BIOGRAPHY OF BISHOP ANTHONY OKONKWO GBUJI
Most Rev. Dr. Anthony Okonkwo Gbuji was born on the 29th day of October 1931 to the family of Late Catechist Alexander and Agnes Gbuji of Akwukwu-Igbo in Oshimili North Local Government Area, Delta State, Nigeria. His birth took place just at the door steps of St. Charles Catholic Church, Ubulu-Uku where his mother had gone for some religious practices. He began his journey of faith with his baptism, three days after his birth. In 1938, he began his primary education at St. Raphael Catholic School Akwukwu-Igbo and continued at St. Theresa Catholic School Onicha-Olona, making a daily journey of about 5km to the school. Later, he went to live with Fr. Abraham Ojefua at Onicha-Olona Parish, and so, would not need to make the long journey again. He was thus raised up in a very religious way. He was deeply inspired by the lives of some priests he came in contact with, especially Frs. Paul Emechete, Abraham Ojefua, J. C. Lyons SMA and the Seminarians who lived with them. After his primary education, he went to St. Theresa Minor Seminary Oke Are, Ibadan from 1947 to 1951. In 1952, he proceeded to St. Paul’s Major Seminary, Benin-City, where he studied Philosophy from 1952 to 1954. While doing his pastoral work at Agbor under Fr. Hilliard, he got a message from his bishop, Bishop Kelly, to prepare to go to Rome to continue his formation. He left for Rome in 1955 for studies in company of now Francis Cardinal Arinze and Late Msgr. P. G. Ugboko, the first indigenous Rector of Ss. Peter & Paul Major Seminary, Bodija, Ibadan. He was ordained a priest on November 23, 1958 at the Propaganda Fidei Chapel, Rome by the Prefect of the Congregation, Pietro Cardinal Agaginian.
LIFE AFTER ORDINATION
After his ordination, he had to wait one more year in Rome in order to obtain his Licentiate in Theology from Urbaniana Universitas Roma in 1959. After this, he went ahead to study and obtain a Doctorate in Canon Law, Urbaniana Universitas Roma in 1962. Before coming back to Nigeria, he also studied and obtained Diploma in French in 1962 from the Insitute Catholique Paris and Diploma in Education in 1963 from the University of London.
Coming back as a young priest in 1963, he was posted to Fugar (1963-66); he was privileged and challenged to work at a very remote area of the then Benin Diocese. He organized the extended families of the villages into small communities for the teaching of the catholic doctrines, prayers and other devotions. He trained young boys as catechists from the villages to run the communities under his supervision. The results were spectacular and excellent as the young Church in Fugar grew rapidly with members deeply committed to Christ and active in building up a vibrant local Church in the place. Their works of charity were attractive and were extended to everybody both pagans and Muslims. He also helped to revive the almost fallen St. John’s School, Fugar, at some point coming to Onicha-Olona to get some teachers to help. When the Marist Brothers from St. Patrick Asaba came and took over the school, he continued as a teacher and chaplain.
From Fugar, he was transferred to St. Paul’s Minor Seminary, Benin-City at the heat of some sort of crises. There, he would work with Fr. Murphy, one of his professors in his philosophy years in St. Paul’s Benin-City. With the help of God and a march of intelligence, after getting proper permission from the Bishop, he was able to quell the crises in the Seminary. Through his solution to the crises, the lay faithful were thought how to collaborate with the Church in furthering her mission. The events of the civil war from 1967 changed the course of his mission at the Minor Seminary. The Bishop got him involved with taking care of the refugees. When the war got worse, he was mandated to take the Igbo refugees in Benin down to Asaba area. Despite the risk, he never abandoned his pastoral duties among his people. This earned him a place in the bad book of the Nigerian soldiers, but with time, he got a clean paper which enabled him to move freely and work among his people. At this point, he resumed work at St. Paul’s Grammar School, Ebu where he stayed till 1968. However, the war did not give room for much progress there.
