By Mercy Hill
(continued from the last edition)
Would you say you are successful?
Yes, I am. I am very successful, and this is because of the people I have encountered in my life. That is why what I gained from others, I will give to those who encounter me. It’s just to understand the spirit behind the style of life I live. When you look at my life, you see somebody who much has been given. So, I felt it would be the highest kind of ingratitude when people encounter me and don’t take away something positive. That is what drives me. I am not doing what I am doing because I am holier or better than others, but I feel I have a debt to pay. If somebody just by a stroke of chance can change the direction of your life even when they never knew you, then you must live to inspire others. So that’s what inspires me. I look around and see several landmarks God used and keeps using to take me higher in life. So I felt, even if I won’t be landmark unto others, let me be a comma, so that as they are going to landmarks, they can say let’s stay here and rest for the main time before they continue.
My greatest achievement is discovering young people with the humanity in them. Sometimes people I think I do not know meet me to say ”Father, you would not know how much you touched my life, I have always admired you’. Recently, I met someone at a summit, and after all the introductions, he said ”Father, you wouldn’t know how you touched my life as a mass server then. Those days when I listened to you talk, I wept. I have met priest who said, Father, I became a priest because of you. I didn’t know them, I never talked to them about priesthood. That’s why I say, the greatest contribution is to make people better. That’s why I dedicated my whole life in discovering young people. For sure, I know that if you discover twenty, those twenty will conquer the world.
What about Failures?
Yea sure, there are people I felt I was not able to do what I should have done in their lives. Perhaps if I had done things differently, they would have been better.
Another one is, sometimes you have a lot to do in terms of plans and projects for the future but you can’t carry them all out, no matter how hard you try. Though it is not a failure to be regretted but one that became an asset to me. In that sense, I began to pay more attention to what I can do and give it my best. After all, in the parable of the sower, it was not his fault that some seeds fell among thorns, but his duty was to keep sowing and God did the rest.
If you were to begin your life again, would you choose the priestly vocation?
Well, I didn’t choose priesthood in the first place. It was GOD who choose me. I didn’t even know what I was doing. It was later I discovered that there was a hand guiding all these. I don’t know what life would have been like if I had gone the other way. In those days at CKC Onitsha, I was filled with fantasies like every young man of my age then, car I wanted to drive, houses I would build, universities I would attend, how my hospital as a doctor would look like and so on. Perhaps that hospital, God turned to a spiritual one for me. So, I didn’t choose it, I just discovered myself, that something bigger than me attracted me.
You can imagine a young man, who did all the science subjects in secondary school, represented my school in science-based competitions; I was not even attending Holy Masses like others rather I went to the field to play ball.
But for the choices I made as a priest, if I should come back again, I hope that reason would lead me to come back as a Priest of my Diocese, because I have never regretted it for once. I would choose to be a Priest of this Diocese, meet the same classmates I had, and above all, I would choose even to eternity to work and be with young people. They have transformed my life. They say I inspire them but I think they inspire me more. I have learnt from them through my priestly life both overseas and in Nigeria. A young person recently wrote on my Facebook wall,”you have really blessed many young couples”. This was a young girl I wedded back then in Italy. So, I think my relationship with young people is what keeps me younger than my age.
You have been privileged to spend many years across different countries abroad. How can you compare life and opportunities over there to that of Nigeria?
You might be surprised when I tell you that the life is the same. Opportunities abound there and here also. Okay let me not say they are the same, but similar. The only difference is our mindset. If we change our mindset, Nigeria will be greater than all.
Another problem is that we have been schooled wrongly and we hardly think through issues or critically about them. We are made to be gullible, that is why people are easily deceived by religious fantacies and shananigans. Some so called pastors and religious leaders no longer let people think and use that which God has empowered them to use. They make you believe God has given them only, the access to Him. That is why you see people trooping to religious centers even for the things they can do for themselves. It becomes so terrible that even the little you manage to get, you take it to them.
