The theological virtue of charity is the supernatural virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves as part of our love for God, the holy Bible also says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). The virtue of charity gives one the capacity to receive the power of Jesus’ love and self-giving. As the scripture tells us, since God is love, anyone who dwells in love, dwells in God. (1 John 4:16). Whenever we express the virtue of charity we become closer to God and the dignity of man which was lost through the disobedience of man and expulsion from the presence of God is restored.
The Life of Late Vivian Ogu can be described as an expression of this virtue of charity. Just as Mary upheld the dignity of women by remaining sinless and in her virginity gave birth to the God so Vivian sustained that dignity of the girl-child and womanhood through her preaching, her love for God, her love for the poor and the defense of her virginity even onto death.
Hence, the striking heroism in the story of Vivian is in the remarkable way, in which she expressed her Christian faith, having extraordinary positive influence on the lives of others from the tender age of nine and the courage with which she put into practice what she had been preaching when the opportunity came at the age of fourteen, opting to be killed rather than being sexually defiled.
The spiritual journey of Vivian had received new energy with the efforts of the Charismatic Catholic Renewal in whose activities she participated with her parents. As she grew older, she took part in the Bible study courses of the “Joy Group.” She lived out her faith among her friends by exchanging advice and experiences.
She was a steward in her class and played prominent role in the yearly Teen Camp meetings which began in 2007. Vivian’s parish, St. Paul Catholic, Airport Road, Benin City, encouraged the participation of children and young people in the Sunday Eucharist by making provision for a special session for them on Sundays.
After Mass, the children received further teachings from the parish catechists while waiting for their parents to close from the main church where the adults had their holy mass. It was here that Vivian, at the age of nine years, began to publicly demonstrate her zeal and courage in speaking to other children on the dignity of purity and virginity.
Vivian who joined the Sunday School Community as it was known then and later the choir, was quite young but committed. She took part in all special events in the Church such as the yearly Children Day Celebration, the Annual Children Mission Day and the Christmas Carol Service as well as the end of year thanksgiving where the children were given the responsibility of organizing liturgical activities for the day. She took part in almost all the activities in the parish community as much as her age then would allow.
For liturgical celebrations, she would always take either the reading or prayer of the faithful. After joining the children’s choir in the parish her family started attending in 2005, Vivian later emerged as the choir mistress of the children choir and the president of the Holy Childhood Association.
Even in her school, Vivian was appoint as the assistant prayer leader because of the zeal for the Lord identified in her.
During her tenure, she worked tirelessly to make the parish’s HCA chapter second to none in the archdiocese in terms of carrying out works and prayers.
Amongst the projects that she coordinated there was the mobilization of funds to pay the hospital bills of children at central hospital, Benin City and to meet the financial needs of children at the orphanages during the celebration of Children’s Day in 2008.
Vivian loved reading the Holy Scriptures and asking for explanations from her priests and teachers concerning the teachings of the Church. Moved by her love for the Word of God, she decided to commit herself to writing her understanding of the Gospels.
She had arrived at chapter sixteen of the Gospel of St. Matthew by the time she was killed.
Through the archdiocesan training courses organized for children by the HCA, Vivian became conversant with the story of Saint Maria Goretti and continually encouraged her friends to follow the example of that great saint in preserving their purity and virginity even unto death. With her heroic death, Vivian offered a concrete example of this teaching at the age of 14 years.
On Sunday, the 15th of November, 2009, while she was at home in the evening with her parents, armed robbers came and robbed her family and then took Vivian and her sister to a bush where the armed men attempted to rape her but when she vigorously refused, they shot and killed her.
Now the virtuous life and heroic sacrifice of Vivian is being celebrated both in the church and the society at large. Since 2010, the faithful of the Archdiocese of Benin City gather every year for an annual memorial of Vivian Ogu around November 15 at the place she was killed now knowns as Vivian Ogu Missionary Animation Centre (VOMAC).
On March 29, 2014, the Archbishop of Benin City, Most Rev. Augustine Obiora Akubeze, inaugurated the Vivian Ogu Movement, with the task of making known the story of her exemplary life, preserving and developing the land where she was killed, collecting testimonies of people about her virtues and about potential miracles, for the promotion of the cause for her possible beatification.
On the third Saturday of every month children and teenagers from the Catholic Archdiocese of Benin City take turns to visit the Vivian Ogu Missionary Animation Centre to be animated to follow the footsteps of Vivian Ogu.
In 2019 Vivian was recognized by the Holy See as a model of Christian heroism. Consequently, Pope Francis presented the story of Vivian to all dioceses of the world that she may be celebrated and emulated. The national celebration of the extraordinary missionary month of October, 2019 was celebrated at the Vivian Ogu Missionary Animation Centre where all the bishops of Nigeria were in attendance and The Holy Father, Pope Francis represented by the president of the Pontifical Mission Society, Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso.
On the 17th of September 2019, the Edo State government launched the Vivian Ogu Sexual Assault Referral Centre which will provide support services for survivals of sexual assault in Edo State.
Inspite of the frightening reality in todays world where the dignity of women seems to be eroding by the day, one can still find hope in the examples of people like Vivian that the dignity of womanhood can be restored and preserved if families teach their daughters from tender age to be committed to a life of purity and holiness.
Ruben Mario Brodrick is a Social Communicator, Publicist, Writer and Journalist; he is the Production Editor of Veritas Newspaper and Manager of Veritas Communications of the Archdiocese of Benin City, Edo State.