By Mercy Hill
Have you ever wondered what propels inspirational personalities? Inspiring persons have two core beliefs. They believe in themselves and they believe in others. Behind those two beliefs is a lot of hard work. When they speak of their ambitions, it is with great passion, optimism and enthusiasm. When backed into a corner, they always find a way out of the situation.
On this week’s edition of inspirational personalities, we bring to your read, a youth formator, humanitarian, mentor to many and ultimately a Catholic Priest. He is the Director of Communications , Catholic Diocese of Awka and Fides Media Ltd. Rev. Fr. Martin Anusi.
Here are excerpts from a chit chat with him on the occasion of his birthday last Wednesday, September 18, 2019.
I present to you The Digital Director!
May we know you?
My name is Rev. Fr. Martin Anusi. I am plus one today. I am heading towards sixty. I am an indigene of Agulu in Anaocha LGA of Anambra State, ordained a Catholic Priest of Awka Diocese in 1995.We were seventeen priests ordained that year and five have gone to answer the call. Since then I have been a priest and I have found myself here as the Director of Fides Media Ltd, Awka.
I was born in my home town, Agulu, so I am a son of the soil. My father was not a Christian. He only got converted few years to my ordination. He had two wives, my mum and my step mother, but you wouldn’t know the difference when you get to my family because of how united we are. So I did the kindergarten, Mt. Carmel, in my village, Okpu. After that I went to primary school, Ezeanyanwu, in my town. Eventually, I did only primary one there because my uncle needed someone to come and live with them in the city. He was married but had no child, so the lot fell on me to go. Of course I was joyful going to the city. I went over to Onitsha and continued my primary school education at Patrick Okolo Memorial Primary School, Onitsha. Afterwards I gained admission into Christ the King College, CKC, Onitsha. I was appointed the Deputy Senior Prefect (DSP) in class 5. I finished 1983/1984. We were the Golden Jubilee set that year. You know CKC was founded in 1933.
What propelled your journey to priesthood?
That’s a very difficult question, I must tell you because I grew up like every young person. I was not even a mass server however my uncle that I stayed with then was a very religious man. That was the problem I had with him. Just like every other young boy, I would prefer to go play football at the field rather than going to church. But my uncle was a church warden, so every Sunday he would come back to ask me what the preacher said and what I learnt from the homily. So, I began the first prank, of always pretending I went to an earlier mass than he did but he had ways of finding out whenever I didn’t go to church.
Another thing was that, we always said the Rosary before dinner everyday. Everyone will be summoned to pray the Rosary before the food would be dished. If you don’t pray, that meant no food for you that day. I always participated in those prayers so I could eat. This is just to tell you that one never knows when or how God calls those HE has chosen. I didn’t even know who my parish priest then was. We were always outside the church pointing the kind of vehicle we would purchase and drive when we grow up.
So, we continued that way until I gained admission to Christ the King College, Onitsha. There I met another great formator, our principal then, who loved me so much not because I was religious but because he said I was intelligent. Eventually when I finished from CKC, I took JAMB and applied for Medicine. Because I had a very wonderful JAMB result, I knew my admission was certain. When I got home to stay with my parents before my admission letter was out, I discovered something strange. Every evening after discussing with my parents, I would see myself saying the Rosary. That was the same Rosary I would not want to say at Onitsha. While saying the Rosary at my father’s house, something struck me like a flash, ‘why not become a priest’? This was not those kinds of distractive thoughts that pervaded our minds back then, like buying a car, building a hospital. No, it was something stronger.
So one day, I told my mum I wanted to be a priest. She laughed and laughed. When my father was told, he said over his dead body would I become a priest. He said that not because he was not a Christian but because he wanted to be Papa Doctor. But what shocked everyone was that I insisted on following the priestly vocation. My Dad threatened not to train me if I was not going to study Medicine and I couldn’t care less. They thought they would bend me, but I already made up my mind to be a priest. I want to tell you that I stayed at home for one full year doing nothing. When it was time for JAMB again, I refused to take the exam. What shocked them was that I was not even going out. I stayed at home reading books because I was an avid reader. I seldomly went to see my friend whose brother is presently a priest of this Diocese. For everyone, it was a strange thing for me to say I was going into Priesthood, because I was not that religious.
Time went on and people started advising my father not to fight with God. They urged him to allow me follow my vocation. My Dad had to succumb. He called me one day and asked me if anyone advised me into priesthood and I said no. He then told me something which continues to guide my life today. He said ‘you left Medicine, left all your intelligence just to be a priest? If you want to be a priest, be a true priest, not after all these sacrifices, you will not live up to your calling’. Those words have been guiding me all my life, that whenever I wanted to be stupid, I would remember my father’s words to me – ‘if you must be a priest, live true to your vocation’.
Another problem was that when everyone gave their consent, I did not know where to go. I didn’t even know who was my parish priest then, so I had to go back to my uncle in Onitsha. When I told him everything that had happened, following my resolve to be a priest, I got the shocker of my life. My uncle, who exclaimed with joy, said he had waited and prayed for it all his life. My uncle’s name was Mr. Patrick, he is late now. He was then the one who took me to Monsignor Obiukwu, the Parish Priest of Sacred Heart, Onitsha. Monsignor did not know me, because I was not even active in the parish then. But when he saw my Uncle, he wrote the best report for ‘a young man he never knew’. My Uncle was just a manual worker and owned a bicycle. Then we rode in his bicycle to All Hallows Seminary to deliver to the then Rector of the seminary, Monsignor Achebe of All Hallows Seminary. When the Rector went through my letter, he asked ‘since you are from Agulu, would you want to be of Onitsha or Awka Diocese? I didn’t know the difference then, but I just wanted a change of environment, so I chose Awka. He then wrote a footnote in the letter referring me to the Rector of St. John Bosco Seminary, Isuaniocha.
I needed a recommendation letter from my home parish priest before I could be accepted into the seminary. Getting to my parish priest, he said he didn’t know me, so he didn’t want to recommend me. Then I had to go back to that my friend, IK Maduagwu, whom I was spending time with when I stayed in the village. His father, Mr Innocent Maduagwu, was the Catechist. On hearing of my dilemma, the Catechist took me to the Parish Priest and vouched for me. On the testimony of the Catechist, the priest wrote the recommendation for me.
I went to Isuaniocha and the then Rector, Rev. Fr. Zeff Uzo accepted me into the seminary.
He considered my excellent academic records and asked me to teach for one year at the Seminary. I taught Mathematics. Late Bishop Obiefunna was the Bishop of Awka Diocese then and after the interview, he said I succeeded and that started my journey to Bigard Memorial Seminary, Philosophy Campus, Ikot Ekpene. I spent four years there and after that six of us were selected because of our good academic records to teach others. I went to teach Junior Seminarians at Akpu for a period of one year and after that we continued with Theology for another four years. And then my Ordination in 1995.