How has it been and what’s your vision of what a Parish Priest should be?
Well, I can say that I didn’t just become a Parish Priest, I went through the tutelage. I had a mentor, Fr. Dory Tubesa, OSJ, a Philipino. In him, I saw a Priest that is different because I worked with him somewhere in a Parish before here, then, when he came here also, I worked with him. I saw a Priest that is different, a Priest that many people misconstrued, but he will continue to be on his guard. He’s never deterred. People at times will make jokes, “Baba go slow” or whatever, but I noticed if you ask the former parishioners at Isolo, even when I was a young Priest, during Christ the King, Corpus Christi procession, after the Mass, the way he will run the order of the programme where everybody will be, which group is doing what, also, on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, the Oblate seminarians coming to help him and some other Priests. He will actually put everybody on a duty post, he is concise. I have heard where many parishioners are like this is marvelous you know because when you see him, he has a mien of somebody who is unconcerned, but he’s very active. He never misses his line. That’s the best expression I can use. People talk about him, people misrepresent his true characteristics. Coming closer is not what I hear about him that he is. So, I even remember when we came here, we started here. We left that former Parish, we came here. We were like three Priests; he called us. I have to tell you what shocked me. He told us that if we are together, we will succeed here and we will make a long lasting impression, people will not see an avenue to penetrate us. We may have our differences, but as we are working here as a group, let that difference not show. Am telling you I was shaking when he was telling us this. So, that statement actually attracted me to him. I see him as the Parish Priest, but he is not like I am the Parish Priest, but he is team spirited. So, that’s the thing. That was why I said my being a Parish Priest is not that I just saw myself here, but I was privileged to have somebody who mentored me. Even it happened that he travelled sometime and still came back and continued. It made me to see that you being a Parish Priest is not just an accident, that yes, people may have different opinion about you, but you know that you are here being a Priest of God, standing in for people of God, representing them. So, what matters here is the best you can offer, and not how people see it. So, like in the instance of that Fr. Dory, many people talked a lot of things, but you see, we that know him, you see him making effort; he goes to meeting, he sees how harvest will be better and everything. So, that alone became an inspiration that what matters in this office is actually you doing the right thing. People may not see it, and I have to tell you in all seriousness and truthfulness that thing helped me. So, even when you have some comments there, people are seeing loopholes, you are seeing your future. Like the Church, even when some people were like the Church we did everything, we gave all to build, they didn’t know. By the time I will explain these are the defects, these are the things, and it became very clear. Yes, the money is not there, but we have seen that there’s a need to improve on this, will you continue to fold your hand? And you can see even during COVID-19 because we did the foundation on January 7, 2019. But what am I saying? You know this locality too. But you see, I noticed that because we were not like as in what people say, if it’s good, you focus on it. So, that’s how I see it that yes, the Parish Priest, it became so much easy because at the end of the day, you see these people keying into whatever programme you are bringing. You can imagine a Church we did foundation, if people are not bringing, if they are not supportive, it can’t go; it can’t actually go, it can’t fly. So, that’s the thing I see my being a Parish Priest that it’s not just something accident, but along the way, I was already tutored or groomed under the tutelage of somebody who understands what it takes to be a servant of the people.
When you came in 2014, what did you see?
I want you to capture the structural growth phase, probably, there was a Parish house here, there was a Church, please tell us how all these structures emerged. Yes as you have mentioned, the Parish house is there. The Parish office is there. Then, the Church that we have already remodeled is there. The Grotto of course is there. Then, there was a public toilet here. There was a pavilion, but the pavilion was having the old roofing sheet, the short span. So that’s just what was basically here.
So, where are we now, what do we have on ground now?
The Parish house is still there. The Parish office is still there. Then apart from these two things, other ones are no longer there, like the toilet I mentioned, then the old pavilion I mentioned, then the grotto I mentioned; they are no more here.
What about the chapel. At what point did the chapel and hall come in. How many floors are the hall?
