In the heart of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, a name that continues to stand out as a beacon of faith, compassion, leadership and selfless service is Most Rev. Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins. Born with an unflinching zeal for service and a heart imbued with love for God and humanity, he has risen to become a guiding force in the spiritual journey of countless souls. From a visible innocence and simplicity of childhood, we see a transformation into a vessel embodied with grace that now and in time to come serves as a beacon of light, hope and faith. Born on the 1st of June 1959, in the rocky city of Abeokuta and nurtured within the embrace of the devout family of Mr. Gregory and Mrs. Victoria Martins, Archbishop Martins’ early years were marked by a deep commitment to his faith and a desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others.
His life is one that unfurls with exceptional beginnings. His unwavering devotion to God, his undeviating faith and relentless determination led him on a journey of education and formation, which culminated in his Priestly Ordination on 18th September, 1983 by Anthony Cardinal Okogie, the then Archbishop of Lagos. He had his primary education at St. Augustine Primary School Abeokuta from where he proceeded to the prestigious St. Theresa Minor Seminary Oke-Are where the seed of the priesthood was nurtured.
He was then propelled to the Great Seminary of Saints Peter and Paul, Bodija where he had his priestly training prior his ordination alongside seven others of the Archdiocese of Lagos. Forty years gone by and we recall the strides that Archbishop Martins has significantly accomplished. He began his ministry at St. Gregory’s College Obalende and went on to work as the Assistant Administrator of Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos, from there,he worked at St. Theresa Catholic Church, Makoko.
His journey embraced a whole new turn when he was seconded as a formatorto Ss. Peter and Paul Major Seminary, Bodijaone which aided him indelving more deeply into the academia. In his pursuit for more knowledge, he bagged a Master’s degree from the University of Ibadan and went on to pursue a doctorate degree in St. Andrew University, Scotland.
While the doctorate degree was in view, his call to the episcopacy arrived and he became the premier bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta. Spending fourteen years as the Bishop of Abeokuta, he brought significant growth and development to the diocese. Assuming the office with eleven priests and nine parishes, Archbishop Martins worked tirelessly and assiduously to grow the diocese and saw the creation of not less than fifteen parishes within his time there.
In 2012, providence brought him back home. Like a heavenly herald, his nameAdewale became a constant reminder of the mantle he would bear and on the 4th of August 2012, he was installed as the Archbishop of Lagos and indeed,“the crown had come home”. Eleven years have passed by and the growth and development in the Archdiocese of Lagos speaks volume.
Throughout his ministry, Archbishop Martins’ dedication to the spread of the Gospel message has been unwavering. His sermons are marked by profound insights, delivered with humility and grace. He retains a unique ability to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds, drawing them closer to the heart of Christ and inspiring them to embrace a life of service and love.
As Archbishop of Lagos, he has been a visionary, implementing innovative programs and initiatives to revitalize the faith of the community and engage the youths in meaningful ways. Archbishop Martins’ commitment to education and formation of future leaders has been instrumental in shaping the future of the Church in Nigeria.
He savvies the importance of investing in the intellectual and spiritual growth of young people, empowering them to be effective witnesses of the Gospel in the modern world. He has in his own way shown that the social media can be a means of evangelization and reaching out to the world. His Lenten talks, monthly goodwill messages and online streams have indeed made flesh the injunction to go into the world and make disciples of all nations (Mt28:19).
He has used this platform to reach out to the faithful, engaging them in meaningful dialogue and fostering a sense of community. His use of technology to evangelize reflects his understanding of the importance of meeting people where they are and using contemporary means to spread the timeless message of the Gospel. Indeed, we can say that his legacy is one of faith, hope and love and this legacy extends beyond the walls of the Church he serves. His visionfor a just and compassionate society, rooted in the Gospel values of peace, love and solidarity inspires others to work for the common good and strive for a more inclusive and harmonious world that seeks and promotes holiness of life.
It becomes pertinent to say that a reflection on his life and ministry reminds us of the words of Jesus in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. Archbishop Martins has dedicated his life to bringing this abundant life to the faithful and those he encounters. Amidst all of these, Archbishop Martins remains remarkably humble and approachable.
His approach to leadership is characterized by a deep sense of humility, selflessness, service, empathy, listening and a genuine concern for the well-being of others. He is a leader who works the talk, leads by example, and a true shepherd who walks alongside his flock, accompanying them on their journey of faith. His gentle and soft-spoken grandeur speaks volume for him and indeed reflects his personality.
In the tapestry of Nigeria’s Catholic Church, the portrait of Most Rev. Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins is one of a compassionate leader, a fearless advocate and a devoted servant of God. His life and ministry inspires all to embrace the Gospel values of love, justice and mercy and to strive for a more just and compassionate world. His humility, compassion and visionary leadership have left an indelible mark on the Church and society and calls for us to strive for a world where God’s love and justice reign.
On the occasion of his 40th Priestly Ordination Anniversary and his 25th Episcopal Ordination Anniversary, we celebrate this momentous occasion and we extend our deepest gratitude for his visionary leadership and compassionate shepherding as we wish him more of God’s grace and strength to shepherd the flock of God.
We pray for the grace of final perseverance and fulfilment in doing God’s work as he continues to faithfully shepherd the people of God and may his life and ministry be a shining example of faith and service for generations to come.
• Rev. Fr. Paul Ariole is Secretary to Archbishop Martins.