BRIEF HISTORY OF NEW EVANGELIZATION SISTERS OF OUR MOTHER OF PERPETUAL HELP
One of the effective means to respond to the challenges posed to the New Evangelization by Modern history is through the “Consecrated Life”. This new Religious Vocation which is rooted in Baptism is a form of life by which some Christians are freely called by God though unmerited, to enjoy a special gift of Grace in the life of the Church and may contribute each in her own way to the saving Mission of the Church.
When the Holy Father St Pope John Paul II visited Nigeria in 1982; he inaugurated New era of Evangelization: new in zeal, new in methods and new in expressions. Bishop Gbuji in his quest to spread the Gospel message and to deepen the faith of the people of God especially in Issele – Uku Diocese; embarked on this On- going formation of Christians through the “Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.” For efficiency he trained volunteer teachers to manage the different centers all over the Diocese. These groups waxed strong and later were splinted into Small Christian Communities (SCC) in all the villages and they became means of Evangelization and Catechesis at the grass root level; but later due to lack of commitment on the part of the teachers the groups faded away.
Even at that Bishop Gbuji was never discouraged after his annual leave in Rome in 1988; he discovered a school on New Evangelization 2000 called International Catholic Programme of Evangelization (ICPE) In which lay men, young ladies and youth devoted themselves to the preaching of the Gospel and lived community life. As the Local Ordinary of Issele-uku Diocese, he then invited these young evangelizers into the Diocese who then helped to established Emmaus School of Evangelization in 1989. After several outreaches to different parishes and Dioceses; during evaluation a great need of follow up of the newly converted into the Church and maintenance of the Small Christian Communities scattered all over the Diocese emanated.
In 1993, encouraged by some Juniorate students and some Priests in the Diocese a Congregation called New Evangelization Sisters = NES under the patronage of our Mother of Perpetual Help was founded by Most Rev. Dr. Anthony Okonkwo. Gbuji; in the vision and spirit of New Evangelization; who will dedicate their lives completely to Christ as Evangelizers and help in the on –going formation and Deeping of faith (Catechesis) of the new converts to the Catholic faith and also for the fervent Christians to be more committed to their Catholic faith RM n. 33.
The Congregation kicked off with four pioneer members namely Srs Clementina Emechebe, Justina Nwaobi, Anthonia Anusiobi and ThereseAnn Nwagwu. This first group with their formatress Sr. Augustine Onwubiko went through the four months intensive programme in Emmaus School of Evangelization, here at the Pastoral Center, Issele – Uku; the reason was to expose them to the Charism and Apostolate of the Congregation and it also served as the first stage of their Aspirancy. After the course, they had a Month holidays in preparation for the next stage in their formation.
On the 1st July 1993, the four candidates were received into Postulancy and were given accommodation in “Block C” now named “SS Peter and Paul Hostel” still in Pastoral Centre; Later they moved to Miss Pierce’s House where they stayed in a room with their Mistress living in another room. That time the Chapel was just opposite the sitting room which at present is the aspirant’s room. During this time, the Congregation had nothing; cooking utensils were borrowed from the “Covenant Community” under the leadership of Mr. Ike Richard. Gradually through the assistance of our Mistress Sr. A. Onwubiko who donated most of the things she brought back from Rome and our founder too, the formation house was equipped. The Congregation also received a lot of material and spiritual support from the Juniorate school, the DMMM community under the leadership of Sr. Mary De-Sales Eke and Sr Ndidi who taught the earlier groups some Liturgical hymns. Other Priests that contributed immensely to our formation were Msgr. Stephen Uzomah taught Canon law, Fr Emma Isidi of Blessed Memory handled Liturgy and participated most times in our recreation. Msgr. Mozie Moral Theology which he taught during holidays, while his Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Augustine Akubeze (by then the Diocesan Secretary and Chancellor), Rev. Frs S. Nwutu and N. Uchuno helped in the publication of our “Rule of Life”.
On the 15th August 1993, this first group was solemnly received into Postulancy by the father founder at St Paul’s Cathedral Church, Issele – uku. Their period of Postulancy was shortened because the founder was anxious for this group to go out and Evangelize but their Mistress insisted on the normal process into Religious life. Their Postulancy lasted for four months. During this period, they were sent out to different communities of DMMM for apostolic work for one month only, after which they were moved from Miss Pierce’s house to the old Diocesan Secretariat for some months; the idea of this movement was to house the second group of four on the 15th August 1994.
