By BANJI AJIBOYE
The Very Reverend Monsignor Sylvester Osigweh is the parish priest, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Alaja-Ifo, Ogun State. The cleric is reputed for his passion to help the poor in health as well as unilaterally fixing public facilities in disarray around his domain as the father of Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement. No wonder he established and runs a charity hospital that attends to indigents.
He started his liturgical career some 41 years ago; precisely in 1977 when he felt yet unfulfilled with secular job irrespective of the pay and decided to opt for a lifetime career in the service to humanity as a clergyman of the Roman Catholic mission with special calling in the healing ministry. With much reluctance on the ground that he needed clearance from his Archbishop, The Very Reverend Monsignor Osigweh paraphrased some information about his background, experience of exploits and challenges in the service so far. Excerpts as recorded by Church Times’ BANJI AJIBOYE:
I did not join priesthood as a young man. I was already of age. I had worked in secular companies earning good pay but I was not satisfied within myself with the inner guilt that the secular job was not meant for me while working in Lagos, I made a U-turn and decided to enrol to study philosophy and theology at Saints Peter and Paul Major Seminary Ibadan for my priesthood training. After my graduation from the seminary college, I was ordained as a priest in 1977 at the vast compound of Alake Palace, Abeokuta. This was because I pulled so much crowd from all walks of life, Port Harcourt, Jos, Imo, my home State, name it. People were too many. So, no cathedral then was big enough to accommodate the number of people that gathered to honour my ordination. Well, that should be okay for you for now because I will need the permission of my Bishop to grant a full blown interview. Besides, there is no time to dwell so much on press interview today. You can see the number of people you left outside and after this prayer and counseling session which I have broken for you, we are proceeding into full healing mass which will last quite long but since you have been coming without seeing me before, I have to oblige you this short time.
Sir, just a little gist about your humanitarian, public works you are known to do around Ifo.
Ooh! Journalist, you have come with your curiosity. I told you no time today. Okay, God has used me to help and bless many people. How many will I count? God has used me to bless Obasanjo, Babangida, Abacha. I did open counselling and blessing for Obasanjo at Ifo here (Ibogun) even when he faced stiff opposition in 1999. He got to the presidency. I also blessed his daughter. Hmm. How many? I visited Babangida, Abacha at Aso Rock even when people were being killed and buried in shallow graves of less than two feet deep. We were there to tell them the truth regardless of the risk.
Appreciation? No. They wanted me to explode but I won’t.
Besides, Ifo, here, plenty people have benefited immensely from our corporate citizenship gestures which have seen to road grading and construction of bridges leading to Alaja Seriki Road in Ifo local government area.
Even on that road you see there and the bridge, somebody blocked it and said it was his father’s land; that I could not do any repair on it. I beg, no time today.
We did borehole for potable water outlet for the community while we trained many students. How many will I remember? I think that is okay for you.
Osigweh has been an inspiration to many priests ordained after him, some of whom are bishops now. He also trained and saw many priests through school and pastoral works. Archbishop Adewale Martins of Lagos Metropolitan See, among others, holds Osigweh in high esteem. He was Martins’ spiritual mentor when he headed the Abeokuta Diocese . In fact, he dedicated a hall to Adewale Martins at Ifo Parish. After ordination, I went to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Ajegunle, Apapa to celebrate my first mass, and I continued in prayer since it is my volition. As prayer became an inevitable thing for me, I waxed in spirituality which gave birth to the Charismatic Renewal Movement in Lagos at that time.
I served in several parishes in Lagos and Ogun states before proceeding to Rome for my master’s degree in theology. The parishes include St. Leo Catholic Church, Ikeja, St. Agnes, Maryland, SS. Mulumba & David Cathedral, Ikate, Surulere and Ibowon Parish in Epe Division. I was overseeing the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus (EHJ) Sister’s Juniorate and Epe Military Battalion as Chaplain.
Before I left Ibowon Parish in 1985 for Rome for further studies, the passion for healthcare services through prayer and sacramental healing process had grown impressively. Many people with various problems came for counselling and healing. I was able to sanitize the Ibowon town known to be infested with fetish shrines with fervent prayers.