REFLECTING ON A CATHOLIC PRIEST’S 30 YEARS OF LIBERAL THOUGHTS
By; Jerome-Mario Utomi
Taken objectively, Rev. Fr. Victor Ibude, from Agbor, Delta state, Nigeria, is a Catholic Priest ordained about 30 years ago precisely in the year 1993, who in the first instance went to the seminary with no ambition of becoming a priest but only went in thanksgiving to God for aiding him score distinction in his examination as conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC).
He was, however, through divine arrangement and natural order of things, ordained a Priest of the Catholic Church on the aforementioned date.
Essentially, by virtue of his ordination which was administered by His Lordship, Rev. (Dr.) Anthony Gbuji, then Bishop of Issele-Uku Diocese (as he then was), Fr. Victor, like other Rev. Fathers in the catholic faith, became a Priest, a Prophet and a King, laced with capacity to perform every spiritual, human and other responsibilities associated with the position/office.
Beyond these statutory responsibilities, a peep into his 30 years existential journey in Priesthood reveals something new and different. He is not only embodied with spiritual relationship with God, which of course is a prerequisite demand for the vocation but principally exudes liberal thought system that positively defines his views and approach to issues.
The above unique attributes which daily manifests through exceptional intellectual achievements among other documented feats. recently came to the fore during a media parley with him, as part of a programme lined up to mark his 30th Priestly ordination cum book presentation slated for Sunday December 10, 2023, in Alihami village, Ika South Local Government Area of Delta state.
Aside from revealing that he has authored over fifty (50) books on different topical issues, with plans underway to hit 100 books at a record time, Fr. Ibude, who is a Professor of Philosophy, used to his credit, the opportunity provided by the interview to highlight on critical human and developmental issues as well as addressed some unsettled religious doctrinal commentaries.
Beginning with insight to his choice of priesthood as against other fields of endeavors, Fr. Ibude explained that his going to the seminary was as a result of an event that occurred during his West African Examination Council WAEC examination.
He said in part; When I had my first WAEC, I did not pass all my papers. Then, I went to Lagos where I showed my result to my siblings. I was enrolled to attend a lesson. While attending the lesson, I was still active in church. My elder brother, Edward reported me to my elder sister, telling them I was too ‘churcheous’ and not focusing on my studies.
So, there was a conference over the matter and during the discussion, I told them that my result was already known to me. So, I mentioned that I would score distinctions in the forthcoming examination. My brother decided to do a bet with me that if I should score any distinction, he will give me twenty naira (N20). At the end of the day, when the result was released and I had distinctions, my brother wrote me a letter telling me that God wrote the examination for me. Then since God wrote the examination for me, I decided to go and thank him by going to the Seminary.
Asked if he believes in reincarnation, which happens to be one of the doctrines that the Catholic Church frowns at, he answered this way; actually, as a Catholic and a Christian, I was going with the waves that the church does not believe in reincarnation. However, I actually wrote my first work on reincarnation when I was in secondary school class five. The title was the wonders of reincarnation. Now, I learnt from my parents. My father was not a Catholic. He believed in Cherubim and Seraphim. They taught me and my siblings how each of us were incarnates of somebody who was gone. The stories were so clear to me and that was how I started getting interested in the fact that these people were giving us facts that you can see.
So, why are we having doubts about this? Eventually, when I entered seminary, I decided to give myself into understanding that philosophy of reincarnation. I started researching on it. Eventually, my final study in philosophy was on reincarnation. Then what was my conclusion?
My conclusion was that there exists reincarnation. That was where the issue is. How did I come to that conclusion knowing that the church does not believe in reincarnation? Luckily for me, because of my test, I came across the work of Saint Paul in 1st Thessalonians 5 v 23, where St. Paul talked about the tripartite nature of man.
All the while, we talked about the dual nature of man. Man is soul and body. We don’t talk about the third part of man which is the spirit. So, when I came across this version of St. Paul of man being three and not two, the whole mystery of reincarnation became so clear. Reincarnation happens in reality not because of the soul but because of the spirit.
So, as we speak, my position on it is still the same.
As for the church’s position, it is still not clear about the whole idea because the church essentially is the people in it. And the people in it are the theologians. Theologians are the people studying it. So, it is a work in progress. We’re still studying, we’re still doing our research and we’re still writing on it. He stressed.