On the 9th Jan 1994, the first group was joyfully received into the novitiate; from the old secretariat, they moved into the first building owned by NES Congregation behind Miss Pierce’s house. After the canonical year in the novitiate, the first group was sent to Ubulu- Okiti for community experience for a year under the leadership of Sr. ThereseAnn Nwagwu.
UBULU – OKITI EXPERIENCE
Late Dr Nwaomu out of his generosity donated his house to the Congregation for ten years free rent. On the 8th Dec 1995, the first four novices were blissfully received at St James Catholic community Ubulu-Okiti. The founder and Rev. fr. Fidelis Igwenwanne blessed the house and installed the Blessed Sacrament in the small room as the chapel which was before then a car park. This house had been abandoned for many years; there were no windows shutters, the doors were in tatters, no chairs, no beds, ceilings all broken, no toilet facilities and the surroundings were very bushy, seeing dangerous snakes and reptiles were of daily occurrences. It was really a test of Divine protection and providence; in fact it is an unforgettable experience. In April 1996, the first group ended their community experience and went back to Issele-uku, this was to prepare for their retreat; they had “life in the Spirit seminar organized by Rev. fr. Emma Akalue and Mr Ike for four days and then a week retreat for profession by Rev. fr. Chukwubuikem OP. On the 5th May 1996, the four pioneer members had their first profession before the founder and the vows were received by a delegate from DMMM Mother General at St Paul Cathedral Church Issele – uku.
The newly professed went back to Ubulu- Okiti again for intensive community life, 30th of August became a day of separation: Srs Justina and TheresAnn left for Rome, later Srs Clementine and Anthonia left for Germany all for further studies. While the first group was away, life continued in the Congregation. The 2nd group of three had their first profession on the 4th Jan. 1997. The 3rd group of six namely Srs Stephen Nnoruka, Uju Akeh, Agatha Kunuba, Agatha Ebegbulem of Blessed Memory, Appolonia Ukambu and Paschal Umeh were the first to start community experience as aspirant for a year; they lived in the old secretariat and the former JDP office served as their refectory. For their apostolic work: three of them went to Idumujei- unor while the other three had theirs in Issele-uku. On the 28th of Aug. 1997, there was a tragedy in the Congregation; armed robbers attacked the Pastoral centre, in the process, the novices of the 3rd group by name Sr. Agatha Ebegbulem got drowned and died. May her gentle soul rest in Perfect Peace. The other five novices were then professed on the 19th of September 1998.
Also in 1998, our first community outside Issele-uku Diocese was established at Gawu Babangida in Minna Diocese, the house was donated by Col John Madaki who had it equipped and also gave a 504 station wagon for effective apostolate. The bishop of the Diocese His Excellency Most Rev. Dr Martin Uzoukwu contributed in no small measure for the sitting up of the convent.
The 4th group was twelve aspirants; they left for community experience on the 22nd of Feb. 1997 and came back on the 8th of August of the same year. They were received into the Novitiate on the 20th of Oct 1998, after which they were sent out on apostolic work. On the 1st of Oct 1999, another heartbreak event happened in the Congregation; a novice from the 4th group named Sr. Pricilla of the Blessed Memory who was working in Divine Mercy shop in Minna Diocese, on coming back after shopping from Lagos had a fatal accident and died. May her gentle soul rest in Perfect Peace. Amen. The remaining novices were professed on the 27th of Nov 1999. Also in 2015, the Congregation lost a finally professed sister by name Sr Somkelechukwu Onwuesieamu after a great illness.
The Congregation continues to grow in population, in maturity and then spread to all parts of the world; today we have 48 finally professed sisters, 41 temporarily and 15 novices.
So far the Congregation has 14 communities: Pastoral Centre. Cathedral, Onicha-Ugbo, Agbor, Ute-Ogbeje, Akumazi, St Roses Ogwushi –Uku, St Monica Ibusa, SPC Asaba, Flo Valley Asaba, Okwe, Olona, Ebu and Ubulu –Okiti and two formation houses (Postulate and Novitate all in Issele- uku Diocese, 2 communities in Minna, 2 communities in Lafia, Shandam, Nnewi and Enugu Dioceses, Outside Nigeria we have communities in Burkina-Faso and Botswana; we also went to Tanzania for a special mission. We have some of our sisters working and studying in different places like: Rome, Belgium and Austria.
