BY CHARLES KUMOLU
WITHIN one of the highbrow estates between Amuwo Odofin and Okota is a large expanse of land with just one modest structure with the inscription “Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Catholic Church.” Apart from the front of the building, every other part of the expansive compound is swampy, making one to wonder how parishioners cope in such an environment.
However, this semi virgin state of the compound which is a sharp contrast with other imposing residential structures in the upscale neighborhood would soon become history. To achieve that, plans have been concluded for a fund-raising to ensure that all the trappings befitting a parish in the Catholic Church are in place.
Magnificent house of God
Leading this ambitious project which seeks to turn a nine-feet swamp into magnificent house of God is the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr Joseph Monye of the Arch Diocese of Lagos. Monye, who actually started the narrative of Seat of Wisdom Parish in an encounter with Vanguard, provided an insight into the amazing story of the swamp-turned place of worship and the determination to make it a befitting place.
‘’This area is below the sea and road level. What it means is that any flood that comes from the road comes into our compound. If you look at it, this is supposed to be a church where people come to worship God but it does not look like one whereas this environment is filled with imposing residential buildings,’’ he stated.
Expatiating further, Monye said: ‘’For one to enter inside the church, one had to swim. It had been an Out Station all the while but it has now been raised to a quasi parish. We need to put all the structures in place so that all activities that go on in a parish will start taking place. We need a befitting place of worship for God and a rectory for priests so that the parish priest will start living inside the premises.’’ To achieve all that, the church, he said plans to hold a N500 million fund-raising event on March 5, 2016.
‘’The fund-raising is meant for church development, we are not tying it round any particular project. If what we get will be enough to develop the whole place, we will do so immediately. But our primary task now is the sand filling of the church and the building of the priest’s residence. Then simultaneously we will be working on the church building,’’ he noted.
Providing details of the project, Monye said: ‘’Sincerely, I visited some parishes where I asked the priests how much was spent on building their churches. For instance in FESTAC they are building something simple and beautiful, they are spending about N500 million. They are building on a non swamp unlike ours that is a swamp. That is to tell you that ours will attract more funding. If we want to build something like the one in FESTAC we will be spending more than N500 million. That is just the church building alone without the priest’s house.
Assisting those in need
‘’I am afraid to call a price but I know that N500 million is not enough for us to develop the church compound. For this event, the figure we are looking at is N500 million. We want to see where it can take us to. With that amount, we can be able to sand fill, secure the compound and put up the rectory. The Catholic Church is known for its integrity, the church looks for ways to assist those in need. Apart from the charity that the church does, it builds schools and hospitals for host communities. Those are projects that will come later. I may not be here because of the routine transfer in the church but another priest will do it.’’
Continuing, he said: ‘’We have been moving around trying to invite people to the fund-raising event. We have a lot of philanthropists who are willing to assist. We will appreciate every donation they may assist us with to ensure that we build for God. People assume that we have it all here because it is inhabited by those seen as comfortable. Irrespective of that, we hope to get support from those outside.’’ The priest, who is confident of meeting up with set targets, however told Vanguard that his parishioners have been supportive of the endeavour.
He said: ‘’I will say that they have been positive since I came here. When I came in 2014 the morale of the people was low because this place had been in existence but the development was slow. Since I came there has been great improvement and the people have been supportive because if not for them the developments here would not have been possible. I know that they are behind me and are willing to see that this church becomes what it is suppose to be.’’
Like the priest, Vice Chairman of Finance Committee, Mr. Bobby Atogbe is optimistic about the prospects of having a successful fund raising irrespective of the economic crisis in Nigeria. ‘’It has been challenging. The country is now in recession and the people we expect to support get their money from this same economy and the Federal Government’s policies have not really favoured us,’’ he stated, adding thus:’’ a lot of us here are traders, so any economic policy affects us.’’
In addition, Atogbe said: ‘’Also people are reluctant to release money because they don’t know the government’s next step. All these are challenges but we are confident that we will pull through. The response has been slow, but we are hopeful. However, we are getting encouraging positive response. My committee was set up last year and we are doing our best.’’