OUR LADY SEAT OF WISDOM CATHOLIC CHAPLAINCY
The Catholic Chaplaincy of the Rivers State University, Nkpolu Oroworukwo, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, has been appropriately designed as OUR LADY SEAT OF WISDOM CATHOLIC CHAPLAINCY. She is a leading and proud member of the community of God’s people in the institution. A small assembly of men and women, with their families from this sparsely populated and fledging academic institution led by their respective priests, religious and ministers, motivated and galvanized, by love, faith, dedication, commitment, sacrifice and the grace of God, constituted the nucleus of what stands tall today as the University, Christian Catholic Community.
HISTORY OF THE CHAPLAINCY
The pioneer community recognized early enough, that the nascent educational institution could only aspire to the achievement of its mandate and responsibilities through the development of a God-centered academic culture and orientation. The Catholic Community, at the onset, composed essentially of students with a sprinkling of staff (mostly those resident on campus) as well as few worshippers from the campus neighbourhoods.
A striking feature of the early history of the Catholic Chaplaincy in the University, was the glaring absence of a permanent place of worship. For several years the community had no designated venue for formal worship. Options such as classrooms, workshops, and laboratories were freely but desperately adapted at various periods, as worship venues. Prominent amongst such ad hoc facilities were, the Old site classrooms, the Amphitheatre and the Faculty of Engineering Drawing room. At some point, the Catholic community was constrained to share the Amphitheatre with the Protestant Community, an arrangement that was extremely clumsy and most inconvenient for Catholic liturgy.
By some divine intervention, however, the migratory trend ended about the late 1980s. The University Governing Council took a laudable decision to consider the need to allocate land spaces for the development of Church infrastructures, as part of the University Master plan options. Land allocations were subsequently approved for the two major Christian communities on campus- (viz the Catholics and the Protestants).
In January 24th 1992, at a brief but colorful and memorable ceremony, the then Diocesan Catholic Bishop and Apostolic Administrator of Port Harcourt and Warri Dioceses, the Late, Most Rev. (Dr.) Edmund Fitzgibbon, performed the symbolic and historic turning of the first sod and the laying of the foundation stone for the permanent Catholic Church building, on Campus on the land allocated by the University. This ceremony fired the zeal of the University Catholic community into taking practical steps to address the monumental physical and fiscal challenges entailed in the building of a befitting place of worship to glorify God’s name and effectively signal His presence for real, on the University campus.
Aggressive fund raising activities in support of the venture followed the laying of the foundation stone. The first formal fund launching took place on June 12th 1992, followed by several other efforts, including successive annual harvest thanksgiving schedules and other special events, geared towards the realization of the project.
Meanwhile to secure the allocated site, the Chaplaincy Pastoral Council in 2003 decided to provide a temporary structure at the permanent site for worship and other religious activities. Simultaneously, the then Diocesan Bishop, the Late Most Rev. (Dr.) Alexis O. Makozi, concluded a contract arrangement with the firm of Messrs. Ave Maria Construction Company from Onitsha Catholic Diocese to undertake the building of the permanent Church structure. This contract was for good reasons terminated while still at the DPC level. It was subsequently re-awarded, to a new contractor.
Prior to re-awarding the contract, there was a comprehensive review of the project design to obviate future costly alterations. The projected future capacity of the Church was the dominant consideration. The ongoing Church building project was often stalled due to the paucity of funds. The Rev. Fr. Bartholomew O. Uzoma and the Very Rev. Fr. Barr. Michael Akere, were unrelenting in their commitment and dogged determination to drive the project as speedily as available funds permitted. One of the major spiritual achievements by this Chaplaincy was the fostering and inauguration of a burgeoning and promising outstation, the Church of the Ascension (which has today grown into a full parish) at the neighbouring Eagle Island Community. This was the brainchild of one of the resident Chaplains, Rev. Fr. Bartholomew Uzoma.
In the spirit of continuity, Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Nwosu was posted to take over from Very Rev Fr. Barr Michael Akere in 2017. With his enormous experience on the youth apostolate, he was able to galvanize the members of Nigeria Federation of Catholic Students to become more conscious of their roles and duties in the Chaplaincy. Salient projects were undertaken by him and these include;
The current Chaplain Rev. Fr. Simeon Nwosu has remained tenacious and spirited to drive the construction through the final stages which today, 11/11/2021 has become a reality in the form of a superb edifice and was dedicated by His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. Camillus Etukudo, Bishop of Port Harcourt Diocese ably represented by His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. Patrick Eluke, Auxiliary Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Port Harcourt.
The activities in the Chaplaincy were basically organized, driven and energized by the Catholic students, through the Nigerian Federation of Catholic Students (NFCS), a local chapter of the nationwide organization of Catholic students in Higher Institutions in Nigeria. Some of these activities includes but not limited to: keeping of the church environment clean, functioning in the various arms of the church such as the choir, ministers of hospitality, lay readers etc.
