Most Rev. E. Obodo
Auxiliary Bishop of Enugu Diocese
by Rev. Fr. Prof. Stan Chu Ilo & Rev. Sr. Dr. Angelita-Mariae Obodo
GOD DOES NOT CALL THE QUALIFIED, HE QUALIFIES THE CALLED
The Christian scripture is filled with examples of so many men and women who were chosen in spite of themselves to a special ministry and mission by God. As the early Christian theologian, Tertullian said, “Nothing disconcerts the human mind as much as the simplicity of divine works when compared to the great effects they obtain. How miserable human incredulity to deny God his qualities of simplicity and of power.”
This great theologian was referring to how God uses ordinary signs like water to bring about extraordinary grace in the sanctifying effects of baptism and how God uses ordinary human beings as instruments in God’s hands in mediating God’s graces to God’s people. This is not what happens in our ordinary human world because humans seek extraordinary shows when they wish to bring about great effects. However, the Christian scripture in narrating the mystery of the Visitation captures this so clearly in Mary’s Magnificat of the Great Reversal that God lifts the lowly and brings down the mighty or as St Paul Puts it, “God purposely chose what the world considers the foolish to shame the wise, and chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1: 27). Indeed, no one understands the ways of God because only God’s providence and inscrutable wisdom could explain why Bishop Ernest Obodo was chosen as the first Auxiliary Bishop of Enugu Diocese by His Holiness, Pope Francis on the 25 of May, 2018. The announcement came to many, including the man at the centre of this story, as a great surprise. Bishop Obodo’s life has been a story of God’s grace and mercy working in the life of an ordinary man proving the time-tested spiritual wisdom, “God does not call the qualified but qualifies the called.”
FAMILY ROOT AND EARLY CHILDHOOD
The family of Mr Paul and Mrs Sussana Obodo of Amagu Ogwofia, Awha-Imezi in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State, Nigeria, who were very pious and devoted Catholics rejoiced as God blessed them with their sixth child who was christened Ernest on 24 October, 1966. Ernest is the sixth out of seven children of his parents; Rev. Sr. Dr. Angelita being the last child of the family. African names often point to the circumstances surrounding the birth of a child. His ethnic name, Anezichukwu (who teaches God what he does?) indicated the great faith exuded by this devout Catholic family, given the troubled times into which this child was born. Ernest Anezichukwu Obodo was born, only nine months before the Nigerian civil war broke out. The tension, anxiety and bad blood that preceded the actual war was as frustrating as it was depressive. For another thirty months, this little child was a refugee in the company of his parents and five other siblings; fleeing for their dear lives from the Federal Forces, who were bombarding the then Biafra Land from air and land. The events of the civil war were debilitating, but the family possessed strong faith in God; love for one another and a great determination to survive. On three occasions during this fleeing period, the family was separated from one another, but God´s Grace always brought them together. That was why they gave Ernest the native name, “Anaezichukwu ihe O na-eme”; suggesting that no one teaches God what He does, since He has absolute control of the destiny of both their newly born child as well as their family. Ernest was baptized forty-eight days after birth on 11 December, 1966.
The Nigerian civil war ended in 1970 but its devastating effects lasted much longer. Like many Igbo Easterners, the Obodo family lost all their hard-earned means of livelihood. They had to abandon their farm crops and animals to flee from the tremor of bombing from the Federal Forces. By the time they came back, it became a matter of starting from the scratch. This terrible situation and disruption accounted for the late enrolment of the young Ernest to any Primary school.
From 1975 to 1981 Ernest had his primary education at Central School, Awha Imezi. Like the biblical Samuel, God was calling him but it was difficult for him to discern the voice of God. Upon completion of his primary Education in 1981, his parents bought entrance forms for three institutions for Ernest: Sacred Heart Seminary, Nsude, Marist Brothers´ Academy, Uturu and the Common Entrance examination into the State Secondary Schools. The dates for the entrance examination into Sacred Heart Seminary and Marist Brothers´ Academy coincided and the Professed Marist Brothers living in their Parish at Iwollo helped him to travel to Uturu for their own entrance Examination. That was how Ernest missed the opportunity of gaining entrance into the minor seminary. He passed the entrance into Marist Brothers´ Academy, Uturu. But, afraid of the difficulties which the little Ernest would encounter, schooling in a distant place, his parents decided that he should enrol into Amansiodo Boys´ Secondary School, Oghe-Ezeagu. From 1981 to 1986 he studied for his secondary education, which he completed at the National Secondary School, Nnewi
Ernest was nearly drawn by the lure of riches. After his secondary education, he joined his elder brother, the late Anthony Obodo in the Motor-parts business in Nnewi; spending nearly one year in that business. But the strong voice of God was irresistible. He had to abandon the spare-parts trade to enter the seminary.
JOURNEY TO THE PRIESTHOOD
Ernest enrolled into the Seminary in 1988 through the help of his then Parish Priest, now Monsignor Anthony Iloanusi, with whom he spent some months before joining St John-Cross Seminary, Nsukka for his probationary discernment year on 30 September 1988. After this year of discernment, he was sent as a teacher-formator to Sacred Heart Minor Seminary, Nsude from 1989 to 1990. In 1990, he was admitted into the Queen of Apostles Seminary, Imezi-Owa where he had his Spiritual Year experience.
From 1991 to 1995 Ernest studied philosophy at the Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Owerri. From 1995-1996 he did his Pastoral Year with the Diocesan Flame Newspaper. From 1996 until June 2000 Ernest was a student of Theology at the same Seat of Wisdom major Seminary, Owerri; pursuing his Bachelor in Divinity (BD).