From doctrinal commentary to evaluation of his 30years sojourn on earth as a Priest, again, he captured it this way; well, the journey has been a serious one. There was a time I had serious challenge. At that time, there were issues that were provoking me. One, as a priest, I found out that the word Father was no longer a name but a demand. People make demands of you. I was not sure I could carry the load of the challenge of people’s demand. That was one.
The second one was discovering that ordination does not make you a saint automatically. I thought passion dies with ordination. That was when I decided I wanted to go to the monastery. And I actually went to the monastery. I was in the monastery for about a week because I was studying their spirituality. After that, I decided I was going to live a monastic life. I asked for permission but they refused. That was how I didn’t go to the monastery. He concluded.
Asked about his position on proliferation and commercialization of churches, the Man of God, declared that he has no problem with such development. Quoting John Cardinal Onaikan, when he was asked about the issue of church proliferation, he came out with the notion that it would have been worse if there were no churches. That was his position and if you look at it, these churches are still relevant. Take as an illustration; if people are left on their own without churches, they tend to be worse off. The church has succeeded in making us better.
Continuing, he added; Commercialization of churches on its part has an advantage too. We the Catholics, without this Commercialization of churches, I don’t think we would have been challenged to be evangelical and charismatic. They have their relevance. Look at Europe and America where the churches are not as challenged as we have it here, you could see that the churches there are dying. So, it is to our own advantage.
While noting that the church is doing something but not doing enough to curb the moral decadence in the society, the Catholic cleric insisted that the church in itself accommodates culture. ‘It is called enculturation. And for some time now, I’ve been doing what is called enculturation mass where you incorporate tradition into the mass. I’ve been having it in many of the parishes because the church made provision for this. It’s just that we Africans don’t seem to be open to these things. We the blacks don’t seem to appreciate what we have’.
Asked to explain why he reportedly threw up controversy in his Seminary days with his assertion that catholic priests marry, he answered, saying; Yes, I was trying to throw up a controversy. In my class 6 in the seminary, I was having difficulties with the system. Like I said, I was into music. So, my life was a social life. They were already telling me that I was too social-that that is not the life of a priest.
But I was not giving it up because that was what I liked. So, it was clear to me that those in charge were not comfortable with it. And the only thing they could do was to send me away but how they were going to send me away, I didn’t know. So, when the examination came, they asked me the question and I said it was a way of them telling me to go. I was not even afraid of going in the first place. So, that was why I did that.
Asked what kept him going as a Priest despite the challenges in the past thirty years, Fr. Victor has this to say, listen to him; Well, I would say it’s my prayer life. I have a very rigorous prayer life. I have a basic prayer system. Like every day, I spend one hour in church. It’s a practice I learnt in secondary school and I kept doing it.
On his active involvement in active charity, the Priest succulently explained as follows; Well, growing up. Like in primary school, I used to follow the African Culture where your siblings and relations usually eat together. When we cook rice, it’s always a special day. Each time they come; my siblings will expect me to share my food with my age mates. It makes me uncomfortable because why will I be sharing my food? Why don’t they have their own? At that moment, I was challenged. Charity was difficult for me but from that background, I was forced to give up what is mine.
From that moment also, I started learning. I had to learn on time because it was becoming an issue. From there, i started learning how to give out to the poor. I started giving to the extent that when it was time for my first WAEC that was one of the reasons why I didn’t pass my first WAEC. The money I was given for Agric practical, as I was on my way to pay it, I met a beggar. I took the money and gave the beggar. So, that has been the background.
Asked to advice public office holders and Nigerians as a whole, he called on all to seek the face of God.
To copiously quote him; For a long time now, I have something I call my NGO? The aim of the NGO is to help solve matters that are within my reach. If I am driving along the road and I see that there is something on the road, I will stop and remove it. I have been preaching it and have also been living with it. Do something for somebody. Charity is our African philosophy. It’s just that we have lost it. And if everybody is good to the other, everybody will be comfortable. Nobody will be stealing. People are stealing because we are not appreciative of what we have. He opined.
On his proposed University and retreat center, Father explained that he started thinking about having a retreat center where people can go to rest, to be on their own because Agbor doesn’t really have that. So, that was how the whole thing started.
‘After that, I now realized also that there is a lot of knowledge that has not been encapsulated in this part of the world. We have so much to offer. Also, we don’t have anywhere we go for holiday here. If I’m thinking of going on holiday, I’m always thinking of leaving the vicinity. But why am I going out? It’s because I hardly find places to go around here. So, this is the idea behind it’. He concluded