The celebration of tenth year anniversary of the coming of permanent english priests in Porto Novo diocese was honoured by the first pastoral visit of Bishop Aristide Gonsallo to Blessed Iwene Tansi english chaplaincy chapel.
It is a privilege for blessed Iwene Tansi catholic english chaplaincy of Porto-Novo to welcome his Lordship Most Rev. Dr. Aristide Gonsallo, the Bishop of catholic diocese of Porto Novo in Benin Republic on the 15th of September 2019 at their permanent chaplaincy chapel. The bishop celebrate for them and with them the Holy Mass of thanksgiving for the tenth anniversary of the fraternal union between the Archdiocese of Onitsha in Nigeria that provided the permanent english Priests and the diocese of Porto Novo their host in Benin Republic. The chaplaincy also rejoices for the privilege of confirming of 85 brothers and Sisters in the sacrament of sonfirmation, thereby completing their catholic christian initiation. It was the efforts of the permanent priests that led to the spiritual and psychsocial growth of the chaplaincy.
Tobi Pierre Ahlonsou
The journey started on the 5th of september 2009 when the late Bishop of Porto-Novo Mgr. René-Marie Ehouzou received around 9pm at the Bishop’s house, two young priests, in persons of Rev. Frs. Nweke Christain and Mbonu Jude, sent from the Archdiocese of Onitsha Nigeria to work as Fidei Donum English Chaplains to the Diocese of Porto-Novo in Benin Republic. The Present Chaplain priest Rev. Fr Emmanuel Ugonabo of Blessed Iwene Tansi Catholic English Chaplaincy, resident in Porto-Novo, the capital city of Benin Republic was appointed to replace Fr Christain Nweke and he arrived Benin Republic with his Colleague Rev. Fr. Ndinechi Jude, who replaced Fr. Mbonu Jude on the 16th of June, 2014.
In five years, Fr Ugonabo Emmanuel was able to organise the English speaking migrants in Porto-Novo and surrounding local Governments together and with the help of the Catholic archdiocese of Onitsha Nigeria they bought a piece of Land and built a Chaplaincy Chapel called Blessed Iwene Tansi Catholic English Chaplaincy at Yaya Gendarme round about, in the heart of Porto-Novo. A land found by his predecessor with the help of former parish priest of St Francois Xavier parish Porto Novo, Very Rev. Fr. Jean Lemondo a Salesian Priest, where the English mass was formally held.
The first Pastoral visit accomplished a double event in the recent history of the chaplaincy; Bishop Aristide Gonsallo on Sunday 15th september 2019, marked the tenth anniversary of the Pastoral Union Between the Archdiocese of Onitsha Nigeria and His Diocese; and then the reception of the sacrament of confirmation by 85 members of the English Chaplaincy. It was a thing of joy for all the people of God, to have the Bishop among them.
Fr Ugonabo Emmanuel a talented missionary takes the occasion to present the ten year apostolic work in Porto-Novo to the Bishop. According to him, this mission has gone a long way nurturing the faith of the English speaking flock of Jesus Christ in this part of the world. The following facts is worthy of mentioning and is a public knowledge. In fact, “before the coming of the permanent priest, the English speaking community experienced the problems of language and understanding of French and local language. This situation led to a lot of them joining the English speaking Pentecostal churches around. Thereby, diverting to other faiths. As a result of this problem of language, only 56 persons were baptised and 5 couples wedded in the space of 19 years, according to St. Francis Xavier records from 1990-2009”.
“During the time of the Permanent priests from the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha from 2009-2019, the collaborative apostolate between Onitsha Archdiocese and Porto Novo became a big success in the propagation of faith, that in these times, 457 persons were baptised and 200 couples were wedded, according to the recoreds at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Parish, Porto Novo and some transferred marriages to their towns and villages in Nigeria as confirmed by the pastoral records at St. Francis Xavier” said Fr Ugonabo. He said that “It was also in these times that, a land was bought by the Archdiocese of Onitsha for the chaplaincy chapel and supported them in kick starting the project of the Permanent Chaplaincy Chapel. Today, by the grace of God, we are in this chaplaincy chapel praising and worshipping God in English Language with a permanent Priest”.
