• Friday, April 19, 2024
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Meet Thomas Obiatuegwu who rose from battlefield Chaplain to Catholic Bishop

Thomas Obiatuegwu

The Orlu Catholic Diocese welcomed a new Auxiliary Bishop, Monsignor Thomas Ifeanyichukwu Obiatuegwu, in a ceremony that holds significance for the community and for Obiatuegwu, who left religious service in the US Military to take up religious duties as a priest in Orlu, Imo state.

In January, Pope Francis appointed him to his new role, and as the Auxiliary Bishop of the Nigerian Episcopal See, Obiatuegwu will assist Bishop Augustine Tochukwu Ukwuoma, 70, who has led the Nigerian Diocese, accommodating 1.2 million Catholics, since June 2008.

Early life and education

Bishop Obiatuegwu was born on January 1, 1966, in Umuaku Uli, Anambra State. He attended the Minor Seminary in Umuowa and Saint Joseph’s Major Seminary Ikot-Ekpene, and subsequently at the Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu.

He further pursued higher education, obtaining a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from the Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, and a Master’s Degree in Public Management and Policy from Indiana University in the United States of America.

Ordination and service

Obiatuegwu was ordained a Catholic Priest on August 26, 1995, and has since established himself as a religious nomad, serving in various offices in Nigeria and overseas.

From 1995 to 1997, he served as the Chaplain of the hospital of Amaigbo, Ebonyi and in the three years after, was the Parish Priest of Saint Theresa’s in Amauju, Isunjaba, Imo. In 2004, he moved to the United States and served as the Parish Vicar of Saint Patrick’s in Kokoma, Indiana, United States of America from until 2010.

In that year, Obiatuegwu joined the U.S. military. He served in the Corps of Army Chaplains until 2017 becoming a U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant.

Coming back to Nigeria in 2017, he became the Parish Priest of Holy Rosary in Orlu until 2018 and Parish Priest of Saint Michael’s in Urualla until 2023. In that same period, he was the Dean of the Saint Michael Pastoral Region, and since 2023, was the Parish Priest of Saint Joseph’s in Umuna, Orlu.

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A unifying role

Locals view Obiatuegwu’s appointment as a demonstration of “God’s interest in Uli Community.” as his new position assigns him the titular See of Horrea Cœlia.

“The Holy Father is sending me to you in total obedience to him and without any reservation. Here I am, willing and ready to serve just like Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve,” Bishop Ifeanyichukwu said during his ordination.

Hope Uzodinma, governor of Imo state expressed delight at Obiatuegwu’s appointment considering it a forward step in unifying Anambra, his native land and Imo, where his diocese is situated.

“This momentous occasion, is fostering greater unity between the sister States of Imo and Anambra, without neglecting the importance of our respective roles each play in the growth and sustainability of peace in our region,” he said.

“I was propelled by this unity to emphasize the significance of collaboration between the Church and Government, stressing their complementary nature in addressing societal challenges, particularly the prevalent insecurity issues,” he added.

Uzodinma is optimistic about the potential of this collaboration to create a brighter future for the communities involved.

Obiatuegwu recognizes his path to the pulpit and embraces collaboration, seeking support from all Bishops, members of the Clergy, and all Catholics.

“I solicit your continuous prayers and mentorship on how to be a good and holy Bishop,” he said.