Raymond Ezeonu’s Sainthood is Not in Doubt – Nze John .I. Ibe (KSJI)

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I knew Rev. Fr. Raymond Ezeonu very well. He was a school mate of mine in Izzi County School. I knew him first as a Chapel Prefect. He was good at organizing prayer sessions, singing and coaching other students. He was a very good and prayerful student. He was also very committed to protecting the junior students from the bullying of the senior ones. By that time, there was serious scarcity of water in Abakaliki city. The senior students would always mandate the junior ones to trek long distances to fetch water for them or they would cease the water already fetched. But Raymond would always discourage such acts. He was so humane, kind and lovely.

Even as a young student, he was already a very wise counselor. He was always available to solve problems of others. If you had a problem and meet him, he would comfort you and proffer lasting solutions. He was good at sharing in other students’ burdens and worries. For instance, if a senior student maltreated you and he came around, you are saved. His intervention was final I didn’t know how he solved problems whether it’s by power, magic or miracle. The way he’d talk to the senior student in a touching manner would disarm him and make him desist from doing such again. He was a crisis-solver. That was a God-given gift to him. He was able to curtail Senior-Junior Students’ maltreatment.

Apart from my school contact with him, my family lived very closed to his own family at 34 Ogoja Road. I knew his family members very well. And in the Ezeonu’s family, Raymond stood out as somebody who was very liberal and kind. He was an advocate of peace, justice and fair-play.

When we heard he entered the Senior Seminary and eventually became a priest, we were very happy and said that he would be a very good priest and that he truly was. His choice of vocation was in pari passu with his lifestyles. He was a good man. He was also a good priest.

In 1990, April 16 to be precise, he was the parish priest at St. Mary’s Afikpo that wedded me to my bride. I was working at Aba and had to come home for the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Fr. Ezeonu showered my wife and I with spiritual gifts. He gave use one Christian book, a very big cross with an inscription at the back: “I am a Catholic, in case of an accident, notify a priest”; and other sacramentals including chaplet.

I am opportune to have listened to his sermons. His preaching was always practical and thought-provoking. He demonstrated his words in actions.  There is no Afikpo man or woman, even non-Catholics, who did not know Fr. Raymond Ezeonu as Fada Umu-Ogbenye (Father of the Poor) because of the way and manner he extended helping hands and warm embrace to the have-nots. He’d always share everything he had with the less-privileged. So, he’s a type that always forgot his own problems and solved those of others. This is a common, general and universal knowledge in Afikpo and other places he worked. His magnanimity, generosity and charity touched everybody in Afikpo. He was second to none.

He influenced my life and the lives of a lot of people spiritually and materially too. He converted many souls. He saved many lives from hunger, death and sorrow. Even as a student, he was a saviour who protected the helpless junior students from the bullying senior ones. One of his operating statements then is: “Might is not Right except in the jungle.” He always emphasized to the strong students that strength does not lie in the oppression or humiliation of the weak but in protecting and loving them.

Fr. Ezeonu’s sainthood is not in question. He merited to be canonized a saint. So, it is not an award. It is what he deserves, and it will be actualized… When it materializes, you will see other people (clergy and laity) trying to emulate him because his life is worthy of emulation.

His legacies are too numerous to mention. They include saving the twins, changing people with iron/rocky hearts to have hearts of flesh, peacemaking/Bridge-building – proffering amicable solutions in crisis situation, being a helping hand to the helpless, the needy and the poor, and so on.

I am supporting his immortalization both at the church and State levels. Monuments should be constructed in his name at the individual and institutional levels. Foundations and societies/associations should be formed in his memory. I urge Christians and especially the catholic faithful to begin to pray and support his cause, just like the Blessed Iwene Tansi Prayer Solidarity Movement. This will help to ginger those who care to listen to begin to think of his canonization process. Seminars, symposia, memorial lectures should be organized occasionally. This will create more awareness especially to those who were not so fortunate to encounter him. This will also bring in new members and invigorate other people that did know him very well.

In summary, I would say that Rev. Fr. Raymond Ezeonu was a rich man that made himself a poor man for the sake of the kingdom of God. He had an aristocratic parentage and background but chose to abandon all the worldly glories and married poverty. He became poor in spirit, lived like the poor, identified with the poor, and laid down his life for the poor. He portrayed a life of emulation. He saw this life and all its trappings as vanity upon vanity except to love God and serve Him. That was why he left everything and followed Jesus Christ though not without persecution. His father was a renowned affluent man who wanted to step-down his bounties to his first son but was disappointed. Raymond had made the best choice by deciding to become a priest of God, a priest forever. Both as a man, as a Christian and as priest, Raymond never allowed vain glories or Mammon distract him from serving God. He conquered pride with humility, capital vices with heroic virtues. He was never frugal or materialistic. He’s a type that gave out all he had and ever got and could sacrifice his comfort to make others comfortable. He’s a cheerful giver; a partaker in other people’s suffering; a good and wise counselor; a refuge/shelter of the homeless, a sympathetic father in every actual referent points and situations except biological.

So, Rev. Fr. Raymond Ezeonu’s Sainthood is not in doubt. He merits to be canonized a saint. So, it is not an award. It is what he deserves, and it will be actualized… When it materializes, you will see other people (clergy and laity) trying to emulate him because his life is worthy of emulation…”

{Nze John I. Ibe  is an accomplished Ehugbo man; a distinguished Lecturer with EBSU; and a Soldier of Christ (Knight of St. John International), a man with many titles and awards


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