THE CHARISM OF OUR CONGREGATION
Our Charism is the closer imitation of “Christ proclaiming the Kingdom of God” to everybody He places along our path. The preaching of the Good News becomes for us our “life’s work in a thorough-going-service.” (2Tim 4:5). We are specially “set apart for the Gospel of God.” (Rom 1:1).
The major feasts of our Congregation
The following are our special feasts:
- Pentecost; 2. Holy Trinity; 3. Annunciation of the Lord; (March 25) 4. Our Mother of Perpetual Help; (27th June); 5. Foundation Day (1st July).
THE MINOR FEASTS OF OUR CONGREGATION ARE:
- Saints Peter and Paul (29th June); 2. St. Anthony of Padua (13th June); 3. St. Theresa of the Child Jesus (3rd October).
APOSTOLATE OF THE CONGREGATION
NES pursue the apostolate peculiar to the Congregation with the spirit of the teachings of the Church and the norms of the Code of Canon Law. She constantly and attentively follows the Magisterium of the Church in her wise directives issued from time to time.
The apostolate is divided into two sections: Primary Apostolate and Secondary Apostolate.
- Primary Evangelization
- Religious Instruction
- Collaborative Ministry
- Schools of Evangelization
- Community development
- Mass Communication
Care of the aged and sick priests/members of our Congregation
SOURCES OF INCOME
The Congregation has the following projects: Altar Bread Bakery, Bread Bakery, Sewing of Liturgical vestments, Sewing of Soutane, other sewing centers: NES habits and mufti Production of Balm, Management of Pastoral center, Water project, Management of Nursery, Primary, Secondary Schools, Collage of Education and University. We also have Bookshops, Netting of sweaters; Orphanage and Old peoples’ home.
OTHER SOURCES OF INCOME
Allowances from the Diocese, Salaries of Sisters, Common fund, Gifts and Donations
The Administration of the Congregation was formerly in the hand of our Founder and our Mistress Rev Sr. Augustine for ten years; but in 2003 she was voted in as the Vicar General of her Congregation, At this juncture the Superior General, Mother Eboh officially informed our founder that we were to lead ourselves, independent of Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy Congregation. So during our seminar that same year our founder appointed four coordinators to see to the affairs of the Congregation of which
- Sr ThereseAnn was the Coordinator General.
- Sr Anthonia Anusiobi project coordinator
- Sr Justina Nwaobi Bursar General
- Sr Rosemary Okolie Secretary General
But in 23rd Jan 2007 there was a change in Administration.
The following were elected:
Sr Justina Nwaobi Coordinator General
Sr Anthonia Anusiobi Project coordinator
Sr Claret Okoye Bursar General
Sr Rosemary Okolie Secretary General
It was this administration that prepared the first General Chapter and at the end the following were elected to serve the Congregation from 2008-2014:
Sr Appolonia N. Ukabu Superior General
Sr Annmarie Okolie Vicar General
Sr Agatha Kunuba. Councilor and Secretary General
Sr Pedro Opara, Councilor
Sr Uju Laura Akeh, Councilor
Sr Jamesann Aniagboso Bursar General
After six years another General Chapter was conducted in 2014 in which this present administration was also elected:
Sr Justina Isioma Nwaobi Superior General
Sr Josephine Chijiokwu Vicar General
Sr Stephen Nnoruka Councilor
Sr Pedro Opara Councilor
Sr Janefrances Illo Councilor.
This administration continued in the process of the recognition of the Congregation following the regulations and requirements given by the Congregation for Propagation of Faith in Rome. After so many years of investigations and studies on the Constitutions, the Congregation was found useful to become a Family in the Roman Catholic Church. On the 27th Oct 2017, the Congregation for the Evangelization of the People gladly granted the Local Ordinary Most Rev Dr Michael O. Elue the “nihil obstat” to issue the Degree for the canonical erection of the New Evangelization Sisters of our Mother of Perpetual Help from a Public Association into a Religious Institute of Diocesan right.
We thank God for inspiring our founder Most Rev. Dr. Anthony Gbuji to lay the foundation of this Congregation and nurture it. This little seed planted twenty-five years ago has now grown and become a recognized Family in the Church today.
To our canonical Founder, Most Rev. Dr. Michael Elue, we thank you for your fatherly love, care and support towards the growth of this young Family in the Church and we promise you, our total Obedience and Loyalty. And to all who have helped us especially the DMMM Congregation through Sr. Augustine Onwubiko, may the good Lord reward you all. Amen.
MOTHER JUSTINA ISIOMA NWAOBI NES
List of Finally Professed Sisters
List of Temporary Professed Sisters