24 February 2014

The Custody of Nigeria

Construction of St Francis of Assisi Church in Enugu, Nigeria

There is one less item on my "bucket list" now that I have had an opportunity to visit our Capuchin Custody of Nigeria. I was invited here to give a series of seminars to the brothers of the Custody. I spoke to the Custody's twenty-five post-novices last Saturday, and will speak to the perpetually professed brothers this week.

Although there was at least one previous attempt to establish a Capuchin mission in Nigeria, we have had a continuous presence there only since the early 1990's. It was established as a Custody of the Province of Tuscany in 1994. It was the only jurisdiction of the Order established during my nine-month assignment as General Secretary of the Order so the Decree of Establishment bears my signature. Since then I have always harbored a desire to see what my hand hath wrought.

The beginnings of the Custody can, in some sense, be traced back to my home province of Mid-America. In the late 1970's, Clement Emodi was a young Nigerian doing university studies in Omaha, Nebraska. He felt a call to religious life so he applied and was accepted into the 1980-81 novitiate class of the Mid-America Province. Rather than make profession in the Mid-America Province, however, he decided to return to Nigeria and ask the bishop to invite Capuchins to his diocese. His persistence paid off, as the Bishop asked the then-General Minister Br. Flavio Roberto Carraro to open a mission in his Diocese of Onitsha. Clement, who now goes by his given name of Akosa, was the first Nigerian to be professed a Capuchin.

The Custody now has almost sixty temporarily- and perpetually-professed brothers. They have expanded their presence to seven fraternities in several different dioceses. The photograph above was taken at one of their newer fraternities. St Francis of Assisi Friary is their second fraternity in Enugu.