The bishop Gonsallo is very satisfied regarging the record of the two missionary priests Frs Emmanuel Ugonabo incharge of Blessed Iwene Tansi Catholic English Chaplaincy in Porto-Novo and Jude Ndinechi in charge of the English community at Seme-Kpodji near Cotonou city with whom he co-celebrates the holy Mass with the collaboration of other fathers especially, Frs, Okigbo Patrick and Joseph Aneke.
During the homely, the Bishop expresses his mind and prays for the community. “I would also like to express my gratitude to all the pastoral agents who have worked in this chaplaincy since its creation and who are still at work in the Lord’s vineyard. May we respond enthusiastically to the calls of this chaplaincy Pastoral Council, whose dynamism I welcome. May all those who contributed in one way or another to the actual realization of the Church under construction find thanks to God in honor of whom this building will be consecrated. I would like to invite all of you, as long as you are, from this English-speaking chaplaincy or from elsewhere, to continue the efforts for the construction of the new church” advises Bishop Gonsallo.
Read bellow :
The Address of Fr Ugonabo,
The Homely of Bishop Gonsallo,
The Brief History of The Chaplaincy.
AN ADDRESS OF WELCOME TO HIS LORDSHIP MOST REV. DR. ARISTIDE GONSALLO, THE CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PORTO NOVO ON THE OCCASION OF OUR TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MISSIONARY WORK OF THE CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF ONITSHA NIGERIA IN PORTO NOVO DIOCESE BENIN REPUBLIC
My Lord Bishop,
Religious men and women,
Beloved people of God.
It is a privilege for all of us to have you in our midst today, to celebrate for us and with us the Holy Mass of Thanksgiving for the tenth anniversary of the fraternal union between the Archdiocese of Onitsha in Nigeria and Your great Diocese of Porto Novo in Benin Republic. We thank you for the privilege of Confirming our brothers and Sisters, thereby completing their Catholic Christian initiation. We are grateful for being so kind and generous to us.
We are happy that this mission has gone a long way nurturing the faith of the English speaking flock of Jesus Christ in this part of the world. It would be good to remark the following:
a. Before the coming of the permanent priest, the English speaking community experienced the problems of language and understanding of French and local Language. This situation led to a lot of them joining the English speaking Pentecostal churches around. Thereby, diverting to other faith. As a result of this problem of Language, only 56 persons were baptised and 5 couples wedded in the space of 19 years, according St. Francis Xavier records from 1990-2009.
b. During the time of the Permanent priests from the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha from 2009-2019, the collaborative apostolate between Onitsha Archdiocese and Porto Novo became a big success in the propagation of faith, that in these times, 457 persons were baptised and 200 couples were wedded, some at St. Francis Xavier Porto Novo and some transferred to their towns and villages in Nigeria as confirmed by the pastoral records at St. Francis Xavier.
c. It was also in these times that, a land was bought by the Archdiocese of Onitsha for the Chaplaincy Chapel and supported them in kick starting the project. Today, by the Grace of God, we are in this Chaplaincy Chapel praising and worshipping God in English Language with a permanent Priest. May the name of God be praised. Amen.
d. We cannot conclude our remarks without recognizing these great men of God, that stood by us in Sunshine and in rainfall:
1. Fr. Jean Benoit Gnambode
2. Fr. George Oloude
3. Fr. Jules Carrel Dossah
4. Fr. Paul Akplogan
5. Fr. Godfrey Nzamujo
6. Fr. Jean Lemondo
7. Fr. Placide Akonde
A lot of lay faithful of St. Francis Xavier especially, Madam Catherine Eguonletti and Vice President Desire, contributed to our success. We are grateful to all of you and we are ask God to bless you.
Your Excellency, silver and gold we have not, but accept our token of gratitude for love towards us.
I still remain,
Your loyal son,
Fr. Ugonabo Emmanuel
Dear Concelebrant Fathers,
Dear Fathers Emmanuel and Jude, Chaplains of this English-speaking Community,
Dear Christian Faithful of this Chaplaincy,
Beloved Sons and Daughters, from near and far to live this celebration,
Dear guests coming from other religious denominations,
And all of you, souls of good will,
We are gathered to celebrate the tin wedding, the tenth anniversary of the creation of this English chaplaincy under the patronage of blessed Iwene Tansi.