In 1968, he moved over to St. Thomas Teachers’ Training College Ibusa when African priests were needed to take over from white missionaries who were leaving due to the security crisis. With his qualification, he was chosen to take over the management. When the war became intense and the school was on the verge of collapsing, he took a swift action and temporarily relocated the school to Issele-Uku town till the war was over. With the help of certain individuals, he was able to begin the work of rebuilding the badly damaged infrastructure of the school. It is important to note that while primarily managing St. Thomas College, Fr. Gbuji was also attending to the pastoral needs of the Church in Ibusa, Ogwashi-Uku and Ewulu.
During the holiday periods, he would normally go to take over the mission in Ewulu from the expatriate priests who travel to their own towns for their own holiday. It was at such a time in 1973 that he was invited to Benin-City and informed by Bishop Kelly of the decision of Rome to appoint him a Bishop. Hence, with the canonical erection of the Catholic Diocese of Issele-Uku on 5th July, 1973, he was ordained the first Bishop of the Diocese on 30th September 1973. Beginning the young Diocese was not easy for the new Bishop as the effects of the war was still being felt in different parts of the diocese and there was little manpower available. In addition to those, the Baptist Church had taken strong root in Issele-Uku. However, this did not affect the Church adversely as Rev. Martins of the Baptist Church welcomed and helped Bishop Gbuji to settle down and set out well. As the Bishop’s House was not ready, he had to live in one classroom for about eight months until it was ready. With contributions from the sons and daughters of the Diocese, support from Rome and from the government of Gen. Ogbemudia, he was able to kick off in building up the Diocese.
While the infrastructural development was going on, he was equally working for the pastoral and spiritual growth of the Diocese. To handle the problem of the insufficient manpower, he resorted to an intensive programme of training for catechists. These trained catechists were assigned to places where there are no resident priests. He embarked on the formation of the Confraternity of the Christian Doctrine (CCD), and trained volunteer religion teachers to run courses at centres all over the Diocese of Issele-Uku. These centres were later known as the Small Christian Communities (SCC). They spread quickly and are doing there a good work of evangelization at the grass-root level. All along the work of deepening of the faith of the Christians and making them share their faith with others was the main objective of the programme thus initiated. After making use of St. Paul’s Minor Seminary, Benin-City for a while in the training of future priests, he established St. Felix Minor Seminary, Ejeme-Aniogor in 1983 for the same purpose. In 1984, he opened the Mother of Perpetual Help Girls’ Juniorate, Issele-Uku, primarily to initiate young girls into full Christian education tradition as religious beings.
With the incessant calls of Pope John Paul II for a New Evangelization and charged with the animation of pastoral affairs at the national level, he was encouraged by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) to search for a solution to deepen and strengthen the faith of our people. He discovered the programme of Evangelization 2000 already started in Rome in 1985 by Rev. Father Tom Forrest, a Redemptorist priest. People must be trained to deepen their faith and share it with others. In 1987, he attended a conference on New Evangelisation in Monrovia where he met with Fr. Jim Bermingham (SSP), co-founder of Evangelisation 2000. This meeting and several others created in him the idea of the first School of Evangelization on the African continent. Hence, in 1989, he founded that school and named it Emmaus School of Evangelisation. The Emmaus School of Evangelization thus established has succeeded in training priests, religious sisters and lay persons for the work of deepening the faith of the faithful believers. On July 1, 1993, having received permission of the Apostolic See and with the help of Sr. Mary Augustine Onwubiko DMMM, Bishop Gbuji founded the Congregation of the New Evangelisation Sisters of the Mother of Perpetual Help.
Earlier on, after the death of Bishop GMP Okoye, the Bishops’ Conference asked him to head the Pastoral Department of the Catholic Secretariat, a position he held from 1977 to 1980. Working with the likes of the then Fr. John Onaiyekan (now John Cardinal Onaiyekan) as the secretary of the department, he was able to see to the successful visit of Pope John Paul II in February 1982. With that visit, the Holy Father renewed his call for the Church in Nigeria to embrace a New Era of Evangelisation. Bishop Gbuji was mandated to oversee the implementation of the challenge. Within this period, he moved from the Pastoral Department to the Liturgy Department. Other offices he also occupied over the years in the Catholic Secretariat included, the Chairman of the Legal Department from 1980 to 1997, Chairman, Department of Pastoral Affairs from 2001 to 2003. From 1977 until his retirement, he was a member of Canon Law Commission and Mission Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria. In 1986, he founded the Canon Law Society of Nigeria. He has been a member of the following boards: Evangelization 2000 International (1987 to date); Legal Adviser and Board – Evangelization 2000 (1988 to date). He was also a member of Pilgrimage Board, Delta State from 1995 to 1996.
