Gratitude Magazine March 2015 Edition

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MEET THE ORDINANDI

 

 

Reginald Bonguunyuuri Tiesaah

STATIONS OF MY LIFE

Regis Web


A life that is not critically examined falls prey to despair, futility and hopelessness. Such a life will agree with Shakespeare who in Macbeth says, “Life … is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” That of Reginald certainly has sounds and furies. If seen from the eyes of grace, every punctuation of his story only but melt in one symphony. Reginald Bonguunyuuri Tiesaah was born on the early hours of 28th April, 1978 at Obuasi in the Adansi West District of Ghana. His parents, from the Upper West Region of Ghana, moved to Obuasi where his father was employed at the Ashanti Goldfields. His father, the late Boniface Bayor Tiesaah, was from Daffiamah-Kunzokalah in the Upper West Region. His mother, Florence Buorokuu, is from Kyerekpong also in the Upper West Region. Reginald, as he is commonly called, or Reggie as some choose to call him was the first gift to his parents. Coming from a typically agricultural background, his father wasted no time in sending him as a boy to Kunzokala to assist with the agricultural demands of the extended family. He spent the early years of childhood largely as a herdsman along with other cousins.

Upon the persistence of his mother, Reginald returned to his parents in Obuasi to commence education. He was immediately enrolled at the Adansi High International School (AHISCHO). Education at this stage was more of bitter pill to swallow. He was quite grown but had to start at the cradle with much younger kids. On Sundays he would follow his mother to Church at the St. Thomas Parish. The Tutuka outstation was later created which grew into St. Philip’s Parish. As he began to make friends of his own, he felt comfortable going to Sunday School and Mass in their company. This was to become, for him, the seed of faith and his vocation. At Church, children would ordinarily be separated from their parents and grouped by ages for catechesis. Reginald easily settled into the Sunday School rhythm and always looked forward to the exciting singing, recitation of prayers and memory verses from scripture, the Christian instructions and the occasional of competition woven into the entire structure to see who remembers the memory verses the most. Reginald’s favourite part was the ‘SWORD DRILL’ which tested the children’s aptitude for the books of the Bible, memory of scriptures, reading skills, and sense of alert amidst all calculated distractions. It was the nursing stage; very delicate but it seems God had begun a protracted journey of gently drawing him to himself. It seems to him that God was seducing him like an adult lures a child with candies.

Even though Reginald began to respond to the challenges of education the taunts of the young ones were like punches in the belly. Some class teachers were quite unwelcoming also. He developed distaste for going to school unless forced. But providence has a teasing smile on our evolution. Reginald finds it difficult to explain the sudden turn-around in his views about education. He became very active at school even though a little reserved. He was doing well in school and as a result was made to skip a few classes. Opportunities presented themselves for Reginald to sit common entrance exams into secondary school while at ‘Stage Four’ at AHISCO. It was a common practice for bright students to write the exams and proceed to secondary school. His father however, fearing that he was a little inexperience to go to boarding school at that time declined and turned down the many attempts by his school teachers, who sought to persuade his father.

While at stage four at Adansi High International School, he received an invitation from a cousin, Vitus Doozie in Wa asking him to consider continuing his education in the Upper West Region. After a period of persuasion, his father succumbed and permitted Reginald to travel to the Upper West Region to continuing his primary and secondary education. He was enrolled at the Catholic Junior Secondary School. Thereafter, he sat the entrance exams of St. Francis Xavier Minor Seminary. He passed and was enrolled and finished 1998. There, he took general arts picking as his electives Mathematics, Economics and Geography. Xavier was intellectually challenging and had no room for intellectual laziness. If anyone sees marks of gentility and traces of light in Reginald, they were virtues imparted and imbibed at St. Francis Xavier Minor Seminary. Its vision was ‘To train young Christian gentlemen’ and its motto was Lumen Splendeat (Let your light shine). On completion, while universities were on strike, Reginald applied for a professional program in Marketing at the Kumasi Polytechnic. It was a wonderful experience for him. The period of studying Marketing was a fallow period to test his motives and examine himself in view of the path he was discerning to take: that of religious life.

