FR. IGNATIUS ONWUATUEGWU: A LIVING LEGEND.
According to Michael Bassey Johnson, “Legacies are footprints of legends who walked among men”. Before us today, is a legend who has left many legacies. Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Ignatius Onwuatuegwu (Aka. Oruatuegwu) is a legend in the superlative degree. Thus, in his twenty five years of priestly ministry, Fr. Onwuatuegwu showed himself exceptional in the following areas:
A. FR. ONWUATUEGWU IS A TRUE PASTOR:
A pastor is a Parish priest in the true sense of the word. In all the Parishes Fr. Onwuatuegwu had worked as a Parish priest, he made himself a true leader who knows what to do at every point in time so as to be available to the flock entrusted to him. He has a perfect way carrying his parishioners along, thereby making them to fall into the good mode of Spirituality he wants them to follow. With regard to St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Ekwulobia, no priest has so much touched the lives of the parishioners more than Fr. Onwuatuegwu. It is not an exegeration. Just after one year of his apostolate at St. Joseph’s Cathedral Ekwulobia, the Bishop transferred him to St. Mary’s Awka due to some Pastoral needs. The parishioners of St. Joseph’s Cathedral Ekwulobia, unanimously sent some delegates to Awka pleading with the Bishop not to transfer Fr. Onwuatuegwu. For them, it was like denying them the sweetest thing they had ever tasted. The Bishop had to drive down to Ekwulobia to hold a meeting with all the parishioners. At the end of the meeting, he was reinstated as the parish priest and stayed till the 7th year, with unprecedented achievements. Such is the personality of Fr. Onwuatuegwu!
B. FR. ONWUATUEGWU IS A TRADITIONALIST.
The word ‘traditionalist’ is being misused in our time to mean ‘someone who is involved in fetish practices”. However, in the true sense of the term, “traditionalist”, it means “a person who adheres to tradition, especially in cultural or religious practices”. Fr. Onwuatuegwu is a traditionalist who is grounded in the African traditional Religion and Culture, and also in the Christian traditional Religion and Culture. He has perfectly employed this knowledge in his pastoral duties. For instance, there was a very tough situation of incest, which according to the tradition of Ekwulobia, must be done in the traditional way in order to cleanse the abomination. Employing his pastoral initiatives, Fr. Onwuatuegwu was able to blend the traditional religious ritual and that of the Christian rituals in such a way as not to water down the Christian tenets. He did the ritual cleansing in accordance to the tradition while upholding the Christian principle of atonement.
Such is a great promoter of inculturation!
C. Fr. ONWUATUEGWU IS A ‘PRAYER WARRIOR’.
Being a ‘prayer warrior’ entails being ready to fight spiritual battles through prayer. Fr. Onwuatuegwu, as a priest, has liberated many families spiritually. In the course of his priestly ministry, he has so much committed himself in family visitations whereby he prays for the family employing the Catholic rituals. He has a unique prayer pattern that is Catholic in form, and uninfluenced by pentecostalism or what is generally known as “gbugbu yaya”.
D. Fr. ONWUATUEGWU IS A GREAT HOMILIST.
Among the many attributes which endeared him so much to the hearts of his parishioners is his ability to touch lives through his homilies. He is a wonderful preacher of the Word who teaches, encourages and spurs his listeners to action. He uses captivating stories, inspirational songs, and most importantly, the Scripture, to preach homilies. He has the ability to sustain his listeners to the extent that no matter how long he preaches, one can never get tired of listening to him. He is able to preach perfectly from the Scriptures, the Church’s tradition and the African traditional Religion. In Ekwulobia, one hardened pentecostal Christian, who never believed that anything good can come out of the Catholic Church, was highly captivated by Fr. Onwuatuegwu’s homily at a funeral. This pentecostal Christian confessed that he has never heard a Catholic priest preached like this before. This pentecostal Christian later stated that he actually considered becoming a Catholic after listening to the homily. Such is the effect of Fr. Onwuatuegwu’s homily!
E. FR. ONWUATUEGWU IS AN INTELLECTUAL GURU:
According to Wikipedia, “An intellectual is a person who engages in critical thinking, research, and reflection about the reality of society, and who proposes solutions for the normative problems of society”. Basing on this definition, one can say that Fr. Onwuatuegwu is an intellectual. First and foremost, he is a Doctorate Degree Holder and he has good and versatile knowledge of history and African culture. He can never been found wanting with regard to apriori knowledge. His analysis of the Biafran War needs to be documented. He has a very educative knowledge of what happened during the war with all the war songs which were used to motivate the Igbos to fight for their freedom. In a nutshell, Fr. Onwuatuegwu has an intellectual response to every situation. Such is the prerequisite of an intellectual guru!
F. FR. ONWUATUEGWU IS A MAN OF GOD AND MAN OF THE PEOPLE.
During our study on the life of Fr. Tansi at the Major Seminary, we were told that Fr. Tansi was a man of God and man of the people in the sense that in his exercise of his priestly ministry, Fr. Tansi was available to the owner of the Vineyard, God, and also to the Vineyard, the people.
In the same vein, Fr. Onwuatuegwu could be regarded as a very powerful man of God who does not fail to commune to God personally through prayer. He has a very strong personal prayer life that is very encouraging. His disposition during Mass is worthy of emulation. He has an idea of the priesthood that is related to the priesthood of the African traditional Religion. He believes that a priest is an “ezemmuo”, who sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. Just like ezemmuo puts palm fronds in his mouth while going for sacrifice to avoid talking to anyone, Fr. Onwuatuegwu believes that a priest should maintain silence and the proper liturgical decorum while attending Mass which is the highest form of sacrifice. Thus, Fr. Onwuatuegwu is a man of God. This is surely in compliance to the advice of St. JohnPaul II to the priests of his time: “Doing the work of God and forgetting the God of work”.
Moreso, Fr. Onwuatuegwu is a man of the people. He is a very jolly fellow, very lively, generous and caring. Personally, I have benefitted a lot from him as a result of his generosity. There are many testimonies of people he has helped in his places of priestly apostolate. He relates more with the anawims of his parishioners more than the rich and the elites. He is very good with regard to relating with people. Most importantly, he knows how to mingle properly with the people of God entrusted to him without undermining his relationship with God.
In his famous Speech at the funeral of Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony said and I quote: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him”. Thus on this great day of the Silver Jubilee of Priestly Anniversary of Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Ignatius Onwuatuegwu, I wish to say that over and above whatever I have written concerning this great personality, I have come to celebrate him for all his achievements during these 25 years and not to praise him. Rather, I praise the Almighty God for the graces showered upon Fr. Onwuatuegwu. May the grace of God never depart from him as he continues to labour in the Lord’s Vineyard. Tu es Sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchizedek. You are a Priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek of old. I bu Ukochukwu ebeebe n’usoro nke Melchizedek.
HAPPY SILVER JUBILEE CELEBRATION TO YOU MY MENTOR, AND MY FATHER. WE LOVE YOU. KEEP ON LIVING FOR US.
Rev. Fr. Augustine Ebuka Nnadi.