By Fr. Jude Chidiebere Ndinechi / Nna Anulumadu
“We did it not because we have millions of Naira packed somewhere, but because there are numerous souls to be saved by this singular act of pastoral charity”. These were the words of Archbishop Valerian Mmaduka Okeke to the delegates from St Valerian Catholic English Chaplaincy, Sekandji Agongbome, Porto Novo Diocese, who went to pay him a courtesy visit of appreciation for single handedly sponsoring the purchase of a piece of land on which a permanent place of worship is being erected right now for the spiritual and all round well being of the English speaking Catholics in that part of Benin Republic.
In 2009, responding to the cries of the then Bishop of Porto Novo, late Msgr EHOUZO, who was beckoning on behalf of the numerous Nigerians and other English speaking Catholics living in Porto Novo , the Archbishop of Onitsha, His Grace, Most Rev Valerian Mmaduka Okeke sent two of his priests, Rev Frs Jude Mbonu and Christian Nweke, who ministered as chaplains to the English speaking communities of two parishes in Porto Novo, St Paul’s Catholic Church Marina Pk 10 and St Francis Xavier Parish Porto Novo till 2014, when Rev Frs Jude C. Ndinechi and Emmanuel O. Ugonabo took over and advanced the mission to a new dimension by first securing the status of Catholic English chaplaincies for the two erstwhile English speaking communities of St Paul Marina Pk 10 and St Francis Xavier Porto Novo.
It needs be recalled that as far back as 2015, the first chaplaincy… Blessed Iwene Tansi Catholic English Chaplaincy, Yaya Genderm, where Fr Emmanuel Ugonabo has been working strenuously to raise both the church structure and above all the faith of the faithful, was installed in the heart of Porto Novo, through the generosity of Archbishop Val, whose singular motivation was to ensure that our Nigerian brothers and sisters who are residing in Porto Novo do not lose their precious Catholic faith, due to language and other barriers, even as they go about their legit businesses, studies and works.
In his letter to Archbishop Val, requesting and at the same time authorising him to help buy a piece of land for the establishment of the second permanent English chaplaincy for our numerous Nigerian Catholic faithful in his diocese, the new Bishop of Porto Novo, Msgr Aristide GONSALLO wrote inter alia “the ceaseless increasing presence of English speaking faithful in our diocese and their pastoral care, made us to request from you the installation of an English Chaplaincy in Porto Novo Diocese, Benin Republic. In order to concretize this project, there is the need of acquiring a piece of land on which you can build up the infrastructures that such pastoral activities require.”
It was in response to such pastorally motivated request that the Archbishop of Onitsha, His Grace, Most Rev Valerian M Okeke, in September 2020, secured a piece of land in Benin Republic, for the establishment of the second English Chaplaincy…. St Valerian Catholic English Chaplaincy Sekandji Agongbome, Porto Novo Diocese, where Fr Jude Chidiebere Ndinechi ministers.
St Valerian Catholic English Chaplaincy is evidently unique on many fronts, chief among which is that it is a product of patience fueled by the embers of faith, courage, determination, hard work, sacrifice, hope and above all, prayers both on the part of the Chaplaincy members and most especially on the part of Archbishop Val, who, like the ancient Bishop of North Africa, St Valerian of Abbenza, refused to give up, despite all challenges, in all matters relating to the protection and promotion of the faith of God’s children. This for us may not be far from why God the perfect planner has arranged most historic events in the life of St Valerian Catholic English Chaplaincy to coincide with unique celebrations in the life of Archbishop Val. You may want to know that on the 17th of July, 2021, as Archbishop Val was celebrating his 40th priestly anniversary in Onitsha, the foundation stone of St Valerian Catholic English Chaplaincy was being laid in Sekandji Agongbome, Porto Novo by the Porto Novo Diocesan Bishop, Msgr Aristide GONSALLO. This year, 2022, as Archbishop Valerian Mmaduka Okeke marks his 20th Episcopal ordination anniversary, the actual construction of the church and presbytery structures of St Valerian Catholic English Chaplaincy commenced in full force.
To God be the glory for the gift of Archbishop Val to the Church and to humanity in general.