SCRIPTURE READING FOR THE WEEK (#33)SUN. - Prov. 28-31 MON. - Eccl. 1-4 TUE. - Eccl. 5-8 WED. - Eccl. 9-12 THUR. - Songs 1-4 FRI. - Songs 5-8 SAT. - Wisdom 1-4
Gbagada as a whole is largely dominated by the Deeper Life Christian Ministry and Christ Apostolic Church (C.A.C) before the coming of Catholicism in Soluyi - Gbagada. In 1984 Rev. Fr. Denis Joseph Slatery came to bless the Home of Alhaji Anipole, at that time he declared a revelation saying "this land is God's land". 9 years down the line Sometime in June 1993, a letter of appeal for a Catholic Church in Gbagada was written by Mr. Cyprian Alalama to the now Archbishop Emeritus Anthony Cardinal Okogie. Though the letter (directed to be published in the Catholic Herald) was truly published, there was no response from the Archbishop and because of the June 12th 1993 General Elections and the troubles that followed thereafter, the request was not followed up.
Again in 1996, another letter by Mr. Alalama was written directly to the Archbishop to please come to the aid of the Catholic community in Gbagada, Lagos by granting an outstation for his faithfuls in Gbagada. This time around, the letter was duly replied by the Archbishop informing Mr. CY Alalama to get the names of the suppliants (i.e. those requesting for an outstation in Gbagada). But due to the fact that not many Catholics were known nor their house addresses, it was difficult to gather their names for onward submission to the Archbishop.
As time went on, several contacts were made prominent among them were the letter written to the parish priest of St. Dominic Catholic Church dated 2nd June, 1993, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of St. Denis Catholic Church Oworonshoki outstation, also an appeal was sent to St. Agnes Catholic Church Maryland through their parish priest Rev. Fr. Raphael Adebayo and their Charismatic movement even Ikeja (St. Leo's Catholic Church) through one Mr. Sebastian Anyanwu a legionary for them to come and organize a crusade in Gbagada so as to awaken the spirit of the fight to secure a place of worship. All these efforts (and even more) proved abortive as not meaningful result came from them. The quest did not stop there; the campaign was taken to St. Gabriel's Catholic Church, Ladi-lak, through Mr. Ezeji Michael a parishioner at St. Gabriel as at then. They discussed with the parish priest of St. Gabriel, Rev. Fr. Patrick Moore and he kindly came to the rescue of the suppliants and agreed to follow it up with the Archbishop.
He collected the reply to Mr. Cyprian Alalama's letter to the Archbishop and went to discuss with the Archbishop. After a thorough discussion with the Archbishop, the permission was gotten to open an outstation in Soluyi, Gbagada provided the people asking for the outstation are serious with their request and are ready to support their faith with action.
Then the big problem then arose. Where to stay, at least for the meantime to get themselves together before talking of building a house of God.
Mr. Ezeji and Mr. Cyprian Alalama were mandated by Rev. Fr. Gerald Onyejuluwa (MSP) who had taken over from Rev. Fr. Patrick Moore as the Parish Priest of St. Gabriel, to look for a temporary site for a place of worship.
Appeals were sent to some families for their premises to be used as temporary place of worship. Ironically, some prominent Catholics declined to offer their premises for this noble course that to the glory of God, the prophesy of Rev Fr. J.P Slatery came to fulfilment. God used the family of Alhaji and Mrs. Anipole of No 113, Anipole Crescent, Soluyi, a devout Muslim, to get St. Gerald Catholic Church started. After discussions with Anipole's family, they accept the request and offer their compound as a temporary place of worship.
Rev Fr. Gerald Onyejuluwa commonly called Fr. Gerry was privileged to kick- start the Soluyi outstation in 1997 in the compound of the Anipoles, in fulfilment of Rev Fr. Slattery's prophesy 9 years earlier. The husband, Ahaji Nasir Anipole was a devout Muslim, while the wife Mrs. Margret Anipole adores the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The joyful news circulated all over Soluyi and the environs like a wide fire and further enhanced by the announcement of the birth of the new outstation in the mother parish, St. Gabriel Catholic Church Ladi-Lak, Bariga. On the 21st December, 1997, to the glory of God, the first Mass at the temporary site was celebrated by Rev. Fr. Gerald Onyejuluwa assisted by one Rev Fr. Segun, under an umbrella and a table with about 20 worshippers in attendance. The parishioners joyfully worshiped under the sun and rain. The mother parish was of immense support physically, materially and spiritually in ensuring that Mass was celebrated in the new outstation. They immensely worked hard in teaching the children in the new outstation catechesis especially those preparing for first Holy Communion. One outstanding catechism teacher then was Mr Peter Amadi popularly known as (Manpee), who used to come all the way from Ladi-Lak every Saturday and Sunday to teach the children preparing for first Holy Communion and confirmation.
However, the B.C.C - Basic Christian Community (as known then) had earlier started on the 19th of December, 1997 through the tireless efforts of Mr. Oriaku and Sister Maduako and some others, for the starting of holy Mass in the new outstation.