SOJOURN TO ENUGU DIOCESE
On November 8, 1996, he received an information of his transfer to Enugu Diocese. He was eventually installed the Bishop of Enugu Diocese on the 8th of February 1997. Despite some initial setbacks, he was able to do great works in the Diocese. His passion for grassroot evangelisation led to the founding of St. Paul International Institute of Evangelization (SPIIEE) in 2001. This institute has since 2009 been upgraded to a Faculty of Religious Studies in Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. To handle the challenge of managing great harvest of vocations he met in the diocese, he established a relationship with the Seminary of Ss. Peter & Paul Bodija, Ibadan and also saw to the creation of St. Bernard’s Hostel, Nchatancha, Nike, Enugu in 2004. The Diocesan seminarians live now in a community in this hostel. In his desire to take to the door steps of the faithful, he saw to the creation of Awgu Diocese in 2005.
Upon reaching the canonical age for retirement, Bishop Gbuji applied to Rome but he was given another three years before his request was finally accepted. So he finally retired in 2009 and was succeeded by Bishop Calistus Onaga. However, the Church was not yet done with him.
MISSION FROM RETIREMENT
Though retired, Bishop Gbuji was not yet tired. Hence, when there was a great need in the Archdiocese of Benin-City, he got a Decree from the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples on May 31, 2010 appointing him the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Benin-City. He formally resumed this office after presenting the Decree to the College of Consultors of the Archdiocese on June 7, 2010. He would spend about 10 months there. Within these 10 months, he was able to speed up the process of grassroot evangelisation in the Archdiocese. He created a lot of Independent Stations and Mass Centers and borrowed priests (Fidei Donum) from the Dioceses of Enugu, Issele-Uku and Uromi to take care of the insufficient number of priests. He reorganized the Curia to become more effective and efficient and reorganized the minor to engender more vocations. Today, the Archdiocese can look to the future with hope; thanks to the efforts of Bishop Gbuji in his little time there. With the installation of Most Rev. Dr. Augustine Akubeze as the substantive Archbishop of Benin-City, Bishop Gbuji retired once more happily to his retirement home in Enugu.
In Bishop Gbuji, we see a man who is all things to all men for the sake of Christ. We already have identified him as a great evangelizer. More than that, he is a builder, a horticulturist, a youth administrator, marriage counselor, vocation animator, among other great virtues. He has a special daily devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to our Lady, which is seen clearly in his episcopal motto, Ad Jesum Per Mariam – To Jesus through Mary.
He has received the following awards: Canon Law Award by the Canon Law Society of Nigeria (1996); Appreciation Award from Akwukwu-Igbo Community (1996); Doctorate Degree of Letters Honoris Causa from Caritas University, Enugu (July 19, 2008); Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) by President Umar Musa Yar’adua (22 December, 2008).
He has written many books and documents towards grassroot evangelisation and for the enhancement of the Pastoral and Spiritual life of the people. They include:
- Pastoral on Title Taking and Traditional Funeral Ceremonies, 1984.
- New Evangelisation in Nigeria: Ten Years After the Pope’s Visit, 1992.
- A Prayer Call for New Evangelisation, 1993.
- Parish Based Evangelisation, 1994.
- New Evangelisation in Nigeria: A Pastoral Contribution to the Synod for Africa, 1994.
- My Life in Christ, 1995.
- The Pastoral Care of Marriage and Family Life in Nigeria (Revised Edition, 1998).
- New Evangelisation in the Third Millennium Church in Nigeria, 2001.
- Preparation for Marriage (in Brief), 2007.
- The Problem of Title Societies Among The Ibo of Nigeria in the Light of Canonical Legislations, 2008.
- Africa the Hope of the Church: Go and Proclaim the Good News (Mk. 19:15), 2009.
