By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Roman Catholicism is deeply rooted in southern Kaduna state which is the mainstay of Christianity in Kaduna state.
The catholic church from the word go right from the earliest interactions with the locals during the days of colonization and decolonization of Nigeria, has been a household name in much of southern Kaduna notably for been strong in the area of running efficient schools and hospitals.
The entire southern Kaduna comes under the guidance of the diocese of Kafanchan which is found in Jema’a local government area of Kaduna state and home to millions of people of divergent ethnic origins.
The indigenous natives of southern Kaduna have also embraced the Roman catholic church because of its holistic liberating tendencies in the areas of mass but qualitative education of the locals at minimal or no cost and affordable quality hospital services. The Roman Catholic Church has also made massive constructive impacts in the area of vocational skills training for the rural youths. The Church seems to have realized on time that it is better to teach the poor man how to fish than to give him fish. Almost all the mission schools have well equipped vocational training departments to make the beneficiaries to become creators of wealth and not just gainfully employed but to become employers of Labour.
When yours faithfully grew up in Kafanchan, there were numerous schools and hospitals which were established by the Roman catholic church just as we came to realize that some of these iconic schools such as the Saint Peter Clever school and many other missionary schools which were set up by the catholic church at huge costs were taken over by the government. Most of us however drank from the fountains of wisdom erected by the Roman Catholic Church through its foray into the education sector.
By all accounts, Kafanchan and southern Kaduna are strategic in the annals of our national history just as these towns in southern Kaduna such as Kafanchan, Kwoi, Kagoro, Zango Kataf, Saminaka, Kachia and numerous others have been home to millions of Nigerians from mostly the southern parts of the country and from the far north of Nigeria because of the remarkable virtue of hospitality of the indigenous natives.
Many persons from far flung towns have had the privileges of gaining qualitative but virtually free primary and post primary education in southern Kaduna.
The combination of the triple social services of education, health and evangelization adopted and enforced and reinforced by the Roman catholic church are to be applauded because it is a fact that a healthy mind can only be attained through very conscious efforts to thoroughly educate the young minds and provide qualitative healthcare to the population because only the living can praise God.
The above summarizes the symbolic and strategic value of the event that had only just taken place in Kafanchan few days back which is the inauguration of the second ever head of the Roman Catholic Church in Kafanchan diocese.
It would seem that the Holy See took a whole lot of time in search of a capable hand to step into the phenomenal shoe of the first bishop of Kafanchan who died only about two years back by name Bishop Joseph Bagobiri.
Bagobiri who was the first bishop of Kafanchan left a lot of milestones and it would appear that the late bishop embraced educational empowerment of his people as his primary mission which explains the successes he recorded in the establishment of many top quality schools of both primary and post primary.
Another remarkable achievement of the late bishop Bagobiri of Kafanchan was the monumental investments he made in the area of spiritual and academic upgrading of his pastors which is why Kafanchan diocese can be likened to the academic capital of the Roman Catholic Church in Northern Nigeria.
Bishop Bagobiri of the blessed memory was also very outspoken and was always there to speak for social justice; security and sustainable development of the people of southern Kaduna. His death brought huge pains to millions of people and for a long time this powerful voice that echoes social justice as an essential ingredient for social peace will be missed.
The good thing however is that the thorough search for the next bishop of Kafanchan has yielded a very big result in such a way that Kafanchan diocese now has a good shepherd who is capable of defending his people and leading them to the path of righteousness.
The election of Monsignor Julius Yakubu Kundi, my classmate at the Kafanchan teachers college as the new bishop of Kafanchan diocese did not come as a shock to people going by his formidable profile that he has built over the years for himself.
That he even wore a papal title of a Monsignor before his elevation to the Bishopric is a testament to his high level of passion for the gospels of Christ Jesus and his undying zeal and dedication to evangelize the people of God and lead them towards the path of goodness in all realms of human pursuits.
The soft spoken bishop has a very wonderful objective which goes as follows: “To win snore souls for Christ as his minister by demonstrating pastoral excellence and moral uprightness in my vocation in order to achieve this goal.” These are the qualities that every Bishop should have in a rapidly evolving World.
Born on February 15th 1968 (a day after Saint Valentine’s Day), in Kubau local government area of Kaduna state, he became a deacon on September 21st 1996 and was ordained a priest on June 14th 1997 at the Saint Joseph cathedral Kaduna by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUNDS are as follows-: In August 2005 – June 2006: he was educated at the Catholic Institute of West Africa Port Harcourt, (STL, Moral Theology, CIWA, PORT HARCOURT) and in August 2003 – June 2005: he was at the Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt.(M.TH, Moral Theology, UNICAL). In August 1992 – June 1996: he enrolled at the St. Augustine’s Major Seminary, Jos. (DIP. REL. STUDIES, UNIBADAN, B.TH. ,UNIJOS) and between August 1988 – 1991: be was at the St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary, Makurdi (Internal Dip. In Philosophy). From 1985 – 1987: he was educated at the Kafanchan Teachers’ College. (Grade ll) Earlier from 1983 – 1984: he was schooled at the Religious Training Center, Rahama, Saminaka. 1982 – 1983: he was at Government Day Secondary School, Pambegua. 1976 – 1982: L.E.A. Primary School, Danladi (First School Leaving Certificate). PROJECTS/ LONG ESSAYS are as follows: BIBLICAL FUNDAMENTALISM: Challenges and Dangers In Christendom; Thesis submitted, Jos, 1996; THE IMPACT OF ISLAM ON CHRISTIAN FAMILIES IN ZARIA DIOCESE, NIGERIA: A MORAL EVALUATION. Thesis submitted, Port Harcourt 2005; ECONOMIC MONOPOLIZATION AND THE RIGHTS OF FARMERS IN KADUNA SATE: AN ISSUE OF SOCIAL JUSTICE. Thesis submitted, Port Harcourt 2006.