While at the Polytechnic, Reginald wrote to the vocations director in Accra seeking admission to the Society of Jesus. He had a series of interviews and a candidacy program with other three other aspirants. For his national service posting, he was initially sent to Ejesu in the Ashanti Region to teach. However, finding accommodation in the township was a challenge and hence, he asked for transfer to the Upper West Region. He was subsequently posted to the Lassia-Tuolu Secondary School to teach geography even though it wasn’t his area of expertise. There was a dire need for a geography teacher for the school. It was a fulfilling experience for him to be of help. He was retained for a period of time while seeking a permanent job. He was awaiting an appointment letter to work with Fedex when he received his admission to the Society of Jesus.

Reginald’s formation as a Jesuit began in 2004 at the Jesuit Novitiate in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria. For two years he was schooled in the spirituality, constitution and way of life of the Society of Jesus. During this period, he was given various experiments. Notable among them were the hospital experiment at Iseyin (Oyo State, Nigeria), working with street children - CASS (Accra, Ghana), and Community and teaching experiment at St. Francis Parish and Secondary School (Lagos, Nigeria). These helped to shape his sense of service to humanity. At the end of the Novitiate experience Reginald made his simple but perpetual vows in 2006 in the Novitiate along with five other companions. Thereafter, he was sent to Zimbabwe for studies in philosophy and other humanities studies. He says philosophy was an intellectual madness in the positive sense.

After his first studies in philosophy he was sent to Nigeria to work at the Catholic Chaplaincy, Lagos University Teaching Hospital and College of Medicine, University of Lagos (LUTH/CMUL). He describes the experience of regency as a bittersweet experience. The experience at the hospital was emotionally draining having to deal with people with various health conditions, who live in a world of hope and constant dependence on the love, mercy and hope in God. He encountered heartbreaking experiences that would bring him and some of his companions to their knees before God and to tears. A walk with God does not only afford the visions of dark clouds. There were moments of grace and joy too. On the hindsight, Reginald thinks such challenging experiences were interwoven with graces. Nonetheless, working with some of the staff of LUTH/CMUL, the medical students and other members of the Chaplaincy did afford countless moments of laughter. The walls of Chaplaincy are engraved with voices of the altar servers, the Chaplaincy choir, the small group of what he calls the Mathematics club, the youth ministry, the Catechism interactions, the Patients Visitation Ministry, and ‘the accountants’ who stay behind each Sunday to count and document the collections. This page carries the fragrance of the life with God you helped to shape. It was as if to say in taking a walk with God, the pain of the distance is ironed out by the beauty and joy of God’s presence. Hence, we are able to walk without being tired and soar on eagle’s wings. Reginald is indeed grateful to God to have had such an experience.

After two years of regency Reginald was again missioned to continue his Jesuit and priestly formation in Hekima University College, Nairobi-Kenya. St. Thomas Aquinas referred to theology as the mother of all the sciences. It is probably the father of a reasonable faith too. Reginald, like others, was subjected to the rigors of biblical studies, studies in various aspects theology, and the history of Christianity. He was ordained to the diaconate on 14th February 2015 and successfully completed his studies in April this year.

He is sure that the melody is not his own making. Many have been part of this journey. One tree does not make a forest. He is deeply indebted to all who have contributed in shaping him. He prays God’s blessings to fall on you all, near and far, like the dewfall. He craves the same support and more to finish what has been started.  

With hands in the air and gratitude on his lips Reginald says, ‘Thank you Lord for everything, for that which has passed, which is, and which is yet to be.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ese S. Ehwerherume, SJ

Ese was born in Warri on 8 May 1979 to Mr. John and Mrs. Esther Idiahoke. He is the third of six children born to the couple, but he has seven other siblings. He attended Oviorie Primary School, Oviorie, from 1984 to 1986 and Caveginia Primary School ‘B’, Warri, from 1986 to 1991. From 1991 to 1997, he went to Nana College, Warri. It was during this time he discovered the Catholic faith, thanks to his siblings. He began catechism classes in 1991 at Ighogbadu Primary School, Warri. Two years later, he received Baptism and the Eucharist during the Easter Vigil Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Warri. His baptismal name is Simon. He was confirmed on Pentecost Day that year.

Ese entered the Jesuit novitiate in Benin City on 12 August 2001 to begin formation for the priesthood. There, on 29 July 2003, he pronounced simple perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He studied Philosophy from 2003 to 2006 at Institute of St. Peter Canisius, Democratic Republic of Congo. From 2006 to 2010, he studied Science Education at University of Cape Coast, Ghana. He did regency from 2010 to 2012 at St. Francis Catholic Secondary School, Idimu, Lagos. From 2012 until May this year, he studied Theology at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, United States of America. He was ordained a deacon on 11 October 2014 at St. Ignatius Church, in Boston College. And he will be ordained a priest on 18 July 2015 at Christ the King Church, Ilasamaja, Lagos.