- The Priest as Total Commitment to God and His People, 2010.
- Daily Meditations: Seasons and Feasts, 2008.
- Daily Meditations: Ordinary Time Year 1, 2010.
- Daily Meditations: Ordinary Time Year 2, 2010.
- Implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), 2010.
May God continue to grant him good health of mind and body in his old age in this life and eternal life in the next. Amen.
PROFILE OF MOST REV. DR. EMMANUEL OTTEH
The Bishop Emmanuel Nwafor Otteh was destined to be a holy man was very clear, for his birth was heralded by all the saints as he was born on the solemnity of All Saints, November 1, 1927. He was born into the humble but pious family of Mr. & Mrs. Nwotiteh Ogamba of Ifite Akwuzu in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State. He shared the same birthday with |Francis Cardinal Arinze, his age-long friend. In 1937, young Emmanuel started his primary education at St. Raphael’s Primary School, Akwuzu and completed at St. Anthony’s School, Dunukofia in 1945. It will be recalled here, that his primary education coincided with the 2nd World War with its unfriendly economic realities, but young Emmanuel was undaunted, as he had to combine his classroom work with other extra-curricular activities to make ends meet and to survive the economic hardship associated with wars.
From this humble beginning, Bishop Otteh, deternmined to acghieve greatness in life had to work hard and to cooperate with the grace of God. Spiritually, he got his greatest influence in Dunukofia when he met with Blessed Michael Iwene Tansi, whose spirituality and spirit of prayer were so intimately connected with his own life. He was equally influenced by the lives of the Irish Missionary Priests he came in contact with. For these positive influences in his life, Bishop Otteh remained very grateful to these great people. Although he was born at a particular time,’ the particular mission entrusted to him by God ensures that Bishop Otteh belonged to every time and pace and people.
Having successfully completed his primary education, he had a stint in teaching for three years. During this period, he had dreams of becoming a priest and experienced an inner irresistible call from God on the path of priestly vocation. But dream is the prerogative of every individual; what differentiates one dreamer from another is the zeal to bring a dream into fruition. Yet, not all dreams are born alive; some are realized, while others are stillborn. Emmanuel thus determined to work very hard as to bring the dream to reality. He strongly pondered and prayed over this call and coupled with the inspiration he drew from some pious people around him especially the Irish Missionaries and Blessed Iwene Tansi, he made up his mind to answer God’s call; and sought admission into the Seminary.
Thus, the dream of Emmanuel Otteh becoming a Priest was beginning to be realized when he was admitted into All Hallows Seminary in 1949 in Nnewi. The Seminary later relocated to Enugu and then Onitsha. He followed the Seminary in these locations and upon completion of his studies; he successfully obtained Senior Cambridge Certificate with good grades. Impressed by his brilliant performance in the examination and his pious and disciplined life during the Seminary years, the Rector retained him in the seminary to teach for two years before proceeding to Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu.
In 1955, Otteh was admitted into Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu for his Philosophy study. During this period, he was sent to St. James Seminary Keffi to help in teaching in the Seminary for a while. In 1956, he lost his father and his elder brother died a year later. But despite these seeming setbacks, he continued his seminary formation and was admitted into minor Orders of Lector and Acolyte 15th May and 6th December, 1959 respectively. In 1960, he was selected to keep vigil of prayers before the relics of martyrs to be used for the consecration of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Onitsha, an experience he never forget.
PRIESTLY ORDINATION AND MINISTRY
On March 19, 1961, he was ordained Deacon and his sojourn at the Major Seminary culminated in his ordination as a Priest on July 30th, 1961 by Most Rev. Dr. John Anyogu. Fr. Otteh’s striving for academic excellence came to the fore when he was sent to Rome on studies. He studied Canon Law at Pontifical Urban University, Rome, Italy. While shooling in Rome, he assisted in Pastoral Ministry in Italy and the United Kingdom, an experience which enriched him pastorally and widened his horizon.
