A RETIRED IRISH SPIRITAN (HOLY GHOST FATHER) RECALLS THE NIGERIA-BIAFRAN WAR AND THE EXPULSION
Owing to my last year’s write-up on the 50th anniversary of the expulsion of the Holy Ghost Fathers from Nigeria, one retired priest who was still a student in Ireland during the Nigeria-Biafran war/the expulsion of the missionaries, sent me an email (on 20th February 2020 at 12.34 pm) that I found very revealing and educative. I will be reproducing the email exactly the way it was sent to me. He wrote:
“Dear Angelo, who writes you is an Irish Spiritan who has retired to Ireland after 45 years missionary work in Brazil. I’m presuming you are a Spiritan but if not, then your praise is all the more believable.
Thank you for those kind words. Our confreres here who served so faithfully in Biafra do not look for praise, but surely merit it. I remember, as a student, I travelled around the pharmacies of West of Ireland collecting valuable medicines for delivery to the needy in Biafra. I felt part of a pulsing tide of charitable goodwill and generosity trying to alleviate, in some little way, the suffering of children and women and others in Biafra.
Most importantly, in my view, is that if you have any occasion to influence the ” formators” in the seminaries of Nigeria, please make sure the student priests and brothers imbibe deeply into their missionary hearts the values and actions of such great missionaries, including the Sisters who valiantly risked their lives by staying faithfully with their loved people of Biafra. They all did what Pope Francis is demanding that all missionaries do…..go to the poorest and most needy peoples in the outer regions of our planet. Save our planet and all God’s children therein.
Sadly, we see the dream of some students is to get ordained and then become ” comfortable” lords in rich parishes, with flashy cars and velvet cassocks etc. NOT what Jesus would be inclined to accept.
I remember some confreres getting off an aircraft in Dublin Airport dressed in only pants and shirt into the Irish harsh winter after an epic journey from Nigeria to Dublin. Direct from prison in Lagos.
Keep your ideals high, good friend. I have forwarded your message to many of my friends.
Be blessed in the Lord forever, SD, Kimmage Manor, Dublin 12.” (He permitted me to share this with friends).
Below is the picture of Bishop Joseph Brendan Whelan C.S.Sp from Ireland. He was the pioneer bishop of Owerri diocese (today Archdiocese). He stayed with his flock through out the Nigeria-Biafran war.
After the war, Bishop Whelan was rounded up together with other missionaries working in Biafraland by the Nigerian government. He was jailed and later deported on 18th February 1970.