By Dan Nwojiji, Abakaliki
The atmosphere can best be described as mixtures of anxiety, expressed pain of separation, involuntary resistance to unavoidable change, the feelings associated with the departure of a father-figure ,fear of uncertainties as a selfless priest ,a ‘ perfectionist’, Very Rev. Fr. Nnanna Agara remarkably known for being unwavering in upholding the truth, standards and his convictions takes a step away from St Paul’s Catholic Parish Onuebonyi Inyimegu to St Denis Parish Ebyia Unuphu on 15th September 2021.
A journey that started 15 years ago on the 3rd of October 2006 when Bishop Emeritus, His Lordship Michael Nnachi Okoro then Local Ordinary of Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki upgraded then St Paul’s out-station carved out from St Theresa’s Cathedral to a Parish status. Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Nnanna Agara was posted as the pioneer Parish priest. The piece of land housing St Paul’s Parish was a cemetery; human bones were conspicuously dug out during excavations. However that vicinity has now been transformed into a delightful landscape.
Following the footstep of his Master and Lord who instituted the Eucharist as a farewell package, Fr. Agara chose to use the Holy Mass on Sunday 12th September 2021 to bid his parishioners farewell. In the homily delivered by a fire brand and fresh oven-baked priest; ordained in July, Rev. Fr. Philip Uguru who went highly philosophical following the footsteps of Socrates and Aristotle proclaimed that The World is changing so fast, everything there in; is in a state of flux, every passing breadth, every sunset draws mankind closer to his grave.
In drawing the lessons home, he expressed worries that Nigeria is moving very fast but in reverse direction. The world or other climes are embarking on Rover’s mission- exploration of other planets for possible habitation but Nigeria is going back to 3rd century tradition of looking for grazing routes for cattle rather than advocate for comprehensive modern practice of ranching; just as Sheik Gunmi discomfitedly advocates for Federal Ministry of Herdsmen.
He further drummed on; the pain associated with separation. That for separation to occur, there must be a bond. It is the breaking of that bond that brings about pain as force is exerted to separate a bond. He reiterated that it is the will of God that Fr. Agara must leave St Paul’s Parish to another place to replicate the good gestures and enviable work he has done. He enjoined us to ask God for Grace to accept what we cannot change, the courage to change what we can and the wisdom to know the difference.
He prayed God to keep on protecting his servant where ever he goes. That he should see every change as opportunities and never a challenge.
On the parting address presented by the parish council on behalf of the parishioners, they reeled out Fr. Agara’s solid and unparallel achievements which include a few such as:
- Foundation laying ,completion and fencing of the rectory in four years with greater part of the cost borne by him, more so he solely furnished the completed rectory from his purse.
- Procurement of Lister generating set as alternative power source for the parish.
- Laid a fresh church foundation from his purse after removing rickety ones.
- Single handedly provided temporary zinc roofing for the church.
- Single handedly built St Paul’s School structures from his purse.
- Engineered high spiritual growth by building the Parish Chapel with Consultation offices, Marian Grotto through the CWO. Most importantly removal of every financial obstacle in Sacrament administration for all parishioners and cancellation of debts by member ranging from two years and more.
- Institution of full scholarship for thirty five persons in primary and secondary schools equitably shared between indigenes and non indigenes.
- Economic,Moral and social upliftment of several indigent parishioners and none alike in their businesses and daily lives which earned him the name “Ozoigbo Ndu” from his classmates.
- Resolved critical land disputes and other matters that would have smeared the image of the church.
- Waived off a lot of priestly welfare such as feeding, car fueling and maintenance except CWO monthly feeding envelop in line with his philosophy of following St Paul’s footstep of not being a burden to his parishioners.
In his valedictory speech, Fr. Agara thanked God for granting him good health throughout his 15years stay at the Parish stressing that there was never any issue of ill health that prevented him from celebrating mass or any of his ecclesiastical duties. More so he thanked all the parishioners for their cooperation and understanding shown to him and enjoined them to extend same to incoming priest. He asked for forgiveness in any area he must have erred as a human. He announced to the parishioners that the money they earlier contributed for his car purchase was not used rather his friends contributed and bought a car for him. However, the money is added for roofing the church.
He pointed out two regrets he had. One is that he tried to uplift his parishioners economically by encouraging those in business ventures to key into soft loan usually given at Umunnachi Microfinace Bank to boost their businesses but only One person complied of which there was remarkable improvement for that person. He advised others to still key in.
More so in his usual practice of ensuring that work in his parish goes unimpeded, he usually add his money and that from his friends and well wishers into the parish project, In one of the auditing and presentation of financial standings and expenditure, his money and that of his friends totaling up to eight million naira was used in executing parish project, instead of encouragement as he was not asking for a refund or repayment by the parish, he was rather rebuked by his superior for pilling up debt for another parish priest that will take over from him. That; as a human was hurting
There were a lot of testimonies from parishioners and friends alike who testified how positively he impacted in their lives and career. Several guests including members of Izhi Tehu Foundation whom Fr. Agara is a founding and BOT member were present. They extolled his integrity, hard work, ingenuity and entrepreneurial acumen which included the establishment of Citizens’ Advocate Newspaper, Umunnachi Microfinance Bank and so on for Abakaliki Diocese. Notable point of that day was the emergence of ‘Friends of Fr. Agara’ made up of members cutting across all divides including those resident in Portugal, UAE etc who promised to always be on standby where ever he goes to support his mission and projects whenever duty calls. They along with parishioners and other well wishers fuelled his car back to his new parish.