First of all, let me greet all of you gathered here for the celebration of the tin wedding of this Jubilee chaplaincy in its tenth anniversary of creation! Yes, dear brothers and sisters baptized in Jesus, happy birthday! I pay tribute to my venerable predecessor, Bishop René-Marie Ehouzou, and to the various chaplains who have succeeded each other here.
I greet all the members of this chaplaincy pastoral council for the invitation they have extended to me for this happy occasion. I would like to thank and congratulate those who have done a useful job and have done everything possible to ensure that this jubilee does not escape us to the point of going unnoticed.
My warmest congratulations also to all of you who are receiving Confirmation today here at Blessed Iwene Tansi Catholic English Chaplaincy. I know you have been preparing for this important day. You have studied your faith; you have practiced your faith; you have prayed; and you have served those in need. It brings me a lot of joy to be confirming people for Christ. I also know that a lot of people work really hard to make your Confirmation a really nice event. And it should be a truly wonderful, something you will always remember. But it is not like a graduation when you finish your studies and leave your school returning only occasionally, say for a reunion or an alumni event. As Pope Francis says, Confirmation is not ‘the sacrament of goodbye!’ – Goodbye to the Lord and to the Church, goodbye to the Mass and the sacraments. Instead, I am confident you are thinking of Confirmation as ‘the sacrament of hello’– a new beginning and not an end, more like a commencement than a graduation. After all, Confirmation perfects your Baptism, your initiation into the Church. It is meant to make you fully a member of the Church, not a part-time member. That is why, in a few minutes, you will renew your baptismal promises.
To all, on this occasion of this jubilee, I wish all good health, peace and joy in the Lord. God bless all the cultural and spiritual manifestations of this Jubilee! And for the graces of the Lord to abound upon us, our Lord invites us to meditate on texts carefully chosen by the Church for the liturgy of this blessed day.
This Sunday’s liturgy reminds us that the God of Moses and Jesus Christ is a merciful God, who forgives those who harm him by turning away from him. All the texts of this Sunday speak to us of grace, forgiveness and joy: from the betrayal of the Golden Calf to the forgiveness experienced by St. Paul to the gospel of mercy in deeds through the parables of Luke. How not to shout with joy, full of gratitude, like St. Paul who felt forgiven in Damascus (1 Tm 1,12-17)! And how can we not pray, during this Mass, for all those who are far from the Lord, challenging him with the audacity of Moses (Ex 32.7-11.13-14).
The scene tells of the great sin of infidelity of the chosen people. Tired of the invisible God, he made himself a deity of molten metal, while Moses was still on the mountain to receive from God the signs of the Sacred Covenant! Then God’s wrath ignites against them, and he will swallow them up. The author lends God such feelings that a father of that time could experience them when his son had wounded him. Moses then tries to appease Yahweh: Why would your anger ignite against your people? Then Moses reminds God that he swore and promised to give the land of Canaan to his people. He has to keep his promise. Thus, under the still imperfect figure of an angry God who renounces the evil already decided, the essential is said: we are God’s people, and He will not let us fall, even if all appearances are contrary to us. Thus this account prepares for the three parables of the gospel built on an identical pattern and containing the same teaching.
This fifteen chapter (15) of Luke is one of God’s mercy. Brother Christian de Chergé, Prior of Tibhirine, says that these lines are a marvel that comes to us where we are to lead us to trinitarian communion by way of poverty. A red thread connects these three parables: the joy of what was lost and found, a joy that demands to be shared. A shepherd has a hundred sheep. It’s not huge compared to the thousands of the rich. One lost, it counts! A woman has ten pieces of silver. That’s his whole fortune. She loses one, the equivalent of a day’s work. For her, the loss is important. Already, Jesus explains how God sees the sinner: the sinner is someone whom God has lost. It belongs to God for whom it is precious. God does not want to let the sinner get lost for good. He must go and get it, not just in a quick overview, but tenaciously, until he finds it. And when he finds it, he is all joyful: Rejoice with me. The heavens and the angels of God rejoice.