It should be noted that the registration of parishioners in Soluyi Church started on 15th February, 1998. During the course of organizing for the first Mass at the temporary site, the parish priest Fr. Gerald, came with the parish choir from St. Gabriel to sing for the first day. It was there and then that an emergency choir was formed which later metamorphosed into an enviable choir to be reckoned with today under the able leadership of Mr. Christopher Ozurumba and Mr. Cyprian Alalama as the 1st Choirmasters of the new outstation.
Fr. Gerald worked tirelessly, traversing between Ladi-Lak and Soluyi every day to celebrate Mass in the new outstation and generally championing the growth of the church in the area.
Then the move to secure a permanent place of worship started. Several places in Soluyi and its environs were surveyed through the assistance of some Estate Agents until the present site of the church was secured at a handsome price of N2.8 million.
Due to some financial handicap, an initial N1.4 million was paid and the announcement of the payment was made on the 5th July, 1998 to the great pleasure of the worshipers. Then the permanent site clearing exercise took place on the 18th July, 1998.
It should be noted here that securing this parcel of land at Oshomo Street, Soluyi did not go smoothly without a fight as somebody came to wrestle the land with the parishioners. He went as far as making a foundation in the land which the church acquired and cleared to the point that Fr. Gerry was to be taken to police station under the prompting of the contender of the land. Parishioners led by Mrs. Ann Ode (Mummy Ode) mobilised and vowed that it won't happen. The Almighty God fought the battle for the land and won, to the glory of God.
Then construction work for the first church building in the permanent site started on 29th July, 1998 and it was roofed on August 18th, 1998 while the first Mass inside the first church hall took place on the 9th of August, 1998. That gathering of the faithful at Anipole's compound Soluyi otherwise known as members of the St. Gabriel's Catholic Church Soluyi outstation is today known and called St. Gerald's Catholic Church Soluyi. The seed had been sown, germinated and is growing at an alarming rate. The Lord is good indeed.
THE PIONEER BUILDERSThe earlier worshipers in the Soluyi outstation included: Mr Oriaku, Mr Aruya, Mr. Muoemeke, Mrs Anipole, Mr. & Mrs. Michael Ezeji, Sir & Lady Chris Atogu, Mr. APC Okafor, Barr. & Mrs. Ben Obidiegwu, Mr Richard Akujuobi, Mr Fabian Nwangwu, Late Sir Obiora Okeke, Mrs Joan Okafor, Mr. & Mrs H.N. Opara, Dr & Mrs Ekechukwu, Chief. & Mrs. Willie Obiano, (Later, the Governor of Anambra State) Col. and Mrs Anthony Ode, Mr. Titus Duru, Sir & Lady Christopher Ojeikere and a host of others.
The charisma and energy of Late Sir. Obiora Okeke in mobilising for the growth and building of the new church cannot be over emphasised. He was the pioneer 1st Vice Chairman of PPC of the new church and he worked tireless to chart the part for the new church. The united spirit of the earlier worshipers like that of the early Christians were outstanding that they were able to organise the first harvest and bazaar for the infant church on the 29th of November, 1998 under the chairmanship of Mr. APC Okafor (Bonanza)
While a number of these early birds are still around today, some have moved out of the vicinity while others are no more to witness the monumental transformation that the once make-shift shanty now turned into a gigantic edifice in form of the Rev Fathers' House and the dedicared Church Building plus civic centre.
THE COMMUNAL/FAMILY SPIRITThe early drive for membership to the new outstation was house to house among residents of Soluyi, Medina and Ifako areas of Gbagada. Moral and financial assistance coming from Muslim brothers in the area cannot be over- emphasized.
Instruments used to facilitate worship were made possible by donations in cash and in kind by these few faithful. It is worthy to note that the first choir instruments were paid for by Mrs. Christy Phillips, while the choir robes were sponsored by Sir Chris Ojiekere.
SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENTSome pious societies which were existing in the mother parish at St. Gabriel, Ladi-Lak, pitched their tents with the first Mass at Anipole's compound. The early groups were Legion of Mary, CWO, Sacred Heart and St. Michael's society and the church grew in number and structures of different shapes and sizes began to emerge through sustained zeal and efforts of the pioneer priest and parishioners.
DERIVING THE NAMEThe foundation of the present Rev Father's House was laid in 2005 by Rev Fr. Gerald Onyejuluwa. The church was named after St. Gerald of Aurillac, in honour of the founding priest, Rev Fr. Gerald Onyejuluwa by Anthony Cardinal Okogie, the then Catholic Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos. The name of the parish was later changed to St. Gerald of Majella before the dedication of the church in February, 2017.
GROWING THE OUT-STATIONThen came Rev. Fr. Anthony Afangide (MSP), who took over from Fr. Gerry to complete the building and furnishing of the Rev Fathers' house and ensured the nurturing and growth of liturgical and pious societies in the church.
Today, from the very humble beginning, the parish has grown to boast of five (5) Lay Organisations, four (4) Liturgy Ministries and seventeen (17) Pious Societies functioning in the church with over Two Thousand (2000) registered members.