Things are difficult everywhere, but our mindsets affect us most. Take for example, nature is so clement for people in this part of the world. Where I lived in Italy, very close to the Alps, we heat the house for nine months of the year, not because of luxury but out of necessity, just to survive the cold. The money you spend in heating the house, you can use it to do any level of investment in Nigeria. And then, for the years I spent there, I witnessed about twelve earthquakes. The little car I was driving I had to change the four tyres every year to put the winter tyres. The type of shoes I wear here, there is no way I can wear it in winter because if I put my shoe on the ground, the sole goes off immediately.
Only to protect yourself against nature, the amount of money that you put there makes you understand what I am telling you about. But it’s not like that here. Structurally, they are better than us, but I want to tell you that human beings are the ones that change a nation and make it better. The problems abound not just because our politicians are corrupt but because all of us are involved. The society is rotten and so is everyone. In the Western world, there exist order and where there is order, things function.
Someone told me recently, that if he was me, he would not have come back to Nigeria. I said ” well, that is why you are not me”, because if I am living abroad, I would be saying what I have just said, people will say it’s because I am not in Nigeria to experience the hardship here. But I am here in this establishment and we are thriving. Because we have decided to change our mindsets and work.
Talking about work and surviving in the harsh economic environment of the country, how are you managing a big organization like Fides Media Limited?
The only thing is what I have always told people, faith is like a coin with two sides. The problem in this country is that people just use one side of the coin. They just believe in God and think God will just descend and do everything for them. But to me, it is believing in God and yourself, trust in yourself and in God.
Maximize all that God has given you, sit down and think. Let what you want to do be clear to you. What is your vision, where do you want to go? And how do you want to go there? That is how things are done.
Set your goals and look at how you want to realize such goals. Something someone can look at and say this is a good plan.
What is your advice to the youths?
My life has always been for young people and till I get to the grave, I will always say to young people, define yourselves. Don’t allow others to define you, you must distinct yourself. Not even your parents should say who you are. When you define yourself, pursue it.
I have always said to young people, nobody has ever pursued his/her passion and failed. And you cannot know your passion if you don’t discover yourself. When you do that, your goals will begin to become clear to you. And the moment someone enters into the area that is his/hers you discover that everyone is creative, inventive, in fact productive.
The point is that many young folks put the square peg in a round hole. Every young person is like a computer, there is a programmer who wrote it. So whatever you do as a computer operator, if you do not discover the code used to program the computer, it can never function well. But the moment you are disciplined enough to understand the code, you become airborne.
My simple message to young people is to sit down and discover themselves. Don’t live the lives of your friends or neighbors. You must be unique, not because you chose to but because God made you to be so.
Albert the Great once told the classmates of St. Thomas Aquinas, when they were laughing at him, calling him a dumb ox. They called him that because he always sat quietly in class not uttering a word. Albert the Great looked at the Thomas and discovered he was not dumb and there was something boiling in the young man. And then he turned to the class, ‘you call him dumb ox? They replied, ‘Yes”, he said to them ”the day he will bellow, the whole world will hear his voice”.
Of course, the story of St. Thomas Aquinas reached the whole world. If you read the biography of great achievers, you will discover that their greatness began when they discovered themselves.
Lionel Messi was born a deformed child, but see how excellent he is doing in the football world. I conclude to say that there is only one wonderful person called You!
You recently celebrated your birthday, what is birthday for you and what do you celebrate in it?
My birthday is a gratitude to God, for life and sustenance. Typical of me, I love people and I always love them around. I also thank my well wishers around the world who wished me well. So, I feel happy with all the write ups because, it shows me that my life has not been a disaster. As a Priest, I feel our apostolate should touch lives, that when people come around us, no matter their burdens, they feel relieved. Though we are humans and we cant solve all problems but we should be able to touch lives.
Thanks Padre for your time…