Missionaries To Ezzagu

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“In October 1974, the bishop transferred me to St. Joseph’s Parish Ezzagu. I arrived there on November 1, 1974, on All Saints Day. It was very difficult to get into Ezzagu at this time. The road from Abakaliki went through Izo Imoha (Umuezeokoha). There was no bridge on Ebonyi River at Agba and the forest along the river banks was thick and fearsome. The road through Ntezi and Agba was not passable… The catholic women fetched us water from Ebonyi River during the dry season…
Only pedestrians and cyclists could ply the road from Ebonyi River to Afor Ezzagu market by 1974. At Advent Season that year, when the Timid Child had become Parish Priest of St. Joseph’s Parish Ezzagu, he decided to open the road to motor vehicles as the response to the Advent call to make all roads level and straight. The Local Government Council objected to this difficult project but the Timid Child insisted to do it with the labour of the Parish faithful. This project of building six culverts over six miles of road was completed with wood cut from the forests around, in one day. The lorry of the Local Government Chairman was the first to ply the road to transport the Chairman’s timber which had been abandoned in Ebonyi forest for some years, for sale in Enugu.
Many of the out-stations of St. Joseph’s Parish, Ezzagu, were remote and difficult to reach. Trekking or riding the motor cycle was the means of access to them. No car could come into the area from any direction, at this time. Twice I fell off the motor-cycle at the banks of Ebonyi River, while trying to get the motor-cycle across the river. On one occasion the exhaust pipe of the motor-cycle burnt off the whole length of skin on the inner side of my right leg. I still had to cross the river on foot after this burn. It was terrible! Gregory Okafor, my little boy and companion on this journey, was the one who encouraged me to wade across the river before darkness would keep us there at the mercy of snakes and crocodiles. I quickly obeyed him and did the odious task. But I was sick and in pains for a long time after that…
On another occasion I almost got drowned in Ebonyi River trying to cross it with my cook and motor-cycle, in an over-loaded canoe, at high water flood. But fortunately, by the time the canoe was sinking, we had reached shallow water. This was how the Lord saved us! My cook had earlier fallen off the tilting canoe, into the river, but he managed to grasp the canoe’s edge before he would drown. The canoe tilted towards the other side until my motor-cycle began to fall towards the other side. I instinctively pulled it backwards, and this caused the canoe to begin to tilt towards the other side where my cook held it. Now, before the canoe got water to sinking point we had reached shallow waters, the good swimmers jumped into the river, and I alone was not too heavy for the canoe to carry.
In August 1975, the Bishop, Rt. Rev. Thomas McGettrick, summoned me to report at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, in September, to begin a doctorate course in Canon Law. This was very sudden and urgent. So I had to hurry out of Ezzagu. I took some of the local boys and girls whom I planned to help, by organizing their education or training in crafts, with the help of my relatives and friends.”
Rev. Fr. Raymond Ezeonu was sent to replace me at St. Joseph Ezzagu. When he came, he was able to put a bridge across the Ebonyi River connecting Agba and Ezzagu communities. How this happened was that fortunately to him, he had a friend who was an Army officer in charge the Abakaliki battalion. It happened they bridge at Ezillo had a problem. They wanted to replace it. Fr. Raymond had to beg his Soldier friend to carry that Bridge to Ezzagu. That was how Ezzagu got a bridge through Fr. Ezeonu’s intervention. By and by, while Fr. Raymond was staying in Ezzagu, he got to know that twins were being killed secretly. They were covered in earthen pots and thrown away into the evil forests called Ikirikpo. He wondered then why he had never met twins in Ezzagu. Then he was told the story. Actually, while I was in Ezzagu I knew Ikirikpo was a dreaded place where the corpses of evil people were thrown but I never knew that twins were also thrown away there. When Fr. Ezeonu noticed that, he began twins’ saving apostolate. He would search for twins and their mothers and gather them in the mission House. This was a very delicate apostolate because some traditional fanatics insisted their customs were being trampled upon or jeopardized. Through his dogged spirit, he was able to bring about a positive change of attitude toward the twins in Ezzagu. Today twins are no longer killed by the people. The twins are there as living testimonies of Fr. Ezeonu’s love for humanity.
Apart from the Twins apostolate, Fr. Raymond was a great instrument of evangelization in Ezzagu. It must be noted that most of the Church buildings in the outstations of St. Joseph parish were erected by Fr. Raymond except the one at the central, which is at Eguhuo. He was very energetic and tireless man responsible for the huge success recorded in Ezzagu in terms of conversion of souls. People saw his good works and got converted. Eventually, he was transferred to another parish in 1986, I think St. Mary’s Afikpo. He equally stayed for quite a long time there.

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