On Wednesday 27 October 2021, the late Rev. Fr. Joseph Mary Obika, CMF was laid to rest at the Claretian Cemetery at Maryland Nekede Owerri, Imo State. At the Requiem Mass presided over by the Provincial Superior of the Claretian Missionaries East Nigeria Province Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Nwobi, CMF, over fifty priests, twenty consecrated persons of different Congregations, five hundred lay faithful including his biological family were present.

In his homily Rev. Fr. Ethelbert Amaku, CMF extolled the virtues of the late Fr Obika. He said, “In his quest for heaven, Fr Obika was undaunted. He was focused and never shifted from the goal. Like St Paul, he fought gallantly the fight of faith. His consistency in life came from an unshakeable and stubborn faith in God. Following the injunction of Matthew chapter 25, he practiced Christian charity which is a major testimony of his life. He took care of prisoners, the downtrodden, healed the sick and carried out his priestly with utter dedication”

Born in Aba, Abia State on the Solemnity of St. Joseph Husband of Mary, 19th March, 1949, his devout parents, Joseph and Justina Obika (both of blessed memory) natives of Nnobi, Anambra State named their son Joseph Mary Nnamdi. Young Joseph Mary at a tender cultivated a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother through the enrolment in the Block Rosary Crusade which had its beginnings in Aba. He later joined the Legion of Mary and also became an enthroned member of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary society and the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association. These sodalities were to be the furnace in which the spirituality and future ministry of Fr Obika would be forged. Hence, he began to nurture the desire for the priesthood.

Fr Obika had his early primary education at Christ the King School (1957-1959) and Our Lady of Lourdes School (1960-1964) where he obtained his First School Leaving Certificate. He began his secondary education at Ascension High School Port Harcourt, Rivers State (1965-1967) and completed it at Our Lady Secondary School Nnobi (1970-1971).

Through his Fr Anthony Ibeawuchi, cmf who was then a Claretian seminarian, he came in contact with the Claretian Missionaries. On 17th November 1975 he was admitted into the Congregation as a postulant. After his novitiate experience, he made his first religious profession on 8th January 1977 at Holy Trinity Parish, Orlu. With this initiation as a member of the Claretian Congregation, he was sent to Bigard Memorial Seminary Ikot-Ekpene for his philosophical studies (1977-1981). He then proceeded to Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Theology from the Pontifical Urban University Rome (1982-1986).

As a student theologian, he was received into the ministry of the lectorate on 19th December 1982. He made his perpetual profession on 9th September 1984, and thus was elevated to the ministry of the acolytate on 23rd December 1984. He was ordained a deacon on 14th December 1985. His childhood dream of becoming a Catholic priest was fulfilled when he was ordained on 2nd November 1986 at his home parish, Madonna Catholic Parish Nnobi, by Most Rev Anthony Ilonu. Thus, he became the first indigenous priest of Madonna Parish, Nnobi.

Fr Joe Obika began his priestly ministry consumed with the zeal for holiness. With zeal and zest couched in humility, he declared: “I will not rest until I become a saint”. This singular desire would shape his priestly ministry. He started his first missionary work at St Paul Catholic Parish, Utonkon Benue State as an assistant parish priest (1986-1989). As young priest besieged by multifarious crises and human predicament of the people, he began to catechize them and lead them in prayers by celebrating the Holy Mass, recitation of the Rosary, Adoration of the Holy Eucharist, and other devotional prayers.  These weekly prayers held every Tuesday birthed the Catholic Prayer Service of Jesus Mary and Joseph. From 1990-1994 he served as the assistant parish priest of St. Patrick Catholic Parish Nekede and the local superior of the community. In 1990, the then bishop of Owerri Diocese, Most Rev. Mark Unegbu appointed him the Chaplain to the sick in Owerri metropolis consisting of Assumpta and St Paul parishes. This service, he was to render to the Universal Church, was itinerant in nature through the visitation of the sick in hospitals and private homes. During his seminary days, he had developed a flair for the field of medicine. He made private notes on taking care of the sick.  The exercise books which he kept for life bear testimony of a heart burning out for love of others. Thus, for many, Fr Obika became a sanctuary for the sick, the barren, the unemployed and downtrodden in the society.

In 1995, he was assigned as the spiritual director of the Claretian seminarians at the Claret House of Theology Enugu. As a missionary in the style of Anthony Claret, he worked in Oshogbo Diocese from 1996-1999. He returned to Claret House of Theology Attakwu where he served as the bursar of the community. (2000-2002). He became the director of the Claretian Renewal Centre, Maryland Nekede in 2003. He served in this capacity till 2004 when he was appointed as the assistant Cathedral Administrator of the Our Lady of the Waters Cathedral Bomadi Vicariate. He was later assigned the parish priest of St. Patrick Catholic Church Yenegoa, Bayelsa State (2006-2007). Fr JMJ as fondly called, worked in Ghana as a missionary from 2007-2017. During this decade of missionary work in Ghana, he engaged in parochial work, spiritual direction, and retreat preaching. Due to his love for souls, he attempted founding a religious congregation for the propagation of the faith. The exigencies of delving into such a venture without proper discernment and adequate preparations hampered its sustenance in the long run. He was also the Parish Priest of Our Lady of Queen of Peace, Buipe, Damongo Diocese Ghana (2007-2012). He returned to Nigeria in 2017 and was assigned to the Afara/Mgbirichi/Obinze Community to work in St Dominic Parish Afara. In 2020 he was assigned to the Ibele/Orlu Community.

Fr Joseph Mary Obika, died on 9 October 2021 at the Federal Medical Centre Owerri, Imo State after a brief illness. May his soul rest in peace. Amen.