By Emilie Ng
NIGERIAN priests serving in the Brisbane archdiocese returned home last week to honour the man who sent them to Australia.
Umuahia Bishop Lucius Ugorji welcomed home his Australian missionaries to commemorate 25 years since his episcopal ordination in 1990.
Among the returning priests were Fr Henry Maduka, Fr Modestus Mgbaramuko, Fr Francis Onwunali and Fr Gabriel Kalu, all sent to Australia following a 2006 agreement between Nigeria and Brisbane to alleviate a shortage of priests in the archdicoese.
Bishop Ugorji is one of Nigeria’s youngest bishops, receiving his episcopal mission at 38.
Born on January 13, 1952, Bishop Urgoji was ordained a priest on April 16, 1977, when he was 25.
He was ordained a bishop in 1990, taking over the Umuahia diocese from the Bishop Anthony Nwedo, the man who had welcomed him into the minor seminary.
The young bishop was once mistaken for a bishop’s secretary while in Rome for episcopal training.
Pope John Paul II also told Bishop Ugorji when “he finishes his life on earth, his reflections will be episcopal”.
Fr Maduka, who is parish priest at Moorooka Salisbury parish, served as the Umuahia cathedral’s master of ceremonies for six years.
He said Bishop Ugorji was “a man with a human heart”.
“Sometimes when I was telling him problems, I would look in his years and see tears,” he said.
Fr Maduka recalled seeing Bishop Ugorji working late nights, a cross he carried joyfully.
“I once complained of lots of work, and I said to the Bishop, ‘My Lord, you’ve given me lots to do’,” Fr Maduka said.
“He said, ‘The reward for good work is more work’.”
Fr Maduka said Bishop Ugorji strongly believed in sending priests overseas to build communion in the universal Church, an appeal Pope John Paul II also made during his 1998 visit to Nigeria.
“When we were in seminary, (Pope) John Paul II made an appeal to the bishops to send their priests overseas where there was a strong need for priests,” he said.
“Bishop Ugorji said, ‘What have I been telling you? Now the Pope has made an order’.
“He has priests that help out in other Churches in need, which is why I am in Brisbane today.”
Bishop Ugorji has also established a bank for the diocese that helps establish young people in trades and other business to boost the Nigerian society.