Upon his return to Nigeria in 1964, he was posted to Awka he served briefly for one year under Msgr. V.J. Madike before he was posted to All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha. He became the Rector of the Seminary in January 1965. As the Seminary’s Rector during the Nigerian Civil War, he worked tirelessly to ensure that the Seminary was in session and piloted its affairs as it was relocated from Onitsha to Awka-Etiti, to Ukpor and back to Onitsha after war. The war years shaped a fundamental part of Otteh’s outlook. As a destructive civil war with both religious and ethnic components tore Nigeria apartbetweebn 1967 and 1970, he emerged as a leading figure in bringing solace to war victims, in peacemaking and reconciliation efforts. Following the end of the civil war, he was faced with the responsibility of reconstructing the damaged physical structures of All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha. Despite the magnitude of the work involved, Bishop Otteh was undaunted. When the Seminary moved back to its Onitsha site from Ukpor, many people were baffled at the speed of the reconstruction therein. After four years in the seminary in 1969, he was appointed the Vicar General of Onitsha undaer His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Francis Arinze to help in the administration of the local church.
AS A PAPAL CHAMBERLAIN
In 1970, he became a Papal Chamberlain with the title of Monsignor, conferred on him by Pope Paul VI as a result of his dogged commitment to priestly life and ministry. The reception of this honour did not keep the new monsignor from continuing to teach catechism to children in the Seminary. He was instrumental to the founding of St. Paul’s Seminary, Ukpor in 1972 as a result of an increase in vocation in Onitsha Archdiocese and its environs. In 1975, he was appointed the Holy Trinity Cathedral Administrator. This appointment was done as a result of his achievements in All Hallows Seminary where he spent ten years as its Rector.
Throughout his stay in Onitsha Archdiocese, he was involved in several energy-sapping projects to which he was religiously committed. It was hardly surprising therefore that he was appointed the Chairman of Reception Committee of Onitsha for His Holiness, Pope John Paul II in 1982. He was equally in charge of the centenary celebration of the then Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province in 1985, during which construction of the Stadium, the Centenary Gate, Shanahan Hall and our Lady Queen of the Niger Fountain took place.
AS BISHOP AT ONITSHA
In 1990, Msgr Otteh was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Onitsha and was ordained by Francis Cardinal Arinze on 2nd September, 1990. In 1992, Bishop Otteh was in Kent, England for studies where he obtained a Diploma in Relationship, Spiritual, Counseling Skills and Community Living at the Institute of St. Anselm. While in Onitsha, Bishop Otteh had a humble image and inculcated discipline among the Priests, Religious and Laity. He equally contributed immensely to the acquisition of knowledge of the faith by all through the publication of religious books and pamphlets. He also contributed articles to the newspapers and magazines: all in his effort to teach the word of God to all. As a Bishop, he equally taught Catechism of the Church in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Onitsha.
AS BISHOP OF ISSELE-UKU
In February 1997, Bishop Otteh was appointed to Issele-Uku Diocese as its Chief Shepherd to take over from Bishop Anthony Gbuji who was transferred to Enugu. This sudden transfer opened a new chapter in his life as a Bishop. He had to move to a new environment, study the people, their language and he culture and adapted promptly in the local Church. His experience of robbery attacks in the Bishops House and around the Parishes in the Diocese soon after he took over the mantle of leadership was not very pleasant. But he took the experience as God’s will for him.
Bishop Otteh’s stay in Issele-Uku as its Chief Shepherd left a lasting mark on the history of the Catholic Church in the area. His life was one of action, inspired by profound piety. Understanding the weaknesses of humanity, the Bishop brought consolation, peace and encouragement everywhere especially among the Priests, Religious and laity. Striving to bring men closer to Christ, Bishop Otteh instituted numerous liturgical reforms: the evening religious instructions, the revival of Eucharistic Adoration and fast ad abstinence during Lenten Season and increased lay participants in Liturgical functions.
