By Ononye VC
Rev Fr Tansi Ibisi is an indigenous priest of Onitsha who was ordained priest in May 2017 at St Patrick Cathedral,New York,USA.
He returned to a grand reception organised by the St Mary’s Catholic Church,Onitsha Inland Town on Sunday,July 16,2023.
The Onitsha indigenous Catholic community had another joyous moment after it had received two newly ordained priests,Rev Frs Peter Areh and Henry Osakwe on Sunday,July 9 2023 at St Mary’s Catholic Church,Onitsha Inland Town.
It was really a true return of a native to the fold for Rev Fr Tansi Ibisi as the Catholic community and the indigenous community rolled out the drums to welcome him.
Fr Ibisi did not grow up in Onitsha and so he is more or less a stranger to his hometown Onitsha.He was born in Liverpool,England on March 4th,1974.
He attended schools in Lagos,FGGC Minna and furthered his education in London,England where he studied Computer Science at the University of Greenwich,London.
In September 2007,he joined the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in New York,United States of America and made his first profession in March 2009.He made his final profession in July 2012.After various studies,he began studying for priesthood at St Joseph Seminary in Yonkers,New York,USA in August 2013 afterwhich he was ordained priest in May 2017.
A priest of the Archdiocese of Onitsha and also an indigene of Onitsha,Rev Fr Ogbogu,had met fr Ibisi overseas and persuaded him to return and unite with his people and after much pressure,his mother Mrs Anene Ibisi bought the idea and necessary arrangements were made with relevant church authorities to release him.
The excitement on the faces of Fr Ibisi,his mother and other relatives was imesurable.This was even as his mother was tip-toing and monitoring the movement of his beloved son.
Fr Ibisi’s mother told me that from what she saw,the negative impression given in diaspora about Nigeria was different from what she saw on ground and that Onitsha was relatively peaceful and the people happy and enjoying themselves.
She expressed gratitude to the Archbishop of Onitsha,most Reverend Valerian Okeke for permitting the “beautiful and fantastic reception” and also to the parish priest of St Mary’s Catholic Church Very Rev Fr John bosco Okafor for organising the event.She also thanked the traditional ruler of Onitsha,His Majesty Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe and the entire Onitsha Catholic community particularly the indigenous community for their kindness and support.
Earlier in a thanksgiving mass which Fr Ibisi presided over as the Chief Celebrant,the homilist Very Rev Fr Dr Martin Onukwuba ex-rayed the history of priesthood and vocations in Onitsha and concluded that Onitsha community is a great land that is fertile for vocations and business.Onukwuba traced the history of the coming of early European missionaries who before they died,willed that their remains be buried in Onitsha as an indelible memorial of their missionary work.
On other endeavours,Onukwuba pointed out that Onitsha is a seat of intellectuals having produced renowned academics like former President of Nigeria,Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Bishop John-Cross Anyogu, Mathematics wizard Professor Chike Obi,Computer wizard Dr Emeagwali among many others.
In his contribution,Rev Fr Dr Austin Oburota urged Onitsha indigenes to support erection of the new Shanahan University Onitsha by contributing and naming some of the faculties after prominent indigenes of Onitsha.
Also in a brief remark,fr John bosco Okafor corroborated fr Onukwuba’s remarks about the greatness of Onitsha and pointed out that as one who was born and bred in Onitsha and ordained priest in Onitsha,he was part of the greatness of Onitsha.
At the reception hall at St Mary’s,fr Ibisi was presented with gifts by the parishioners.He danced together with other priests to the beat of an Onitsha cultural troupe who entertained the guests.
At his home village,Umudei,the natives organised a reception where he was welcomed into the warm embrace of his relatives.
The relatives and other natives knelt in excitement for the blessing of the new priest.
He was accompanied home from St Mary’s by fellow priests namely Rev Frs Ogbogu,Peter Areh and Henry Osakwe.
“I am happy to come home.With what I have seen,my visit is worth it and I appreciate it so much.Many blessings to all those who organised and made it a success”,fr Ibisi said.
It was indeed,a return of the native.