His WORKING EXPERIENCES are as follows: Associate Priest, St. Andrew’s Catholic Parish, Kaduna archdiocese, 1997- 1998;· Parish Priest, St. Paul’s Parish, Jalingo Diocese, 1998 – 2003; Parish Priest, St. Enda’s Parish Basawa, Zaria Diocese, 2006-2007;· Vice Rector Academics, St. Joseph’s Minor Seminary, Basawa Zaria, 2006 – 2007;· Vocations Director, Catholic Diocese of Zaria, 2006 -2007;· Cathedral Administrator, Catholic Diocese of Zaria, 2007 -2010;· Finance Administrator, Catholic Diocese of Zaria, 2007 -2010;· Vicar General, Catholic Diocese of Zaria, 2009 -2010;· Vice Rector and Formator, Good Shepherd Major Seminary, Kaduna, 2010- 2014;· Acting Rector, Good Shepherd Major Seminary, Kaduna, 2014 – 2016;· Acting Police Chaplain, St. Andrew’s Police chaplaincy, Zaria, 2016- 2017 and he was the Parish Priest, of St. John’s Parish, Muchia, Zaria Diocese. 2017- 2018 then a Parochial Vicar, Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Lake Havasu City, Phoenix Diocese, 2018 – till he was elevated to the rank of the Bishop of Kafanchan.
Bishop Julius will need to get to work as quickly as possible and a major area of concern is for the bishop to fashion out measures to bring about inter-ethnic and inter-religious dialogues for peace building.
Kafanchan has had its own fair share of conflicts and currently, there is a groundswell of deep divisions between the two dominant religions in Nigeria. The new bishop of catholic diocese of Kafanchan whose hobby is to make friends, should step up efforts to restore lasting peace amongst all the religions and ethnicities living in Kafanchan. He should be the mouthpiece of the oppressed and the needy and he should build upon the legacies set aside by his predecessor.
The new bishop of Kafanchan has also started well by emphasizing unity. He made the following speech: “We should use this strength to unite ourselves and work together as one family, the family of God towards improving the lives of our people in education, agriculture, commerce, politics, healthcare, religion, social and cultural life. With faith let us cast our nets again in the deep for a greater catch. As you go back to your parishioners to render your services, do them with zeal and enthusiasm. But we will seek the face of God first in prayers for direction as we will observe the 6th of March for fasting and Holy hour Eucharistic adoration.”
The Bishop told the tumultuous crowds that watched his inauguration that: “My appointment as the bishop of the Diocese of Kafanchan came while I was tending to the sheep of my father in faraway desert of the State of Arizona in the United States of America. Permit me then, to express my deepest respect and appreciation to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and his auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares, both accepted me very well and treated me like a son. I also appreciate Fr. David Sanfillipo, the Vicar for the Clergy, all the priests and friends in the Diocese of Phoenix for the fraternity. Let me acknowledge particularly Fr. Chauncey Winkler, the pastor I worked with directly for 18 months and my beloved parishioners of Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Havasu City who opened their hearts and accepted me as their own and other priests from the Diocese of Zaria. Now, I am sure the Diocese of Kafanchan will also get a share of that blessing so that we too can send priests to work in Phoenix. Special thanks and blessings to my two Latino mothers: Dr. Sue Moravec and Paula Then (Que Dios te Bendiga).”
He then told them thus: “May I conclude this speech by acknowledging my humble background from Danladi Village and my entire family. I thank you all for nurturing my faith and standing by me all these years to make me into what I am today. I appreciate my stepmother and siblings for being with us. Please pray for my late parents, Mr. Kundi Bisallah and Mrs. Hauwa Yelwa Bisallah.”
“To all of you and by the grace of God, I am here as your humble servant. Please pray for me and ask Our Lady of Guadalupe to become the Mother and Patroness of this diocese with St. Peter Claver’s, the Patron of our diocese. The Blessed Mother does not abandon her children. She leads us to Jesus Christ where we find peace, joy, and mercy. On her mantle Our Lady gives loving protection for all her faithful children.”
“Pray to God also for the Diocese of Kafanchan and all the challenges that are affecting our people. Let us pray that God provide me with the wisdom, the patience, the courage and humility in order to serve faithfully. I pray the Holy Spirit to touch your hearts to support us in any way possible to do God’s work in the vineyard.”
Like Gaius Julius Ceaser the great Roman Statesman and General who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire, Bishop Julius (Ceaser) of Kafanchan will bring functional evangelism to enable Kafanchan rise from the ashes of despair to that of monumental hopes.