THE REV. FATHERS' HOUSEThe Rev Fathers' house was commissioned in 2007 along with the Marian Grotto which has turned St. Gerald into a Jerusalem of some sort as priests on visit to Lagos and those on vacation love to stay in St. Gerald, coupled with the acclaimed hospitality of the people to the extent that a visiting priest nick-named the parishioners "Happy Geraldians".
The parish has grown to the point that it boasts of two (2) priests in residence and it prides itself among the parishes in the Archdiocese of Lagos.
THE PERMANENT CHURCH BUILDINGThe construction of the permanent church building was at the piling stage when all of a sudden Rev. Fr. Sabastian Ngene was transferred out of the parish. The transfer was significant because the construction of the permanent church building just began and the parishioners were already bonding with the priest, who had stayed barely two years and ready for the task ahead.Rev. Fr. Augustine Okhuelegbe was brought to replace Fr. Ngene and interestingly Fr. Augustine is a trained Civil Engineer and a unique priest. He was able to perfectly continue the project and assuring the congregation that when one "King" leaves, he definitely gets replaced by another "King". Fr. Augustine displayed a matchless charisma. He always ensure that the outgone priest attend our parish events to assuage the minds of some parishioners that were affected by the sudden transfer.
As is the mark of every divine providence, when the effect of the sudden transfer waned, parishioners began to see the divine link and the dynamics in priest transfers. The expertise of Fr. Augustine in building construction as a Civil Engineer and having built the permanent church building of the parish he was coming from, met the generosity of the parishioners in St. Gerald to produce a magnificent edifice that prides itself amongst the best churches in Lagos Archdiocese.
Rev. Fr. Augustine Okhuelegbe as a trained engineer worked tirelessly to ensure the completion of the church building which culminated in the worshiping in it for the first time on the 10th of July, 2016. The event which was attended by a parishioner that had become the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, who remains one outstanding generous donor the parish will always boasts of from its inception.
The prudence and classy taste of Fr. Augustine guaranteed the solid, aesthetic and exquisite finishing of the church on schedule to usher in the glorious dedication of the magnificent edifice to the glory of God on the 11th of February, 2017. The events of the dedication will live in the memory of the parishioners for years to come.
In addition to the physical structural developments, the church has moved from an outstation to a quasi-parish and finally to the glory of God to a full-fledged parish. On the spiritual angle, all the organisations, pious societies, prayer groups and liturgical ministries in the church have witnessed various degrees of development and growth spiritually, numerically and financially supporting the church immensely in the building process.
Yet again, the Catholic Church demonstrated her wisdom and dynamism in priest postings when on the 26th of May, 2017, a charismatic and highly spirit-filled priest in the person of Rev. Fr. John Paul Ale, was posted to the parish as the new Parish Priest, to build the second aspect of the church - The people Ably assisted by our amiable and friendly Associate Priest - Rev. Fr. Martin Onyebuchi, within a week of Fr. John Paul's arrival, the yearning spirits of the parishioners found energetic priest who rolls out spirit impacting programmes to meet their spiritual needs (Just what we need NOW!). The priest has electrified the minds of the people after their creator in adoration and praise. The priests continue to pastor this group of happy, dynamic and spirit-filled people - the Geraldian Family.
Presently, under the new dispensation, we are waxing stronger with one heart and one spirit and the Parish has continued to record sustainable developments in many fronts and to the glory of God.
CHURCH ORGANSThe Parish Pastoral Council, the Laity Council, the Parish Finance Council are the three major organs of the church assisting the Parish Priest administer the Parish.
CONCLUSIONA lot of people have contributed to the growth of the church financially, materially, physically, spiritually and morally. Rev Fr. Gerald Onyejuluwa did awesome work to make sure we supersede satellite to quasi parish; He sometimes came with cab or bike to celebrate mass with us. At that time, we only had 8:30am mass on Sunday and also evening masses.
This brief history of the Catholic Church in Soluyi will not be complete without mentioning some people who contributed immensely to the initial take - off of the church at Anipole's compound.
The tireless efforts of our able and dynamic parish priest Rev. Fr. Gerald Onyejuluwa MSP, with people like Mr. Oriaku, Mr. Linus Ugorji, Mrs. Maduako, and Dr. Mrs. Ndukwu, the entire Michael Ezeji's family, Bro Emeka Abugo, Bro Chike Osuagwu, Barr. Ben Obidiegwu, Prince Norbert Anyamele (Nobito), Mr. & Mrs A. Nwadimuya, The Legionaries in Soluyi, Mr.& Mrs. Amukamara, Mr. & Mrs. Fabian Nwangwu, Mr. & Mrs. Cletus Odeh, Sir & Lady Tony Timi, Catholic Youths from St. Gabriel, Mrs. Arinze, Mr. & Mrs A.P.C Okafor, Mr. & Mrs. Titus Duru, Mr. & Mrs. Alphonsus Amaechi, Sis. Christy Phillips and a host of others too numerous to mention here who fought like wounded lion to realize this dream.
It is worthy to note that the first choir instruments were paid for by Mrs. Christy Phillips, while the choir robes were sponsored by Sir Chris Ojiekere.