That in heaven one rejoices for a single convert more than for the righteous ninety-nine, obviously does not mean that Jesus loves Mary less and all the saints less. But it happens as in a family where a child’s illness has caused so many nightmares that, in healing, joy is all about him, without thinking of congratulating others for being healthy. But they are loved just as much. The joy of the healed child is that of all.
Jesus speaks of the joy of angels for a single sinner who converts and turns away from his sin. This is precisely what happened to St. Paul. Paul takes a look at his past and lets himself go to confidence: I who once knew only to blaspheme, persecute, insult – I was seized by God, grace was stronger. I’m a sinner. God has forgiven me. In addition, he trusted me by taking over the ministry of evangelism. God is good! Let’s give him thanks! And we today, when then will we be amazed to have been seized by Christ, he who trusts us, to us sinners!
In all our families, there are prodigal children. Younger members have distanced themselves by abandoning the original faith, leading a lifestyle that is difficult to understand. We feel guilty for not being able to pass on the values. Even if these prodigal children who have taken the field with their share of inheritance are lost in sight, they are not lost their heart. The image of the Father invites us to wait for them without judgment and without reproach, simply waiting for the beginning of a dialogue to renew trust. Let us be reassured by these words of Saint Teresa of Lisieux: what is a sin, and even a very great sin? It is never just a drop of water in the immense furnace of God’s love!
I would also like to express my gratitude to all the pastoral agents who have worked in this chaplaincy since its creation and who are still at work in the Lord’s vineyard. May we respond enthusiastically to the calls of this chaplaincy Pastoral Council, whose dynamism I welcome. May all those who contribute in one way or another to the actual realization of the church under construction find thanks to God in honor of whom this building will be consecrated. I would like to invite all of you, as long as you are, from this English-speaking chaplaincy or from elsewhere, to continue the efforts for the construction of the new church.
May this anniversary of the creation of this chaplaincy help to bring the pastoral agents of this English-speaking community, its sons and daughters, to invest with the strength of the Holy Spirit to consolidate and internalize the legacy of our fathers in the faith for glory of God and the salvation of men. God bless you and the Virgin Mary will protect you! Amen.
The Lord be with you.
BRIEF HISTORY OF TANIS CHAPLAINCY
It was mainly on account of a search for greener pastures that most members of those that later would constitute members of Blessed Iwene Tansi Catholic English Chaplaincy came to be residents in Porto-Novo, the capital city of Benin Republic. As English speaking residents in a French country they are faced with the challenge of language especially in their quest to worship God as Catholics.
People reacted differently to this common language challenge. Some practicing Catholics resorted to Pentecostal English churches. Some others practically stopped going to church. The remaining members not only organized themselves but persevered in their faith as Catholics and resolved to keep their faith as Catholics and resolved to keep their faith as Catholics and resolved to keep their faith alive in coming together to pray and share the word of God in the church.
On one faithful Sunday, Mr. David Nwoye was confronted by Mrs. Albertine Zinsou, who knew him as an English speaking Nigerian asked him whether he understood anything that was said during the Mass, which Mr. David said No and she decided to help him by introducing him to her husband Mr. Vincent Zinsou as needing Pastoral help because her husband had lived in Nigeria as a tailor for thirteen years and just came back in the early 90s before this encounter.
Together, Mr. Vincent and David went to meet the Parish Priest of St. Francis Xavier, Rev. Fr. Jesus Augerie, Salesian. Who welcomed them and asked them to organize themselves and come back. As a result of their encouraging encounter with Rev. Fr. Jesus, they went out with Joy to share the good news with their English speaking brothers, that there is hope of English Mass. They went to Gbego as the center of commerce in those days where most English speaking people used to converge. They met Late Mr. Cyprian Awo, and late Mr. Anthony Obijekwu, who welcomed the message with joy and spread the news. While they were engaged in evangelization process of informing others, they did not relent in coming together to pray.