Indeed during his seven years of pastoral leadership in Issele-Uku, Bishop Otteh lived up to the expectations of all who knew his antecedents by bringing positive innovations and productive dynamism into governance of the local Church to the utmost delight and admiration of all within and outside the Diocese. Within this period, he became a reference point in pastoral affairs to Priests and Bishops inspiring to make an outstanding success in their ministries. For the faithful, Priests, Religious and Laity who came in contact with him, his exemplary devotion to duty, and unparalleled penchant for good job and total commitment to making a difference were he finds himself made them see him as a role model and one who has a striking message for future generations. In him, the Priests, Religious and Laity witnessed a rare harness of maturity, wisdom, administrative competence, sincere devotion to duty and an exemplary Priestly life. As a result of his organizational acumen cum pastoral zeal for souls, he was able to build a dynamic and virile Church in Issele-Uku with a vibrant and fulfilled presbyetrium, committed religious men and women and a booming laity that continually bear witness to the faith. Guided solely by love of the truth, fidelity to Christ and care for the less privileged , Bishop Otteh while in the Diocese was always interested in displaced persons, the sick and the hungry, offering support to the Priests and the Religious especially those in places regarded as non-viable, and giving the faithful hope for the future.
To be sure, in Issele-uku Diocese, Bishop Otteh blended casualness with dignity, consolidated the faith of the people of God and expanded the reign of God among them by creating more Parishes and independent stations and for the purposes of administrative convenience, he broke the Diocese into regions and appointed Vicars to head them. Upon his assumption of office, in Issele-Uku, Bishop Otteh visited St. Felix seminary in Ejeme-Aniogor. Coupled with experiences he acquired as a Rector in All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha, he felt he could improve the structures therein to encourage vocations to the Priesthood and the Religious life. He did this by appointing a senior Priest as its Rector for stability, discipline and to encourage teaching and learning. He reconstructed the hostels, built new ones and gave the Chapel a face lift. He employed new and qualified teachers, provided good library and paid strong attention to happenings around the school.
He created conducive atmosphere for teaching and learning by providing gigantic power generating plant, and sunk a borehole thereby making the Seminary more attractive to both students and teachers. He got more faithful involved in sponsoring students from poor background in the Seminary hence vocation boom witnessed in the diocese today. As a result of these innovations, the Seminary began to have excellent results in external examinations West African School Certificate and Latin Diploma Examinations.
Structurally, he assisted many Parishes in their efforts to build befitting places of worship and Priests could have good houses to live in and minister effectively to the people of God. He did this by having a committee on the Diocesan level to ensure good standards and to financially help some of the Parishes that were not able to finance such projects. He personally visited and supervised these projects from starting point to completion. He equally encouraged people to donate these projects locally and by creating Association of Issele-Uku Diocesan Sons and Daughters in various major cities and towns in Nigeria.
In February 2004, Bishop Otteh retired from active service as the Bishop of Issele-Uku and handed over the mantle of leadership to Bishop Michael Elue, a Bible scholar in a ceremony which was attended by many from all walks of life. After his retirement, he was also engaged in Diocesan programmes such as giving lectures, retreats and conferences wherever he was invited. He taught catechism and religious instructions in Okwe, where he lived. On arrival in Okwe, he renovated the Priests house and the Church which was dedicated a few years ago.
From the above exposition, the personality of Bishop Otteh can easily be known. In fact, since his priestly ordination, Bishop Otteh held many positions of leadership in which he distinguished himself as an excellent pastor, a teacher, first class administrator, moralist, indefatigable shepherd and a serious minded man who handled every assignment given to him religiously and with dedication and spontaneous alacrity. Bishop Otteh was known as a conservative on many issues. His position on matters of Catholic Doctrines has been marked by an uncompromising defense of tradition, especially in connection with the hot button social issues of homosexuality, priestly celibacy and abortion. Bishop Otteh’s preaching and homilies were well prepared and tailored according to his audience. What he dished out carried his audience along with his intelligently-nurtured, spirit-filled and eloquently delivered sermons with the coloration of theological and biblical erudition for enhanced results. To be sure, our Bishop was a wordsmith, a man with the gift of the articulate speech as Bernard Shaw would rightly describe someone. Words stumbled out of his mouth effortlessly and also the right words for every occasion. He built a prodigious reputation at places he ministered as one whose speech made a strong and positive impact on his audience. In other words he was an orator who spoke to his audience using proverbs, short stories, anecdotes and effortlessly communicated the cultural values of the society without qualms and in line with the doctrines of the Church. He spoke with compassion to the younger generation and saw them as a group that needed special attention especially on important issues that border on their future life. Honestly, Bishop Otteh’s homilies revealed “his great familiarity with the word of God seen in the context of the living Church from the fathers to the catechism of the Catholic Church and also contextualized in the readings and the liturgy of the Church and in breaking the word of God in the scriptures.
