- Concelebrates with classmates
It was a gathering of who is who at the Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos, as Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos celebrated his 25th Episcopal and 40th Priestly Ordination anniversaries on Saturday, September 16, 2023. Catholic Bishops numbering over 22 including, Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops Emeritus from Archdioceses and Dioceses across Nigeria, graced the occasion.
Other dignitaries in attendance include, top government officials, captains of industry, high ranking religious leaders, royal fathers, priests, religious and lay faithful. While recalling the joyful celebration of his Priestly and Episcopal Ordinations 40 years and 25 years ago, Archbishop Martins asked God to bless the Archdiocese and help him to be true shepherd after the mind of God. In an exclusive chat with The Catholic Herald Weekly, the Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos shared the high points and memorable incidents in his 40 years as a priest.
“First of all, the day of ordination itself was an extraordinary experience that you walk into a Church as a deacon, and by the grace of God, you come out a priest with all the graces that God gives. So, that was a very momentous occasion for me, and I suppose also for all my classmates, and indeed, it has to be for all priests. “I was shocked when I was asked to be bishop, but again, when you set into a role, and you feel the grace of God coming through persons that are just there to help to get the work done, that for me is momentous.
It’s an experience of life that one cannot put any value; financial value or material value upon. “And of course, I was appointed the Archbishop of Lagos. That was one thing I did not think of, even in the widest of my dreams. But then, the grace of God just keeps one going.” September 18, is a date forever ingrained in his memory, just as it is with his seminary classmates, popularly referred to as ‘Class of 8.’ Archbishop Martins, Very Rev. Msgr. Edmond Akpala, Very Rev. Msgr. Jerome Oduntan, Very Rev. Fr. Michael Akintolu, Very Rev. Fr. Alphonsus Ania, Very Rev. Fr. Paschal Atomori, late Very Rev. Msgr. Christopher Ajala and Very Rev. Msgr. Peter Oke were ordained on September 18, 1983 at the Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos.
At the announcement of the creation of the Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta on November 24, 1997, the Holy Father, Blessed John Paul II also made public the appointment of Rev. Fr. Alfred Adewale Martins as the first Bishop of the new Diocese excised from the Archdiocese of Lagos. He received Episcopal Consecration at the hands of the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano assisted by the Most Rev. (Dr.) Anthony O. Okogie, the Archbishop of Lagos and the Most Rev. (Dr.) Albert Fasina, Bishop of Ijebu-Ode Diocese at the M. K. O. Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta on January 24, 1998. Archbishop Adewale Martins had the privilege of leading the people of God in Abeokuta from the inception of the Diocese, building up a young and struggling local Church with only nine parishes and eight incardinated priests to a vibrant and dynamic Church, with a rich stock of about sixty priests out of which about forty-four are incardinated priests of the Diocese at the time of his transfer to Lagos.
The education sector of Ogun State was also being enhanced with the establishment of Sacred Heart Catholic College Abeokuta, in 1999 and St. Patrick’s Catholic College, Imeko in 2006 by Bishop Martins. He also contributed immensely to the discussions that led to the return of mission secondary schools to their original owners in Ogun State.
His appointment as the new Archbishop of Lagos See by Pope Benedict XVI on May 25, 2012 was a natural progression. When on August 4, 2012, he was installed as the 4th Archbishop of the Catholic See of Lagos at the Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos, by the then Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Most Rev. Augustine Kasujja, he was stepping into the shoes of illustrious predecessors.
Succeeding His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Okogie of Lagos having reached the canonical age, he has so far acquitted himself capably in the office. 40 years of priesthood and 25 years of episcopacy of course, calls for gratitude to God.
Hear the highly cerebral and gentleman Archbishop, “First of all, a feeling of gratitude, gratitude to God that He has counted me worthy to be a priest, and then helped me going in these last 40 years. A feeling of an abundance of grace that I have been called to some certain offices within the 40 years, first of all as Bishop, and now as Archbishop. “
This is abundant grace that God has bestowed upon me, which obviously, it is not because I deserve it, but just grace in abundance. And actually, one asks oneself, ‘Where have the years gone? Where have they gone because we just basically do the things that need to be done, year by year, and suddenly, 40 years have sprung on us? So, we are grateful to God. We are grateful to people who have been our support all these years.”