The Eucharistic Celebrations include;
There was no resident priest at the time and therefore all the relevant activities in the community were supervised and moderated by Catholic priests assigned by the Local Ordinary, on visiting basis, mostly from the Catholic Institute West Africa, (CIWA) Rumuibekwe or neighbouring Parishes.
Prominent among the priests that served in that capacity were;
The visiting posting of priests was later terminated and replaced by resident Chaplains effective from:
Below were other priests who assisted in fostering the pastoral works of the Chaplaincy:
The 1980/81 academic session witnessed the formal assignment of priests (apparently as more “Labourers” became available in the Lord’s Vineyard). The then Bishop and Apostolic Administrator of Port Harcourt and Warri Dioceses, the Most Rev. (Dr) Edmund Fitzgibbon (of blessed memory) sent the first resident priest, in the person of late Rev. Fr. (Dr.) Emmanuel Uduak Obong Umoren as the first resident University Chaplain. This priest was assisted by Rev. Fr (Dr) J. Okoro. Both of them were lecturers in the institute of Foundation Studies of the University. The unfortunate and unexpected death of Rev. Fr. E.U Umoren in 2004, necesitated the temporary assignment of the Very Rev. Fr. Donatus Ukulor, then parish Priest of the neighbouring Immaculate Heart Parish, Diobu, to fill the vacuum. He was occasionally assisted by Rev. Fr. Felix Kumanwe amongst others.
In 2006, the Late Diocesan Bishop, His Lordship, the Most Rev (Dr) Alexis Obabu Makozi, appointed and posted substantive and resident priests who are as follows:
The evangelistic and social functions of the executive clerics were supplemented and strengthened by a number of religious attachments at various periods in the course of the historical development of the Chaplaincy.
Among these were:
A number of Religious Postulants readily helped out and they include; Elizabeth Nwegede, Blessing Onwubariri and Lucy Igwe.
Below are pasts and current Catechist who have assisted in the Chaplaincy:
The Chaplaincy works in synergy with the Management of the University in the moral/spiritual upbringing of the students and staff through the following:
Over the years, the Chaplaincy experienced steady changes in its organizational structure to fit the canonical prescriptions of the Universal church. The Chaplaincy Council and the various sub-committees are subject to periodic review and re-organization.
The following constitutes the structure of the Chaplaincy:
Chaplaincy Pastoral Council:
Below are other Laity organizations and Pious societies in the Chaplaincy
LIST OF PAST AND CURRENT VICE CHAIRMEN OF CHAPLAINCY COUNCIL IN THEIR ORDER OF SERVICE
CURRENT PASTORAL COUNCIL OFFICERS
PAST AND CURRENT FINANCE COUNCIL CHAIRMAN
CURRENT PRESIDENT OF THE LAITY COUNCIL
The philosophy of the Chaplaincy is hinged on a realization that it is All About Jesus in carrying out her objectives. This philosophy therefore helps to shape our understanding and approach to our mandate as a community of God’s people. Thus, membership of the Chaplaincy is open to:
The objectives of the Chaplaincy include:
Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Chukwuma Nwosu hails from Umunju – Umuogba in Omuma, Local Government Area, Rivers State. He attended Community Secondary School Amaji and after which he proceeded to St. John of the Cross Spiritual Year, Ekpoma, Edo State, 1995. Upon completion of his spiritual year formation in 1996, he was sent to St. Joseph Major Seminary Ikot-Epkene, Akwa Ibom State, that same year for his philosophical studies where he bagged his Bachelor of Philosophy degree (B.Phil) from the Pontifical Urban University, Rome in 2000 and Bachelor of Arts (B.A) from the University of Uyo. Thereafter, he was sent for a one-year Pastoral experience at St. Gregory’s parish Bomu, in Gokana Local Government Area, Rivers State.
Upon completion of his one-year Pastoral experience and after being found worthy, he was sent back to St. Joseph major seminary Ikot-Epkene for his Theological studies in 2001 were he graduated with his Bachelor of Divinity (BD) from the Pontifical Urban University, Rome in 2004. He was ordained a Deacon in 2005 and subsequently a priest in November, 2005.
Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Chukwuma Nwosu has obtained his Post Graduate Diploma and Masters in Education from the University of Port Harcourt and is currently undergoing his PhD which is at the verge of completion.
His places of Apostolic work include:
Other offices held are:
The major spiritual achievements by this Chaplaincy since its inception are as follows:
Like the scriptural mustard seed, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Catholic Chaplaincy in Rivers State University, by God’s grace, sprouted within an incipient College of Science and Technology, has grown into a sizeable shrub (now within a full-fledged University) and will continue to grow into a gigantic ecclesial tree destined to put up large branches to accommodate a fast growing University community of the Catholic Christian faithful. In the process, this body of Christ will continue to reflect, nourish and share in that immortal wisdom of His Holiness Pope (St) John Paul II, who postulated that “A Parish is not principally a structure, a territory or a building, it is first and foremost a community of the faithful”. May the Lord continue to guide, inspire, grow and bless Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Catholic Chaplaincy and the entire University Community. Amen.