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Exclusive Interview: Why I converted to Catholic faith

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–          Former Anglican  Knight, Sir Abel Ikenyiri  

Chief Sir Abel Ezeala Ikenyiri, native of Umuemeke-Ama Ibeowere Agbaja, Ehime Mbano LGA, Imo State, born into a family of Anglican ancestry, rose to the ranks of a knight of the Anglican Church and lay pay-master narrates verbatim how he was caught up in the “whirlwind” of Catholic faith and the “mountain” moved over. Sir Abel Ikenyiri

Our Okigwe reporter, PeterClaver Ubochi, traced the former Anglican ‘Big Oga’ to his tranquil Umuemekeama (Agbaja) village, had a field day with the man of faith as he speaks on the circumstances of his conversion, its aftermath, an assessment of his family life then as an Anglican, and now as a Catholic.  Welcome on board the flight into the zone of “THE YEAR OF FAITH” and read on.

Excerpts:

Leader: Tell us about yourself Sir.

Res.: My name is Chief Sir Abel Ezeala Ikenyiri and this is my home.  I am a traditional chief and former Knight of the Anglican Communion.  I was a ‘very big oga’ in that church then.  I used to be the Lay Treasurer (a.k.a. paymaster) in the Anglican Communion.  That is the highest position a lay person can hold.  I was in-charge of paying the priests and non-tutorial staff in the parish of Agbaja/Umukabia in the present Anglican Diocese of Okigwe South.  I worked under the present Archbishop of Owerri (as at the time of the interview) Anglican Ecclesiastical Province, Most Rv. B.C.I. Okoro.  I am a retired principal of a school.

Leader: Did you have problems with the church which prompted your exit?

Res.: I had no problems with anybody.  There was this Eucharistic Adoration Prayer Group in the Catholic Parish in my community.  The group conducts regular ministrations and devotion.  It is co-ordinated by the priest of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Ibeowere Agbaja, Rev. Fr. Jude Okonkwo.  The activities of that Catholic priest, we popularly call him “Fr. No shaking”, with his Adoration Group attracted me.  I started attending their weekly crusade out of mere curiosity.  That was in the year 2008.  I came to discover the Catholic Church as I never before through the Mass and other activities of the group that I attended regularly.  In June of 2008, it came calling to my mind ceaselessly to join the mother church.  It was not easy for me to take such a ‘dangerous’ decision.  It sent ‘hot jokes’ across the Anglican world.  I was a knight of St. Christopher you know.

Leader: How did you finally join the Catholic faith?

Res.: Through vital information leaked to me by one of my kinsmen and Knight of the Catholic Church, Knight of St. Mulumba (KSM), High Chief Sir A.E. Ekpunobi, I approached Fr. Jude Okonkwo who took me through the crucibles of admittance into the Catholic faith with my family and friends who believed in what I did.  They are many o.

Leader: Any reaction from the Anglican Church?

Res.: Tremendous!!  The news was a bombshell.  So many groups and individual delegations came to me.  Ultimately, a Diocesan Committee led by late Chief Silas Iwuoha (Best Way) with the mandate to ensure my return was constituted.  Inducements were offered, promises made, but I did not bulge.  No going back and of course not with the Eucharistic Adoration Family that was touching many souls positively.  It was forward ever backward never.

Leader: Did your family resist your move initially?

Res.: Initially, yes.  Especially my wife, because she was leading the women and her mother was a product of the old Anglican Communion.  Through her close friends, I told her that if I go there without her, she  should not blame me if I make alternative choice … and she joined me.  Through joining me, she has made up her faith and takes the initiative often times.

Leader: Your impression about the Catholic Church as an Anglican then and now that you are an insider.  Any difference?  Are you comfortable as a Catholic?

Res.: In the first place, I feel highly comfortable being a Catholic.  I like to be in the Mother Church.  It is where I am now.  I am very comfortable.  In the Anglican Church, we used to pray, “Ekwe m na Muo Nso na Nzuko nke Katolik di Nso”.  But then we were not there, so I decided to join the Nzuko Katolik Di Nso.

And the difference: The impression that the Catholics did not have interest in reading the Bible as held in Anglican circle is erroneous.  I have seen that Catholics even read it more.  Most of the things we were told then about the Catholic Church are not true.  So my coming over has gingered a new life in me and my family, as we have been receiving answers to our petitions, offered the Catholic way, especially through the Eucharistic Adoration Petition Prayer Box.