A happy, simple, and highly organized man, Bishop Otteh in spite of his status and workload during his years of active service acknowledged all mails and most often replied all. He used to write letters to appreciate people who may have done any little favour to him or the Diocese. Our Bishop knew the names of people who worked under him, even his domestic staff, appreciated their services personally, and took care of their welfare and that of their families. He was always ready to give in charity and had no inordinate attachment to material things. Bishop Otteh created a valuable time to interact with God in prayer and other devotions. In most places where Bishop Otteh lived, there was always a mini library created by him where he regularly consulted his books to keep his mind at alert to the new world order and happenings around him and to help him do better in his teachings and preaching at conferences, retreats and homilies.
After retirement Bishop Otteh lived happily in St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Okwe where he was adequately taken care of by the priests living with him and the Diocesan Bishop. Bishop Otteh who died the way he had lived peaceful, sanctimonious and not wanting to be a burden to anyone even in his old age. In the week he passed on he met with various people including family members and on Wednesday he had a closed door meeting with his spiritual director. The following day, after supper, he had a long chat with the priests living in the house. In the early hours of Friday, he called the parish priest and told him he was feeling unwell. The priest persuaded him to visit his doctor at Borromeo Hospital, Onitsha. He agreed. Bishop Otteh called the Doctor who asked them to come and he put on his cassock and walked downstairs in the company of the two priests in the house. While in the living room downstairs, he told them he was getting weak and of the priests administered the Sacrament of Anointing on him and off they went to St. Charles Borromeo Hospital, Onitsha where he passed on in the early hours of Friday, 27th July, 2012. He died peacefully in the Lord. He died soon after receiving the Sacraments of the Church. What a holy death! Undoubtedly, the death at the age of 85of Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Nwafor Otteh, Bishop Emeritus of Issele-Uku. Has deprived the Catholic Church and the world of a truly outstanding religious Teacher. The characteristic serenity and cheerfulness with which he endured these last days came because he lived every moment of his life seeking the will of God at all times.
With the passing on of Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Otteh on July 27, the Issele-Uku Church and indeed the Universal Church mourn a sage, and a leader with irresistible aura and personal charisma, a man of great oratory, a star of our generation, a man of noble reasoning and infinite faculty. We will continue to remember this man of sincerity, deep piety, immense faith who loved a disciplined life. We remember his witness of faith; a convinced and strong faith, free from fear or compromises, true until his last breath, forged by trials, fatigue, and illness, whose beneficent influence has spread throughout the Church, indeed throughout the world. We mourn a holy man, who sacrificed so much for the happiness of others. His witness, through his ministry, travels, homilies, pastoral visitations, inspired millions of men and women of all races and cultures. He loved God, the priesthood and the Church. He lived for God. He offered himself entirely to God to serve the Church as a sacrificial offering.
As our beloved father, Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Otteh takes the final bow, we deeply pay our last respects to this giant and colossus of our time, to a faithful shepherd of the flock entrusted to him, to an honest man who lived the ideals of |Christianity to the letter, to a man of sincere piety, discipline and high organizational acumen and a holy man by all standards who positively touched the lives of all who associated with him. We pay glowing tributes to a generous man of immense personality, Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Otteh, fondly remembered in the hearts of the Bishop, priests, religious and laity of the Diocese of Issele-Uku and Archdiocese of Onitsha, indeed, the Hierarchy in Nigeria; his elder sister and other family members. Indeed, our great tribute to him is to respect the noble ideals and enviable qualities for which he stood firm until his last breath. There is no doubt that he ran the race of his life well to the delight pf all of us, the crown of unfading glory now awaits him. May he find eternal rest in the bosom of God, his beloved father forever goodbye, till we meet to part no more. Requiescat in pace, good Bishop Otteh.
By Rev. Fr. Charles Uganwa