-As Royal Father tasks Nigerians over humanitarian services
An Irish Reverend Sister, a septuagenarian, Mary Conchita McDonnel, has been honoured with the “Nwanne di namba” chieftaincy title by the Ihioma Community in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State.
The honour was in appreciation of the thousands of lives saved in the community during the Biafra-Nigeria war through the “Save Igbo People” campaign which the Reverend Sister, who was then in her twenties mounted in Europe and America.
The conferment of the title was celebrated by the entire community at the palace of the traditional ruler HRH (Sir) John Nwosu, Eze Idinoba Ojiudo of Isiokwu-Ihioma.
The ceremony attracted not only illustrious sons and daughters of the community but their friends and well-wishers from far and near, including top government officials, captains of industry, the academia, priests and the religious.
In the address he presented at the occasion, the royal father, Eze Nwosu recalled how Sr. Conchita, born in Dublin, 75 years ago, immediately after her graduation and final profession, was deployed by her Order, Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary to Ihioma in 1966 to teach English at the Holy Rosary Secondary School Ihioma.
According to Eze Nwosu, though the Irish missionary would have liked to remain in Biafra and die with Ndigbo if Necessary when the war broke out, the government of General Emeka Ojukwu in 1968 deported her along with many other expatriates to their home countries for their own safety.
Sr. Conchita was subsequently redeployed to St. Barbara’s Convent, Philadelphia in the U.S.A. where she engaged in the “Save Igbo People” activities there which earned her the chieftaincy title, explained the royal father.
The Reverend Sister who had witnessed the horrible pogrom and man’s inhumanity to man meted out to Igbos in Northern Nigeria during the 1966 crisis, engaged in TV, radio and print media talks sensitizing the American public on the sufferings of Ndigbo, plight of Biafran children and on the Igbo cause generally.
Her campaign opened the eyes of the advanced countries to the genesis of the pogrom and genocide as she published pictures of dying children and the effect of the economic blockade disclosed Eze Nwosu, adding that she risked her freedom and her life so that Igbo race and Igbo children may live. Her efforts in conjunction with other Catholic charitable organizations resulted in the influx of food, clothes, medicines etc., to Ihioma from where they were distributed to starving Biafrans.
The royal father challenged Ihioma people in particular and Ndigbo in general to reciprocate as similar situations arise elsewhere in Nigeria or the world.
In her response, Sr. Conchita commended the people of Ihioma for their choice of traditional ruler, noting that people are judged by whom they chose as their leader.
She recalled that she got to know Eze Nwosu as far back as 1966 (46 years ago) when both of them taught English at Holy Rosary School Secondary Ihioma. “Your choice of traditional ruler, speaks volumes of your sense of judgement, she told the people of Ihioma. The 75-year-old religious, who had just celebrated the golden jubilee of her profession, said that given the opportunity, she would like to spend the rest of her life at Ihioma.
In an exclusive interview with THE LEADER, Eze Nwosu explained that not only his cabinet but all the five communities in Ihioma and their traditional rulers jointly conferred the title on Sister Conchita. She was in touch with the community throughout the war,he disclosed.
It would be recalled that Sr. Conchita in the company of the Royal Father and his Cabinet had earlier paid a courtesy call on the Catholic Bishop of Orlu, His Lordship, Most Rev Augustine Ukwuoma. The Chief shepherd expressed joy and appreciation at the wonderful role the female religious played in saving the lives of the people during the war. He expressed his desire to receive her back into the diocese if she would be willing to return.