The path of honor is not always trodden by those who were born into greatness but by those who irrespective of the circumstances of their birth leave behind positive indelible footprints in the Sands of Time.
No doubt, the sweet memories of Reverend Father Raymond Ifeanyichukwu EZEONU remains evergreen in the minds and hearts of Ebonyians because of the marks he made in the lives of the people.
The name Raymond Ezeonu is synonymous with Ejima. He was/is known, called and addressed as Papa Ejima meaning father of twins.
Before the coming of Christianity, Multiple Births were considered abomination in Eastern Nigeria. They were always thrown into the evil forest to suffocate and die. Their parents especially mothers were ostracized.
However, the story is now different as it is a thing of joy for a mother to be blessed with set of twins or more. The attitudinal change was thanks to the untiring efforts of Missionaries like Mary Slessor and Rev. Fr. Raymond Ezeonu.
Fr. Raymond Ezeonu was a black African Catholic Priest of Abakaliki Diocese. He was the first indigenous priest of Ora-Eri, Aguata L.G.A. of Anambra State. Fr. Ray Ezeonu made history as the Mary Slessor of Ezzagu – a town in Ishielu L.G.A. of Ebonyi State – by stopping the killing of twins/multiple births. He also demonstrated his unconditional love for God and unreserved charity to humanity especially the poor, vulnerable and the needy.
He was variously described as the Mary Slessor , the St Mother Teresa; St Francis of Assisi of our time and clime.
Born on 27 March, 1943 at Abakaliki into the family of Pa Paul & Ma Priscilla EZEONU, Ifeanyichukwu was the third issue and the first son of nine children.
He aged with Grace and wisdom till he was ordained a priest on 08/04/1972 @ 29. He served the people of God for 31 years and joined his Maker on 26/01/2003 and was buried on 27/02/2003 @ St. Theresa Cathedral Abakaliki amidst tears and dirges.
Those who impact positively in the lives of others and those whose milk of human kindness drop on others will forever live in the memories of the heart.
Fr. Ezeonu’s legacies are too numerous to mention. As a Catholic priest his exemplary life and heroic virtues were outstanding. In the communities he served were customs and traditions which were inimical to the welfare of some endangered species of human beings. What did he do? Fr. Ray boldly confronted those obnoxious structures and set the people free from sorrow and death.
Among his legacies should be included his dogged fight against man’s inhumanity to man especially his stopping the killing of twins/children of multiple birth and catering for them. As a Celibate he never married as he gave his whole life in full to helping people.
He was like St. Mother Teresa who in all aspects of her life was a generous dispenser of Divine Mercy by making herself always available for everyone through her welcoming disposition and defence of the dignity of all human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded.
Mr. Boniface Ewah (Bonque) narrated an incident where he met Fr. Ezeonu carrying a new born baby abandoned by its mother along KpiriKpiri road. He later took the baby to the Motherless Babies Home Nsugbe after a fruitless search for the mother.
Several visits to the Red Cross Motherless Babies Home Nsugbe, St. Vincent de Poor Old Peoples Home, Abakaliki/Afikpo Federal Prisons and hospitals around Abakaliki were harvests of testimonies on how Fr. Ezeonu imparted and impacted positively on/in the lives of the inmates.
He was a #Bridge_Builder who not only built a physical bridge but spiritually connected people to people and men to God thereby bridging gaps in human relationships.
PROMOTING & SUSTAINING THE LEGACIES
It is not enough to outline these legacies. The endeavors of Fr. Ezeonu should and ought to be promoted and sustained at both personal level, institutional level and otherwise.
This should begin with the fight for equality of all men and the recognition of our common paternity in God whom we courageously call Our Father.