Ese enjoys reading, playing indoor games and watching television. He thanks his family, brother-Jesuits, friends and well-wishers for the support he has received. He also asks that you kindly thank God on his behalf and that you pray for him always.

 

 

 

Alexander Emeka Irechukwu, S.J.

Alexander Emeka Irechukwu, S.J., was born to Mr. Charles and Mrs. Theresa Irechukwu of Umunyeaku, Umuopia, Akokwa, in Imo State on Friday, June 5, 1981. Born into a catholic family, Alex, as he prefers to be called, was nurtured in the faith receiving the sacraments of initiation in his infant and teenage years.  

In his deep aspiration for the priesthood, Alex learnt about the Society of Jesus and sought to join the order. He began his noviceship (the first stage of Jesuit formation) on Sunday, August 10, 2003, at the Jesuit Novitiate in Benin City, Edo State, completing it with the pronouncement of simple/perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience on Wednesday, July 27, 2005. Thereafter, he embarked on the study of philosophy at the Jesuit School of Philosophy and Humanities, Harare, Zimbabwe. Upon its completion, he had a spell of regency (the period during which a Jesuit in formation is assigned to work full-time in a corporate apostolic mission of the Society) at St. Anthony Catholic Church, Accra, Ghana proceeding thereafter to University of Cape Town, South Africa, for studies in Education in January 2010. Following his return from Cape Town, he had a stint as a pastoral minister at Christ the King Church, Ilasamaja, Lagos getting assigned to St. Francis Catholic Secondary School, Idimu, Lagos, where he served as the Director of Campus Ministry and taught Mathematics to seniors.  

In preparation for ordained ministry, Alex, commenced theology studies in August 2012 at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Massachusetts, USA. Ordained a transitional deacon on Saturday, October 11, 2014, he served the Dorchester tri-parishes of Saint Peter, Holy Family and Blessed Mother Teresa in South End Boston. Please God, Alex will be ordained to the ministerial priesthood on Saturday, July 18, 2015, at Christ the King Church, Ilasamaja, Lagos, and will celebrate his Mass of Thanksgiving as a Jesuit Priest on Sunday, August 23, 2015 at St. Jude Parish, Umuopia in his hometown of Akokwa.

Alex is grateful to all who have inspired and continue to inspire in him deeper faith, hope, and love in his ongoing formation as a Jesuit as well as all who have mentored and continue to mentor him in the service of Christ’s mission. He is mostly grateful to his parents for introducing him to the catholic faith and the Society of Jesus for nurturing his vocation to ordained ministry in the Church. His hobbies include reading, cooking, sightseeing, listening to popular and classical music. He is a soccer-loving lad and a passionate Gunner.

 

 

Emeka Celestine Asogwa, SJ

Rev. Emeka Celestine Asogwa, SJ, or simply Emeka as he prefers to be called, was born to Mr Israel E. Asogwa of blessed memory and Mrs Grace N. Asogwa on 20th July 1978. He is the fifth of six children, three brothers and two sisters. He was born at Ibagwa-Ani, Nsukka LGA of Enugu state. He completed his primary and secondary education in 1992 and 1998 respectively.

The journey to priesthood began as an ordinary childhood desire, which at the time was incomprehensible. His parents were not Christians when he began nursing the idea to become a priest. It started as a reaction to a particular event that will always be remembered. This happened during the Christmas period in December 1995, three friends (Emeka and two others) had tried to receive the sacrament of penance at their home parish in readiness for Christmas Eve Mass. It was a requirement for all the altar servers who will serve Mass on that day and the following Christmas day mass. Unfortunately, all efforts failed and on that fateful night a decision was made to become a priest and possibly after ordination, plead to be sent to his village to help the sole existing Parish Priest.

However, while living with his older brothers in Abuja between 1998-2003, he gained admission to study mechanical engineering at Bida Polytechnic. During the period, he encountered the Redemptorists, the Augustinians and the Jesuits. The childhood desire to become a priest turned into years of journey after his first mail to the then vocations director, Paul Maher, SJ of blessed memory. He entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Benin City in 2003. Among other experiences in the Novitiate Emeka remembers vividly the long spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius as foundational to his formation as a Jesuit. While in the novitiate, Emeka had the privilege of ministering to the prisoners, to the patients living with HIV/AIDS, and to those suffering from tuberculosis.