As I was saying, these were the things that were there that are no longer there. I said that the grotto is no longer there. The whole pavilion with the short span is no longer there. The toilet is no longer there, and the old Church is no longer there. That leads me now to the structures that replaced them. First now, the toilet used to be here before you now drive into the Fathers’ house compound. So, the toilet now is no longer there, so, we now enlarged the area and built a Chapel. The Chapel was done in 2017, then the pavilion also. We now had a steel structure pavilion and with a long span and then interlocked the place. Then, the hall came in 2016 when it was commissioned by the Archbishop Adewale Martins, October 4, 2016. In that hall, it’s not actually a multipurpose hall, but it’s an events hall. It has three floors; it’s a two-storey building, then it has 500 sitting capacity. The first two sitting capacities with a table, then the ground floor is having 350. Apart from the hall, for the events, it has ultra-modern toilet facilities that are complementing what we have on this other side of the Church. So, it has good toilet facilities in all the halls. The hall is spacious, well laid. It has a good structure, we beautified it also. We did POP. We have AC in it, and I believe people also acknowledged that. We have patronage, except now that we are experiencing COVID-19 pandemic. Then, the Grotto although is still under construction; we are hoping that before February 13 that it will be completed. If you go there, when you enter through our main gate, the Grotto is on your right, facing the new Church. So, just like a week to the Christmas, we started doing something because we found out that if we leave it that way, it doesn’t tally with the level of development right now in the Church. And you might have seen we started building another one, but we have to take the statue of Our Lady. If you look at that statue, you can even see it’s four feet and cracks here and there. So, it’s just to say that it’s time for us actually to renovate that Grotto or to take it to a higher level kind of. So, these are things that we have. It’s good that I add also as you are asking what was here and what was not there. This road leading here, there was no road coming in here, no tarred road, so, it’s the parish actually during this time also did the road, not just for us, we took it to the end of the street also as a part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). So that’s what we did for now.
There is something about this Church. This Church has really enhanced the personality of the Catholic Church within this suburb, so you find out that most people come from various places; those that are not even Catholics come here for Adoration, and they believe so much in Adoration. They believe that coming to SS. Peter & Paul for Adoration that their problems would be solved. This is a departure from what we have in the past where Catholics migrate to other Churches, whereas, the Catholic Church is the Church to be. How did you get to that level of evangelizing, bringing more people to believe in the Catholic Church?
Anyway, you know you asked me one question that there is something, an aura in this place, you notice that people are thronging for Masses and I told you what we simply did was to identify the areas we can actually make people to believe. So one of the things we did is putting a human face to our worship. Like when I was telling you about that we may have backlog of collections to do, but we cannot take more than one extra collection after the offertory. You see also it’s like we are identifying with you, we know the burden is much, we are not going to add to your burden, so, let’s us take it off. So, now, the Adoration thing; you know what Adoration stands for. It’s just like I see Adoration as an enhanced model of benediction because in every Adoration, there must be benediction. But this one now, you are not going straight to just do benediction, you give some time just like the old Holy Hour thing that we grew up with, for those that grew up from a staunch Catholic background. The Holy Hour thing, the day you know you have Holy Hour, then you have your method of prayer before you reach to that benediction. So, I see that Adoration as an enhanced form of benediction. The only thing is that it ends with benediction, then you now start giving opportunity to worship God, to adore God, and then to also pray majorly spontaneously. So, we just started, but one thing we did in all truthfulness, we did that Adoration six months; nobody collected one naira as offering. That was also when Fr. Dory was here; nobody collected one naira as offering. We were doing it as yes, you run helter- skelter from pillar to post, seeking for solution, then does it mean that where you are leaving your Church to go, that your Church cannot provide what you are going there to seek? So, we were like ‘come let’s pray together, let’s see.’ So, we did that for six months, and actually, by the end of the six months, little, little testimonies if I may call it like that, started coming. So, I believe that’s actually the foundation of where we are today. So, you know now what brought many people. Normally, many places they go for prayers, you cannot leave without sowing a seed; if you need deliverance, you pay, if you are looking for the fruit of the womb, they give you price. That was the trend then because I know some places around you do prayer also even when we are here, we will be hearing from their speaker. They celebrate it, they are proud of it. So, this time around, now we are like as nothing much, just we do prayers. Even after those six months, you do your offering; nobody is forcing you, telling you to pay anything. There was a time Jesus went into His village; He was not able to do miracle there because of lack of their faith too. So, it’s not like all the time God will answer us the way we expect. So, you see now whether you like it or not, there are some of them that have gone somewhere paying a huge sum of money, but they didn’t get a miracle. So, as the Bible says in Luke 15, coming back to their senses at a point in time, it made many of them to really return back to the faith. At least one good thing, I cannot assure you that every prayer is answered the way you expect, no, it’s not possible, so, even when the prayer is not answered that way, you have nobody to blame, and there’s no one that you are annoyed with because nobody is ripping you off of your one naira. Then, the few now that say ‘it’s like I am seeing changes, as in that what I prayed for is answered.’ So, they will see also ‘I didn’t make much effort, it’s not like I was ripped off or a price tag was given to me for me to get this.’ So, I believe this was actually the foundation, and before you know it, maybe many people keyed into that. As you are saying those who are not Catholics, my joy is even there are Catholics that are proud; they will go somewhere, they will come back and say Father this people are praying o; they do camping, but we don’t hear such things now.