His priestly ordination took place on 22 July, 2000. His younger sister Angelita-Mariae, having been professed on 30 May, 2000, their reception on 23 July was a double blessing both to the family as well as to the local Church of Awha.
During the course of his seminary training, Ernest Obodo had practical experiences in pastoral work in the following parishes:
- St Mary Parish, Achi (working in Ahani and Adu Stations) 1991
- St John Agbani, (working in St Ann and Benedict out-stations, Amuri) 1992
- St Peter Garriki 1993
- Our Lady of Lourdes, Imezi Owa (working in Umana-Ndiuno out-station) 1994
- Institute of Ecumenical Education, Thinkers Corner 1995
- The Diocesan Flame Newpaper 1995-96
- St Theresa Mmaku 1997
- St Paul Awkunanaw 1998
- St Theresa Abakpa 1999
- CANONICAL ORDERS
He received canonical orders as follows:
He was ordained a Catholic Priest on 22 July, 2000
- Pastoral Ministries
Since his priestly ordination, Reverend Father Ernest Obodo undertook the following pastoral assignments:
2000-2001, he was Assistant Priest at the Holy Rosary Parish, Ugwuagor. The vigorous life in that Parish went a long way in shaping his pastoral ministry.
2001-2004, he was parish priest, St Charles Parish Idodo. Up until today, the people of Idodo see Ernest as one of their own. His pastoral ministry at Idodo bore a lot of fruits such that many young men and women were inspired to take to the priestly and religious life during his time as parish priest. It was at Idodo that His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. A.O Gbuji discovered this young parish priest and assigned him to the seminary as a Formator. He served as a formator at St Bernard Seminary Hostel, Nchatancha-Nike, Enugu between 2004-2010; where he later served as the Vice Rector to the Very Rev. Dr. Raph Egwu. Within this period, he acquired a Master of Arts in Religious Studies from the Abia State University, Uturu Okigwe. During this time also, he was appointed the Chaplain of St Jude’s Society. He was also the secretary of the Enugu Diocesan Presbyterial Council.
On 11 November, 2010 the Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. C.V.C Onaga sent him for further studies at the University of Innsbruck-Austria. He lived at the famous Collegium Canisianum owned and managed by the Jesuits. At Canisianum, he was elected as students´ coordinator; a post which endeared him to both his fellow doctorands and the Jesuit formators. He defended his doctorate in a record time of five years, bagging a first-class honour in Theology with specialization in Canon Law (June, 2015). In Innsbruck, Fr. Ernest helped to bring together the African Catholic Community, which, today is a very lively and vibrant group. During his studies in Austria, Ernest helped out in various Parishes in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Upon return from further studies, he was appointed the Rector of St Bernard Seminary Hostel, a residence for Enugu and Awgu diocesan seminarians studying at Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu. Until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop, he was teaching Canon Law and German Language at Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu.
- The Challenges to the Church in Enugu Diocese, Nigeria with regard to Christian Education, with special reference to the Decree Grvissimum Educationis of the Second Vatican Council and c. 795 CIC/1983, Doctoral Dissertation, Innsbruck. May, 2015.
- Ökumenischer Dialog zwischen römisch-katholischer und evangelischer Kirche in Nigeria, in: Wilhelm Rees, Ökumene Kirchenrechtliche Aspekte, Wien LIT Verlag. Austria. 2014 s.195-202.
- The Importance of Consent in Marriage in: Junge Forschung Theologische Fakultät, Innsbruck, Austria http://www.uibk.ac.at/theol/leseraum/texte/1016.html. 2013.
- Editor, Eziokwu Bu Ndu Journal, An International Journal of Life and Culture produced by the Ezeagu Priests and Religious Association [EZERA]. 2009.
- Editor, Igbudu Magazine, A magazine on culture produced by Ezeagu Religious Association, [EZERA] 2008.
- Socio-Religious and Political Impacts of Omabe Masquerade in Nkanu Land, M.A Thesis in Religious Studies, Abia State University, Uturu, Okigwe. 2006.
- The Church in Nigeria and the Promotion of Justice, Owerri, B.D Thesis in Theology. 2000.
- Being and Having in the Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel.- B.A Thesis in philosophy. 1995.
- APPOINTMENT AS AUXILIARY BISHOP
On 25 of May, 2018 Rev Fr Ernest Obodo was appointed by His Holiness, Pope Francis as the Auxiliary Bishop of Enugu and the Titular Bishop of Mediana. His Episcopal Motto, taken from the Gospel of Luke Chapter 22:27 reads: “Behold, I am here among you as one who serves.” Bishop Obodo hopes and prays that this passage of scripture will be a driving force in his episcopal ministry following the footsteps of the Lord Jesus who came not to be served but to serve and gave his life as a ransom for many. Bishop Obodo’s life has been one of selfless and humble service, and a firm commitment in building and strengthening the bonds of fraternity, communion and friendship among God’s people. He hopes to continue by God’s grace to teach and live in a way that makes possible the realization of this vision of the Lord and the spirit of Vatican II that the Church will be a communion of the people of God held together in the bonds of love, respect, compassion, and friendship in her inner identity and mission as a light in the world. A life of prayer and contemplation, a devotion to the education and mentoring of young people and advancement of Catholic education, and a prophetic outreach to the poor in bringing about integral salvation have been the hallmark of his priestly life and service. We pray for and wish Bishop Ernest Obodo God´s choicest blessings as he shares in this great responsibility of service and mercy as a bishop after the mind of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.