He gave testimonies of landmark accomplishments by his family members at home and in the diaspora through the prayers of Catholic faithful.

Leader: About the knighthood – then you were KSC (Anglican), now you are a KSM (Catholic), any difference?

Res.: In Catholic knighthood discipline is very high.  Your views and utterances are guarded.  All the same, it is an enjoyable organization.  The main difference is in funding.  The Anglican knighthood is mainly funded by well-to-do volunteer members, while in the Catholic Church, individual members are levied equally.  That is an area that one may suggest improvement funding.

Leader: Do you think ecumenism is feasible?

Res.: Ecumenism has started.  I left the Anglican Church in 2008 and retired as a secondary school principal in October 1992.  I left the Anglican Church when I did, well informed, sane, without any inducement but faith.  It was around the same time when the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair declared for the Catholic Church.  One of our brothers, Rev. Dr. Diochi, introducing me to the parish said that what Tony Blair was doing in Britain, I was doing in Nigeria, as we went around preaching to people to return to the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church is at the head of a rapidly uniting church.  Let all lend support to the church marching on.

Chief Sir Abel Ikenyiri spoke on diverse issues including celibacy of the Catholic priest and married life of the Anglican clergy, clergy gay marriage in the European Anglican Church et al.

Lady Comfort Ikenyiri, wife to Sir Abel Ikenyiri, sat by her husband’s side nodding in approval and interjecting explanations while the interview lasted.  She was not left out in the chat.

When asked why she eventually threw in with her husband in his decision that initially sounded ‘crazy’ to convert to Catholic faith, she said: “He is my husband.  I tag alongside him.  Now I feel alright.  No regret”.

As to how she has been relating to fellow women, especially her erstwhile Anglican folks in the village, Lady Comfort had this to say: “It’s not been easy.  Each time we come in contact we feel strange.  It doesn’t border me.  I know they feel me too much because I was a major stakeholder.  I tell them I had to join my husband to keep my family intact.  My family is the happier for it.  Take a look at us, I have learnt most of the Catholic prayers very well”.

Chief Sir Abel and Lady Comfort Ekenyiri (KSM) belong to the Ehime Sub-Council of the Order of Knights of St. Mulumba (Nig.).  The Ehime Sub-Council PRO and Secretary, Adoration Family. High Chief Sir A.E. Ekpunobi (KSM) testified to the steadfastness, loyalty and discipline of the converted family.

For Rev. Fr. Jude Okonkwo, it is just one of those manifestations of the omnipotence of God as he said, “They are my parishioners and members of the Eucharistic Adoration Family, through which God called them during our outreach apostolate.  To God be the glory”.

_____________________________

with PeterClaver Ubochi

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. NWAICHI B. IFEANYI

    June 13, 2013 at 7:21 am

    There is no doubt that chief sir Abel Ikenyiri aka ginger is a God sent to the people of ibeowerri community and Agbaja at large. He is indeed a living legend and icon full of so many achievements.

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USAID begins Covid-19 testing in Imo rural areas

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USAID averts 25,000 unwanted pregnancies in Ebonyi, Kogi

…Umuagwo Varsity of Agric kicks-off October

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun Covid-19 testing in the 27 Local Government Areas of Imo State, “in a bid to reduce the impact of community spread of the virus in the rural areas of the state.

The Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief Declan Mbadiwe Emelumba disclosed this in Owerri while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the Weekly Executive Council meeting presided over by Governor Hope Uzodimma on Wednesday.

Chief Emelumba said so far, the USAID officials have carried out reasonable number of testing in Njaba LGA and reported that all those tested came out negative and that the council prayed that the result from other Local Government Areas will be the same.

He announced that the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) has approved the take off of the Imo State University for Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Umuagwo in October this year.

According to him, the approval underscores the efforts which the Imo State Government ably led by Governor Hope Uzodinma has made towards the establishment of a second university for the state.

Recently, the NUC panel was in Imo State to carry out the necessary verification exercises on the state facilities, human and physical infrastructures.

Mr. Declan Emelumba, who was flanked by the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Bernard Ikegwuoha, Commissioner for Health Dr. Damaris Osunkwo and the Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to the Governor Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku, informed that the Executive Council is happy that something new is happening in the Education Sector of the State.

Emelumba said that the Imo State University of Science and Environmental Sciences, Umuagwo will take off by October when other universities would be resuming for a new academic session.

