By Precious Ukeje
Very Reverend Monsignor Sylvester Mgbemfulu, the longest serving formator at the St John Bosco Seminary, Isuaniocah, has clocked the canonical age of retirement after putting more than forty-five years of service. Following this development is the celebration of the retiring priest by the Savio-Bosco Alumni Association last Thursday at the school’s premises.
Fides reports that Msgr Mgbemfulu was the first Rector of the institution and all his priestly service years were put into the school where he taught Chemistry and served in several other capacities such as Dean, Students’ Affairs, Deputy Rector and others.
Delivering a farewell address, the National President, SABAA, Mr Ostende Celestine Oguegbu, noted that the forty years which Msgr Mgbemfulu had put in, were spent imparting the right skills, spiritual direction and scientific knowledge onto the students of the institution, and described him as an achiever per excellence who was open-minded, generous, knowledgeable, modest, responsible and highly respected priest of God.
‘His assignments to students,’ Oguegbu noted, ‘are usually too difficult for us to handle. We usually go extra mile preparing for his assignments just to make sure they match his standards,’ noting that they must respect and appreciate the fact that he had been helpful to them in many ways.
He also said that the retired formator throughout his stay in the seminary, was an outstanding tutor and committed to promoting excellence in both their education and spiritual life.
Msgr Mgbemfulu for his part, in an emotion laden farewell address, noted that it was hard to say goodbye, adding however that having attained the canonical retirement age for priests, he must quit the stage and bid goodbye to the seminary. He further noted that as he retired from the seminary ministry, he would miss the fraternal company of the priests on the staff, his classes, the Chemistry laboratory which he said, had become his second home, and other things.
He expressed his gratitude to God for making the day a reality; to past rectors, past and present students of his alike. He also appreciated members of staff who he worked with all through his years in the seminary.
In a related development, Ikedi Emmanuel, Senior Prefect of the seminary, said Msgr Mgbemfulu’s stay in the seminary since its inception was a very big lesson to them as seminarians and future priests. He described the retiring priest’s stay in a particular pastoral assignment for close to four decades as bewilderment to the clamoured quest for novelty and change of today.
Emmanuel who lauded the strides of the school’s first Rector, noted that in his thinking, the teaching profession contributed more to the future of the society than any single profession because of what he described as its guaranteeing of sustainability and added that Fr Innocent Okeke, former Dean of Studies, who was sent off alongside Msgr Mgbemfulu, was firm, yet friendly, tough yet tender and compassionate as well.
The senior prefect appreciated their out gone seminarians, seminarian and non seminarian teachers too.
The Rector of the seminary, Rev. Fr Paul Mary Chukwukebe, in his response, thanked God for the day and observed that the school’s Christmas event was usually celebrated in the evening, but was adjusted for the prevalence of the SABAA to participate in the celebration.
He reiterated that Msgr Mgbemfulu was the first Rector of the seminary and appreciated him for the years he put into the service of the seminary, while he thanked teachers and the out gone SS3 students whose send off should have happened in July save for the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.
Msgr Mgbemfulu was ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in 1974 by His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze who was Archbishop of Onitsha Archdiocese and served under several other bishops including the late Archbishop A.K. Obiefuna who posted him to the seminary in 1982; the late Bishop Simon Okafor and Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor. He however began his seminary teaching ministry in 1975 at St Paul’s Seminary, Ukpor.