and defended his doctoral thesis titled "The Civilization of Labour" in the year 2000. At other occasion, he functioned both as lecturer and Chaplain while working as the "Rector Ecclesiae" at Katholisches Sociales Institut in the Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany.
When he returned to Nigeria in 2001, he held highly placed and responsible offices in Enugu Diocese among which are, the Deputy Director of the Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace (CIDJAP), Chairman of Diocesan Politics Commission (2002), Lecturer at St Paul International Institute of Evangelization, Emene (SPIIEE), Parish Priest of St. Mary Parish, Uwani, Member of the Diocesan Curia, Member of the Diocesan College of Consultors, General Co-ordinator of all Diocesan (over 30) commissions, the Chairman of the committee for the inauguration of Awgu Diocese, Cathedral Administrator, Holy Ghost, Enugu and the Vicar General of Enugu Diocese.
Looking at the great responsibilities Fr Cally has shouldered in Enugu diocese, one would easily understand that he has been well prepared to become the Chief Shepherd of the diocese. Today, the prophecy of Fr Tim Buckley for his "excellent lad", Fr. Callistus, has become a reality. Cally’s physical appearance presents him as an imposing and even intimidating personality, yet his human relationship reveals him as a meek lamb, with a burning zeal for the mission of the Church and childlike docility to the will of God. We are very happy to have Most Rev Dr Callistus Valentine Chukwuma Onaga as our Bishop.