After two years of learning the Society of Jesus’ norms, history, and its constitutions, he took his simple perpetual vows in 2005. He thereafter spent the next 3years studying philosophy in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2008, he returned to Nigeria to begin his regency experiment at the Chaplaincy of Lagos University Teaching Hospital and College of Medicine University of Lagos (LUTH/CMUL). The regency period is a pastoral experiment, which forms part of Jesuits formation. It often takes place at the completion of the first studies or simply before or after theological studies. Notably, the pastoral work at LUTH/CMUL Chaplaincy was of three major facets: ministry to the patients, ministry to the medical students and experts as well as to the neighbourhood residents. These ministries brought closer home in Emeka’s view, the questions of human sufferings, sicknesses, death, and place of God in human society.  

The regency period at LUTH/CMUL exposed Emeka daily to the dead, the dying, the recovered, and the joys of child’s birth. The regency experience enabled Emeka to understand that although the challenges in life are sometimes overwhelming, the gospel of Christ can and should be proclaimed. Hence his realisation that the negative and destructive powers of the universe are not the ultimate powers we worship. It was during his time and work at LUTH/CMUL that Emeka became aware the essence of prayer, which is fundamentally a matter of relationship not merely give-and-take between human beings and God.

 In 2010, Emeka was sent for theological studies in Nairobi, Kenya. This period was another opportunity to confirm that the gospel of Christ remains the light on our path. Some of the instances include his experiences while working in the refugee camp, counselling and assisting refugees from Ethiopia, Congo Democratic, Burundi, Rwanda, and Côte d'Ivoire. Also his experience as a high-school teacher in Madrid, Spain remains remarkable. Notably, theological studies helped Emeka to gain more understanding of faith, the history of Catholic Church, the Church Dogmas, traditions, Scriptures, morals, pastoral, and ethical issues. As a theology student, it became clear to him why prayer is a matter of relationship, and intimacy with God and not merely resolutions to be holy – we are sinners but loved by God.

 In 2013, Emeka was ordained to the order of the deacon. He was thereafter missioned to the United States of America for graduate studies. In thanksgiving to God, the childhood dream has finally turned into a reality, as he is ordained as a Jesuit priest at the Christ the King Catholic Church, Lagos on the 18th July 2015. Throughout this journey, God has taught Emeka to see opportunity in challenges, faith in doubts, light in darkness, and love in enemies. God has filled him with zeal for God’s mission, to respond to people’s cry, pains, and sickness, and to search for Him with unbridled passion.


Emeka has learnt to spend time with God in prayer so that God’s fire within him might bring warmth to a world shivering from cold, through community life – the importance of patience, love and generosity. And very importantly, through the journey, Emeka has learnt to discern, listen, and respond to God’s call – a call to be a servant to God’s people; a call to respond as Christ would to the restless, the sick, the abandoned, and the voiceless in our community. Finally, Emeka remains ever grateful to women, men, and children who have supported him immensely in the course of his formation as a Jesuit. In his own words “the journey has just began, and God’s grace will always be enough for God’s people.” Amen!

 

 

 

Ujah Gabriel Ejembi, SJ.


Ujah Gabriel Ejembi was born to Mr. Linus Adakole Ejembi and Late Mrs. Alice Ejembi on the 21st March 1984 at St. Gerard’s Catholic Hospital Kakuri, Kaduna South.  He hails from Benue State from the village of Ojigo which is part of the clan of Edumoga in Okpokwu Local Government. He was raised as the fourth (4th) of eight (8) siblings: five (5) boys and three (3) girls, in a typical Catholic family. Young Ujah began his primary education at Baban Dodo Primary School and completed at Piety Nursery/Primary School from 1990 to 1996. And later on he was at Government Secondary School Sabon-Tasha, Kaduna South for his secondary education which he completed in 2001. Ujah, like most promising young boys of his time, wanted to serve humanity as a medical doctor but God was inviting him to a different kind of service in the world through the Church.

The seed of Ujah’s vocation to religious life and the priesthood could be traced back to that faithful day when he was led by the hand to the Block Rosary Crusade by his father. He was eight (8) years old at this time. At about this time, he was also enrolled in Catechism class in preparation for first Holy Communion. After his First Holy Communion, he was encouraged by his good mother who took it upon herself to wake him each morning for daily masses as an altar servant.
 