In the same vein, the Council has approved the immediate relocation of Faculty of Engineering Imo State University Owerri to its permanent site at Okigwe, stressing that Government has put all processes and facilities on ground to ensure the immediate take–off of the faculty.

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Imo Governor’s aide visits Oziza FM Staff, Ogechi Iwu in hospital

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Imo Governor’s aide visits Oziza FM  Staff, Ogechi Iwu in hospital

The Chief Press Secretary and Media Adviser to Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku has visited Mr. Ogechi Iwu, a journalist with Osiza FM.

The media man is hospitalized at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri over complications from diabetes that led to his right leg being amputated.

Mr. Nwachuku said the visit was to show solidarity on behalf of Governor Uzodimma to his professional colleague, assuring him of their prayers, particularly that of his principal, and the prayers of Mr. Iwu’s numerous friends and well wishers who are touched by his plight.

“I am here on behalf of my principal to associate with him in this time of health challenge and to encourage him not to see the sickness as a death sentence.”

Oge Iwu at fmc

L-R: Chief Akaraonye, Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku with Ogechi Iwu during the visit

Mr. Nwachuku urged Mr. Iwu to continue in the high spirit he saw him and trust God for his total recovery “because healing is a thing of mind and when a sick person is in high spirit the patient gets recovered quickly.”

The spokesman of the Governor promised to bring the plight of the journalist to the attention of his principal, and assured that the Governor will, in his usual manner of one with milk of human sympathy, show concern over Iwu’s plight.

Earlier, Mr. Iwu thanked the CPS/Media Adviser, the State Chairman of NUJ, Imo State, Chief Christopher Akaraonye and other journalists who were on the entourage, for coming to identify with him on his sick bed, and assured that God in his infinite mercy will quicken his recovery.

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Bishop Ugorji heads IMSU Governing Council

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Bishop Ugorji heads IMSU Governing Council

Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma has inaugurated a new Governing Council, for the Imo State University, IMSU, Owerri.

At the inauguration ceremony on Monday, August 31, the governor named Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji as the Chairman of the Governing Council and Pro-Chancellor of the University.

Other members of the Council include: Chief Leo Stan Ekeh, Chief Tony Ezenna, Prof. (Ven.) Chinedu Nebo, Sir. Louis Ezeigwe, Chief Engr. Ernest Nwapa, Dr. (Mrs.) Uwandu Uzoma, Ugoeze Victoria Adaku Ekezie, Prof. Adaobi Obasi (Vice Chancellor) and others.

Speaking at the inauguration, Governor Uzodimma said the choice of the members is to infuse fresh air into the university because “It is in dire need to bounce back to reckoning.”
He added that the choice of the members was because they have carved a niche for themselves in their chosen fields of endeavour and that they have earned solid reputation as men and women of substance in their individual trade, indices that qualified them for the appointment.

He challenged the members to bring their reputation to bear on the University, bearing in mind the task for good quality scholarship in Imo State University as well as service to humanity.

The Governor urged the members to deploy their individual accomplishments, excellence, expertise, passion for service as effectively as necessary to actualize the dream of his administration of having a highly reputable University comparable to the best Universities in the World.

He also requested the Council to “restore in words and deeds the motto of Imo State University, which is Excellence in Service”.

“Imo State University currently is a classical example of a failed University,” Governor Uzodimma said but strongly believed that “with a star studded Governing Council such as the one inaugurated there is no doubt that Imo is on the track to realize the dreams of her founding fathers.”

He further enjoined the Council members to quickly hit the ground running and come up with policies and programmes that will reassure Imo people that the University that made them proud 20 years back is on track as he assured them of Government partnership in this regard.

In an acceptance speech, on behalf of the Council, the Chairman, Most Rev. Ugorji who is the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia thanked the Governor for the absolute confidence reposed in them by giving them the assignment and acknowledged that though the task is daunting he has a strong belief that with the calibre of members of the Council and support of the management, staff and students the University will be returned to a centre of excellence which was the dream of the founding fathers.

He said that Imo State University deserves the best and that he and his members as inaugurated will work acidulously to ensure that the target of the governor in making Imo State University one of the best universities in Africa is realised.

He congratulated fellow members and promised that God’s willing, they will not fail the government and people of Imo State.

Present at the inauguration were the Deputy Governor, Prof. Placid Njoku, the Speaker Imo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chiji Collins, the Secretary to the State Government, Chief Cosmas Iwu, and other members of the expanded State Executive Council.

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