They continued this routine of coming together to pray and reflect on the word of God, especially on Sundays and as their numbers improved, they went back to their parish priest, Rev. Fr. Jesus, who happily told them, that he had a new priest that came from Britain that speaks good English and that he would be assisting them. He introduced him to them as Rev. Gabriel……. So Fr. Gabriel promised to be celebrating Mass for them once every month. Consequently, they began to learn responses at English Mass, catechism and other catholic activities during the Sundays they are not having Mass, like praying, singing and reflecting on the word of God. These their programmes attracted other English speaking Nigerians around, that on the 2nd Sunday of June being 9th 1996 they had their first ever English Mass at the priests oratory at St. Francis Xavier celebrated by Fev. Fr. Gabriel and from that moment, they never looked back in their quest to worship God in English language in Francophone country.
This small group organized themselves and went to meet the reigning Bishop Mgr. Vincent Mensah of Porto-Novo after Rev. Fr Gabriel, the Salesian priest that was holding English Mass for them at St. Francis Xavier was transferred. Bishop Mensah promised to do something about it, but could not accomplish his promise before his retirement on 29th January 2000. In search of an English priest, they contacted very Rev. Fr. George Olude who was then the Parish Priest of St Piere et Paul to be saying Mass in English for them and he oblige them until his transfer to Ketou. They again organized themselves and went to their new parish priest Rev. Fr. Carlos at Xavier for assistance, who told them he does not speak English and as such, there will be no English Mass. So they organize themselves and went to meet with the new Bishop of Porto-novo, then Mgr. Marcel Honorat Léon Agboton, for assistance and he promised to help but could not accomplish it before his transfer to Cotonou as Archbishop on 5th March 2005. During these years of waiting, they contacted Rev. Fr. Godfrey Nzamujo OP for their problems and frustrations in the search for English speaking priest, to be saying Mass for them. This man of God was touched by their quest, passion and desire for God, promised them to come when available and to be sending for them any English Priest that enrolled at Songhai as its director. Rev. Fr. Godfrey Nzamujo kept his promise, he came when available and sends any English speaking priest that enrolled in Songhai Fr. Godfrey Nzamujo, has never stopped till date to inform English speaking priests about this English community.
It was the contributions of Fr. Godfrey Nzamujo that led to the booming of this small English community, that it starts thinking of its permanent, that it starts thinking of its permanent priest. A lot of priests who came through Songhai and other places contributed one or two things to the growth of what is today known as Blessed Iwene Tansi Catholic English Chaplaincy. Permit me to mention the names of these me of God:
1. Rev. Fr. Gabriel
2. Rev. Fr. George Olude
3. Rev. Fr. Godfrey Nzamujo
4. Rev. Fr. Valentine Anyanwu
5. Rev. Fr. Augustine Ibezimako
6. Rev. Fr. Christian Iwuagwu
7. Late Monk Clement
8. Rev. Fr. Kelechi
9. Rev. Fr. Benjamin
10. Rev. Fr. Francis
11. Rev. Fr. Julles Dossou
12. Rev. Fr. Anthony
13. Rev. Fr. Chibuzor
14. Rev. Fr. Kodjo
15. Rev. Fr. Ephraim
16. Rev. Fr. Angel
17. Rev. Fr. Sanctus
18. Rev. Fr. Jean Lemondo
19. Rev. Fr. Udor
20. Rev. Fr. Peters
In the absence of the assistance of the above men of God, the English community attends the French Mass, the only available for the whole parishioners at Xavier and after the Mass they will gather to pray, sing and reflect on the word of God from the homily given by the French priest and interpreted by Mr. Vincent Zinsou and Mr. Basil teaches them catechism. At some point, interpretation of some aspect of the French Mass introduced to accommodate the English community.
A lot of people reacted differently, some became passive and uninterested during such Mass probably because of the lack of understanding of the interpreter.
This faith community in their attempt to solve this problem, had to invite the charismatic group from Notre Dame Cotonou to assist them sustain the faith of the growing community and this relationship gave birth to Dove of peace in 2004 and was commissioned by Rev. Fr. Valentine Anyanwu. Never the less, when people hear that English community exists, they will come and realize that there is no permanent priest as well as they inconsistency in the pastoral activities discouraged a lot of the converts and some catholic English faithful.
