The Catholic Church, from available records, has untold numbers of past and present heroes and heroines worth celebrating. These heroes and heroines who saved the day and more importantly, save souls by laying down their lives instead, inspired Mathew Hennessy, an associate editorial feature editor at the Wall Street Journal to introduce to readers a young priest, Fr. Andrew Will of the diocese of Bridge Port, Connecticut. Fr. Will who was a teenager during the 9/11 terrorists attacks on the World Trade Centre, according to the Wall Street Journal editor, wrote an unforgettable epitaph boldly written on a banner shortly after the sad event that read ‘The world needs Heroes’.
Ever since, the Mother Church has never been in short supply of her heroes and heroines, some of whom have been canonized and made saints while several others are awaiting beatification leading to sainthood. Let’s cast our minds back to the heroes and heroines of our time in the mode of St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast we celebrate today. The Polish conventual Franciscan gave his life in place of that of a family man in Auschwitz concentration camp who had been picked to be killed in response to the 1941 escape of fellow prisoners. St. Oscar Romero was Canonized on the 14th of October, 2018 by Pope Francis was murdered in San Salvador in 1980 while celebrating Mass, and Blessed Jerozy Popieluszko who was killed by the Polish security service in 1984 for standing up against oppressive communism in his native Poland.
There are countless others of old such as St. Issac Jogues, the 17th century Jesuit missionary who became a priest in 1636, in preaching the gospel in what is now Canada, the French man endured hardship and torture even having some of his fingers savagely chewed off by cannibals who held him captive for more than a year. Heroines equally worthy of mention are Elizabeth Ann, a pioneer in Catholic education and Mother Mary Lange, founder of the first religious community for African-American women and the first Catholic school for black children. In Nigeria, the Catholic Church would not forget in a hurry her own heroines, at least in the very recent time, in the persons of Sr. Henrietta Alokha and 14 year old Vivian Ogu, a virgin preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation in Benin, Edo State who showed uncommon courage by refusing to be raped by armed thieves who invaded her home in 2009. She was brutally murdered for her resistance not to be defiled. Today we not only remember but also celebrate our heroine Sr. Henrietta Alokha, the Principal of Bethlehem Girls College, Abule Ado who laid down her life in a last minute attempt to rescue some students of the College supposedly gone missing in the March 15, 2020 fire disaster that burnt down the entire school structure. Just as the Nigerian Airforce is honouring her posthumously and a foundation erected to immortalize her name it would not be out of place to start the process for the beatification of this rare Nigerian heroine, Sr. Henrietta Alokha.