Pope and late Vivian Ogu
By Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu
It was an emotion-laden ceremony when the Catholic Church recently ended its 2019 National Mission Congress in Benin City with a post-humous honour for a 14-year old Vivian Ogu.
The church decided to honour the young lad who 10 years ago was killed by armed robbers who invaded their residence and took her to a nearby bush where she was killed and dumped because she resisted attempts by the robbers to rape her.
The place where her body was dumped became a pilgrim site for Catholic faithful as an annual event was instituted to mark the heroic feat of the young virgin.
She was said to have always taken St. Maria Goretti, as her role model and as leader of a young prayer group, extolled the virtues of Maria Goretti in a sermon in the morning of the day she was killed. She was said to have advised members of the group to insist on purity and sanctity of the human body and virginity which must be preserved until marriage.
Revered as a model of mercy, St. Maria Goretti, an 11-year-old Italian girl stabbed to death while resisting a sexual assault in 1902, is believed to have forgiven her killer and appeared to him later in prison as an apparition, inspiring his conversion.
The honour for young Vivian Ogu was part of activities to mark the closing ceremonies of the church, had in attendance, former president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi.
Others included the international president of Pontifical Mission Societies, Archbishop Giampeto Dal Toso, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, who is also the archbishop of Benin, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, Archbishop Emeritus, Patrick Ekpu and other bishops across the country. Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and his deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu also graced the occasion.
Vivian Ogu was selected among the 25 persons to be remembered and honoured that day by the Pope out of entries from all over the world. The other Nigerian packed by the papacy to be so remembered was Father Michael Tansi.
The process of her canonization was boosted on the closing ceremony of the congress when the Pope’s representative, Archbishop Giampeto Dal Toso presided over the ceremony at the pilgrimage site, the Vivian Ogu Missionary Animation Centre in Benin City, named after the late 14-year old virgin.
The centre is being developed at the site the teenager was shot dead after she violently resisted being raped by the robbers.
The bush where her body was dumped which has become a pilgrimage site has been preserved and a grotto built with her image engraved in it.
According to the Director, Vivian Ogu Movement, Rev. Fr. Stephen Dumbiri; “this missionary heroism of Vivian Ogu which is rare in a girl of her age and her courage to embrace martyrdom in order to preserve her purity like St. Maria Gorreti serves as a great motivation to Christians and non-Christians alike.
“The life of Vivian Ogu stands out as a concrete example for the Church in Nigeria, especially in ministering to the youths in our contemporary society to focus on objective moral standards such as purity, sincerity, sacrifice, diligence, respect and love, rather than being allowed to be swept away by the tide of modernism in our contemporary society that places emphases on subjective hedonistic standards,” he stated.
Gov. Obaseki said the late Vivian led an exemplary holy life which has become an enduring legacy for the present and future generations.
“Believe me, this is the most befitting honour in preserving the memory of untimely and painful death of a heroine who strongly affirmed her belief in the teaching and doctrine of her Christian faith,” Obaseki said.
For Onaiyekan, God had a message which He wanted to pass across to the world through her death, stressing that there had been series of similar deaths in the country yet there is no much news about them but Vivian’s case has been exceptional.
“You must see the hand of God in this. How many times have we been hearing that armed robbers killed people? This is not the first time armed robbers are killing people but this particular case is special.
“It must be because God wants to use her to tell a story that we are so anxious to try to save our lives. In that, like the governor said, in an effort to save our lives, we give in to everything thinking that we are saving our lives whereas Jesus said those who want to save their lives will lose it and those who lose their lives for his sake will gain it.
“The question I ask as we sit down now today is: is Vivian dead?” he asked
On his part, Akubeze said her death was a clarion call for Christians to practice their faith.
“She preached purity of life and she died protecting that and it is a sign for all young people to practice their faith. Vivian Ogun practiced her faith till the end and that is why the church is even promoting her and people like her so that other young people and adults will emulate them and do what they should do,” Akubeze said.
On the part of the Pope, represented by Archbishop Dal Toso, late Vivian was an example to all Christians not only in Nigeria but all over the world. “She showed us how we can live our faith without minding the consequences.
“The Pope said he was very happy that we have here in Nigeria this good example of a young woman who gave her life for her fidelity of her faith,” he noted.
Vivian Uchechi Ogu was born at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) on April 1, 1995 to Mr. and Mrs. Peter Ogu who hail from Aboh Mbaise of Imo State and she was the second in a family of four children.
Vivian Ogu was a parishioner of St. Paul Catholic Church, Airport Road, Benin City where she was baptized on July 1, 1995 and received her first Holy Communion on March 26, 2005.
She was said to be in the preparatory class for the sacrament of confirmation, which was slated for 2010 at the time of her death at the age of 14 in November 2009.
In academics, Vivian was said to be excellent as she consistently maintained the top position in her class from her primary school till her death in the secondary school as an SS II student.
Dumbiri said: “In the morning of the very day on which Vivian Ogu died, she gave this same preaching about defending our purity and virginity like St. Maria Goretti to fellow children, right after the children mass in St. Paul Catholic Church on Sunday, November 15, 2009.
“At about 9.00 p.m., that day, three armed men came to their house and after the robbery, abducted Vivian and her sister, Grace and took them to the bush.
“The armed men attempted to rape Vivian, but she vehemently refused and insisted that she would prefer they kill her instead. With the attention of the armed men on Vivian, Grace had the opportunity to escape and within seconds of her escape, Grace could hear the gun shot that killed Vivian,” he narrated.
Hearing of Vivian’s heroic death, the Edo State Government gave the land on which she was killed to the Archdiocese of Benin to immortalise her and two years later, the Ikpoba Okha Local Government Council named the street after her.
In 2014, Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze inaugurated the Vivian Ogu Movement to pursue the immortalization of Vivian Ogu by spreading the story of Vivian Ogu, encouraging people to seek the intercession of Vivian Ogu especially through the prayer approved for this purpose by Archbishop Augustine Akubeze in 2014.
“In calling for the extra-ordinary missionary month of October, 2019, Pope Francis outlined for dimensions to its celebration, one of which is the celebration of the witnesses of selected missionary saints and martyrs (canonized or not).
“Consequently, the Holy See requested for proposals of the life on heroic individuals to be used for this purpose. The Catholic Archdiocese of Benin City presented the life of Vivian Ogu to the Holy See in response to this request.
Lawyers in Imo boycott court sittings, protest alleged assassination of magistrate(Opens in a new browser tab)
“From the many proposals sent from all over the world, 25 saints and saint figures were chosen, out of that figure, we have two from Nigeria: Blessed Iwene Tansi and Vivian Ogu.
“The implication of this selection by the Holy See is that together with the other saints and saint figures, Vivian Ogu is being celebrated all over the world in this extra ordinary month of October, 2019,” he maintained.