It was as an altar servant that Ujah felt God calling him to remain at His altar. This special invite was nurtured by prayers and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament which he cultivated at a young age. The boy, Ujah, wanted to be dedicated to a life of prayer and service and began to consider the catholic Priesthood with a little more seriousness. To help clarify his dream, he sought the wise counsel of one Fr. Dogonyaro Yakubu, a priest of the Archdiocese of Kaduna. Fr. Yakubu, who was then the assistant parish priest of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, Kakuri Kaduna, was already used to finding Ujah spend long hours in private studies in the parish hall; and with a brilliant performance at his Senior Secondary School Certificate Exams to show for it, Fr. Yakubu pointed Ujah to the Jesuits with a prophetic declaration: “To the Jesuits you must go!”


This prophetic declaration set the stage for Ujah’s long journey to the Jesuits. His attraction to the Jesuits is one of love at first encounter. This attraction was for him too strong to resist. He saw that the Jesuits were offering him exactly what he wanted, that is, the courage to seek his own experience, to reflect on what is being experienced and to act subsequently, based on an accumulation of experiences well reflected upon. That is, an attentiveness that is deepened and understood in reflection so that a life shaped and informed by love would be manifested.

After two years of interviews, or what is commonly called Candidacy, Ujah was received into the Jesuit Novitiate in Benin City on the 10th of August 2003. It was at the Jesuit Novitiate that he learnt again to pray and to discover his identity in God; an identity informed by the knowledge of God. He not only learned how to pray but learned to allow God to pray in him. It is at this university of prayer that he acquired an attitude of discernment as a way of life which has since marked him since his 30 days retreat. Apart from this, another defining experience for Ujah at this initial stage of formation was his experience of living and working at the Ossiomo leprosarium. It was here that he was “humanized.” He had to deal with the reality of human suffering first-hand. He came to a realization that what is beautiful about the human person transcends the physical. This lesson was brought home to him by the lepers’ attitude to their physical suffering in spite of which they were neither bitter people nor sorrowed by the fact of their condition. This experience made deep and lasting impression on Ujah as it awakened his consciousness to the interior beauty of humans that never fades even in the face of human suffering. Ujah was thus cultured in humanity.

After his two years of noviceship, Ujah was admitted to first vows and then missioned to study philosophy at the Jesuit School of Philosophy and Humanities, Arrupe College, Zimbabwe. After four years of his philosophical studies, he was able to overcome most biases that stood in the way of his understanding God and God’s world. He was at the end of his first studies missioned to Heythrop College, University of London, for an M.A degree in Philosophy. At Heythrop, Ujah made three choices that paid-off greatly in terms of his research interests. His appreciation of research for knowledge led him to the origin of wisdom in Ancient Philosophy. He also followed closely studies in Ethics in his desire to be able to reflect critically on the wrong that should be avoided and the good that should be done and encouraged. Ujah is also interested in how men and women respond to the path that leads to wisdom, and to the single dream of wanting to know God. It was this interest that led him to follow Gender Studies.

On his return from Heythrop, Ujah was missioned to two years of regency teaching philosophy at Arrupe College. He considers it a huge privilege to be able to accompany other young Jesuits while he was himself undergoing formation. He learnt to give himself during his time of regency to God by giving himself to his fellow Jesuits and other students at Arrupe College. He realized at the end of these two years that in being present and patient with those who he was assigned to accompany in their intellectual formation they were able to make good progress in their intellectual and human formation. In much the same as others who were present and patient with him had allowed him the space to grow.

At the end of his regency, Ujah was missioned to the Institute de Théologie de la Compagnie de Jésus (ITCJ) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire for theological studies in immediate preparation for the priesthood. This was the most challenging experience yet for him in his formation. But he was able to learn through the challenge to deal appropriately with isolation as he struggled to pick up a new language and a new identity. He learnt to talk about God this time systematically and from his own experience carefully reflected upon. And also to do so in French. It was ultimately, for him, learning to change, and developing a new image attached to one previously shaped by the English tradition.
Ujah was ordained a deacon towards the tail end of his theological studies on the 2nd of May, 2015 by His grace, Most Reverend Joseph SPITERI, the Apostolic Nuncio to Cote d’Ivoire, and has since set his heart to fulfilling his childhood aspiration of remaining with Jesus on the altar.


Franklyn Eboh Ibeli, SJ.

 

 

 

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