The pillars on hearing about cardinal Okogie’s visit to Dassa Zume for the Marian pilgrimage sent Mr. Charles Ojuroh and others to meet the cardinal. They succeeded in meeting him and he promised to attend to them in another visit, which never happened.
Seconds turns into minutes, minutes into hours, hours into days and days into weeks and weeks into years, this problem of language, inconsistency in pastoral programmes and permanent priest persisted.
In their response, the council under the chairmanship of Mr. Matthais Onyishi proposed to seek the assistance of their new Bishop Mgr René Marie Ehouzou, CI.M.
After their deliberations, they agreed to meet with the new Bishop, this decision turned out very positive. The new Bishop speaks English and they had a very good conversation. The Bishop promised to contact his friend and colleague in Nigeria, the Bishop of Abeokuta Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins an adjacent Diocese to Porto-Novo Diocese on the African Map. Bishop Ehouzou did as promised and Bishop of Abeokuta Most Rev. Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins promised to present the proposal to the Nigerian Bishops conference and also promised to send his priests if things turn out well. So as the wait was over due. They went back to the Bishop, who informed them that he has no English speaking priest at the moment but he is going to support them with everything they need to get a permanent priest.
They returned with the good news to the council and all hands were on deck. They decided to seek the assistance of all the priests that have worked with them. The chairman Mr. Matthias Onyishi, said also that the Bishop of Nnewi Diocese is a friend to him. After due deliberations and consultations. Mr. Matthias Onyishi and Mr. Polycarp Obuladike were sent on behalf of the community to Nnewi Diocese and Owerri Archdiocese. Mr. Matthias Onyishi went to Nnewi while Mr. Polycarp went to Owerri.
Mr. Polycarp Obuladike could not meet with the Archbishop of Owerri, Most Rev. Dr. Anthony John Valentine Obinna because was on his annual leave as at the time of his visit.
Mr. Matthais Onyishi met with his Bishop friend, Most Rev. Dr. Hillary Paul Odili Okeke, the Bishop of Nnewi, who reffered him with a letter to the Archbishop of Onitsha, Most Rev. Dr. valerian M. Okeke. He received Matthias and for his love for the salvation of souls as depicted on his motto: that they may have life and have it in abundance. He kick up the process, this was around August 2007.
After due consultations and canonical satisfactions, two young priests were sent from the Archdiocese of Onitsha Nigeria to work as Fidei Donum priests to the Diocese of Porto-Novo in Benin Republic as English Chaplains in the persons of Rev. Frs. Nweke Christain and Mbonu Jude, on the 5th of September, 2009. They were received by the Bishop of Porto-Novo Mgr. René-Marie Ehouzou around 9pm at the Bishop house. In turn handed them over to the English community and share them into two, one to serve at Porto-Novo to cover this area and the other to serve at Pk10, to cover that area of Cotonou for English speaking faithfuls. This journey took 13years 1996-2009. Today is 10years and in two years it will be 25years. May God keep us Amen.
Behold our Pilars
1. Mrs. Zinusou Albertine
2. Mr. Nwoye David —– Pioneer 1st
3. Mr. Vincent Zinsou
4. Mr. Felix David
5. Mr. Polycarp Obuladike
6. Late Mr. Cyprain Awo —– Pioneer 2nd
7. Late Mr. Anthony Obijekwu —– Pioneer 3rd
8. Mr. Charles Ojuroh
9. Mr. Donald Olisah
10. Mr. Paul Ngonnadi
11. Mr. Benjamin Ucha
12. Mr. Chima Alasonye
13. Mr. Emeka Ogwasu
14. Mr. Simon Nwite
15. Mrs. Perpetua
16. Mr. Goegory Nwaenyi
17. Mr. Augustine Nwafor
18. Mr. Felix Fiacre Kanmadozo
19. Mr. Rogger Hounmasse
20. Mr. Emeka Okuma
21. Mr. Ihejiofor Ifeanyi
22. Mrs. Livina Ugochukwu
23. Mr. Micheal Okey Nwankwo
24. Mrs. Patricia Willson
25. Mr. Chidi Willson
26. Mr. Chidimma Willson
27. Mr. Basil Gugantinde