By Constaincia Uruakpa
The Catholic Bishop of Nsukka, Most Rev. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah has called on Christians, ex-seminarians, in particular, to be witnesses for Christ in whatever sector of human endeavour that they may find themselves. Onah who gave the charge at the maiden encounter of the Bishop with ex-seminarians, tagged, “They too were disciples and friends of Jesus, but they didn’t become priests”, held recently in Nsuka, Anambra State, urged them to see whatever that has happened in the past, as part of God’s plan for them. The Bishop said ever since his years as a minor seminarian, he has never stopped wondering what became of many of his friends and mates who did not continue the journey to the priesthood, adding that many of these people were very promising in their days in the Seminary and, by our human estimation, would have made very good priests. He said: “Apart from the inscrutable mystery of why some of the best never became priests, I have never been comfortable that these inestimable human resources have never been properly harnessed and mobilized for the explosive transformation they could occasion in the Church and in the society: the superlatively intelligent, the deeply spiritual and prayerful, the prodigally generous, those highly talented musicians, artists, footballers, athletes and dramatists, the creative geniuses, those disciplinarians who had the rigidity of military officers… What has become of all of them?” He said by divine providence, many of these ex- seminarians end up as illustrious men in Church and society, but quite a few completely disappeared from the radar, as some have been found in dark valleys of inglorious living.
“We know that the majority of those who enter the Seminary do so at least with an initial honest intention of becoming priests. But we also know that very little percentage of them make it to the priesthood. “Being a Bishop now offers me an opportunity and a platform to bring together those who passed through the seminary, but did not become priests, as many of them as possible, in order that together as one family, the Church, we may begin to reflect on possible forms of pastoral and societal reengineering”, he said. He urged the ex seminarians to reflect on why God allowed them to experience the seminary at all. He said: “I am firmly convinced that even if one spent only a day in the seminary as a seminarian, there must have been a reason in God’s divine plan for it. My faith and experience in life tell me that nothing happens in a person’s life for nothing. I believe, therefore, that there must be a reason why God permits so many young men to pass through the seminary, even when he knows that they will not become priests. Was God not preparing these men for special roles in the Church and in the society at such a time as this?” Giving illustrations on the roles Nichodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene played in the history of man’s salvation, Bishop Onah said that they too were among the disciples and friends of Jesus, but they did not become priests or bishops, neither were they among the twelve disciples of Jesus.
“These three disciples and friends of Jesus could get to places and play the roles, which none of the Apostles (bishops and priests) could, at very crucial moments in the history of our salvation. Today, many of you, dear disciples and friends of Jesus who are not priests, can get to places and play some important roles that no bishop or priest can dream of: as husbands, fathers and heads of families, civil servants, professionals, captains of industries, business men, academics, traditional rulers, politicians, security personnel, labourers and artisans, ordinary citizens on the rough and rugged terrains of daily life. The days you spent in the seminary were a preparation for this”, he noted.