Eulogy to my mentor and spiritual Father, Rev. Fr. Elias Anyora
by Fr. Justin Ekene Nwogueze
(Praia, Cape Verde)
My father, my mentor, my friend. You call me, "my son" and I call you, "my father". Such was our relationship.
I felt your passing away on the 15th of August being the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and I became so afraid. I didn't know it was a sign of your goodbye.
Yes, you wouldn't have gone without telling me goodbye because you love me so much. And I love you so much.
Who doesn't know me in Awka Diocese and beyond as Ekene bee (of) Fada Anyora or Ekene nwa (son of) Fada Anyora?
I spent most of my adolescent and adult life with you before I left Nigeria for my Mission to the Island of Cape Verde. In St. John's Ezinifite, Aguata, I was there with you for about five years.
Then, I entered the Seminary. Your joy knew no bounds. I was always with you during my holidays. In St. Paul's Achalla Awka, in St Mary's Ogbu, at the Priests' Retirement Home, annex of St. Thomas Aquinas, Awka, I was always with you.
Yes, you were proud of me anywhere, anytime and to everyone you know.
You prayed to see my ordination; God granted it and you danced and jumped in ecstasy. We all knew the cause of your unbounded joy; that 38 years after your own ordination, someone else from your village (Uffa) is now following you. And the someone else is I; father's son has become a father.
You told me after my ordination, "Fr. Ekene, I am now handing over the baton to you." Now I feel the weight of it. It's heavy.
We shared a lot of stories. You told me a lot about your life growing up. You taught me a lot about the spiritual and interior life. I learned a lot under your tutelage. I had a lot of experiences with you.
Your legacies are indelible. I can write volumes about your life and I will. Your sacrifices, your secrete sufferings, your silent pains, I knew and I saw.
Even though you may not tell others, you never hid anything from me. I was like your little angel. My presence always lights up your mood and yours gives me internal bliss. Our conversations take hours even into the middle of the night without getting bored. We talk so much about God, about life in general.
Teacher per excellence but also a student per excellence! A very simple man with remarkable humility. Your obedience to authorities is equal to none I have known.
I remember disagreeing with you on this on a certain occasion and you said, "If it is not against faith and morals, obedience to constituted authority is the greatest virtue of a priest".
Lover of the Eucharist and great devotee to Eucharistic adoration. I can still hear your voice calling me at midnight, "Ekene, set things for Mass for me in the Chapel."
Your love for Mass is unquestionable. We, in the rectory, used to joke about it amongst ourselves that we can deny you of food for a month but not the Holy Mass for a day.
I was there when we went for sick-call to a lady at Enuama, Ezinifite and you decided to celebrate Mass. The lady was unconscious throughout the Mass until when you raised the consecrated Host and said: "Behold the Lamb of God". At that instant, she regained consciousness and was healed. Everyone was amazed and praised God.
I know of a Holy man. You are the one. Your practice of holiness is not seasonal. It's constant. Your zeal for the Lord is constant. Your prayer life is constant.
I can still hear the bells for morning and evening prayers for all of us living in Fathers' house. I can still see you kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament for hours even in the middle of the night.
Old age was not a barrier for you. Even at old age, young priests learn how to be zealous and consistent from you. Yes, they say it among themselves; "Go to Fr. Anyora and learn zeal for the Lord."
I have a lot of testimonies to tell about your charitable heart. You keep nothing for yourself and give all to the needy. A man of compassion; you can't stand the pain of the indigent without finding a way to reduce it.
Even the last in your store can be emptied for the poor. You are both open-minded and open-handed.
Heaven knows I am telling the truth. All through your life as a priest, you lived selflessly. Lots of testimonies will flow soon.
A man of wisdom and intelligence. A lover of the gospel. Your insight into the gospel is awesome. You were dubbed Ichie Ozioma (Chief of the Gospel).
You never shy away from the truth as you always say Eziokwu bu ndu (Truth is life). A lover of peace. I am still disposed to be your secretary to map out strategies for peace in Uffa and Aguluzigbo. The last one I wrote as you dictated is still in my computer. I still have in mind our project for the Lord. You proposed it. I will execute it in your honor. I will meet Fr. Dr. Ebebe Cosmas as you told me to do.
When I saw so many missed calls on the early hours of the 16th of August, 2020, I didn't suspect the dimming of the light.
I was on the rush for Mass. And suddenly Kate called from the US. Immediately I returned and started crying. A part of me shrank even before she broke the news of your demise. I was speechless! My strength failed me immediately! I cried. I tried to remember your face. I tried to recall all the memories of the past. Everything seemed like falling apart. It was as if the sun was setting at sunrise.
I lost appetite. It was a sad day for me after a beautiful Sunday Mass I celebrated. I yearned for consolation. I felt like creating wings to fly to Nigeria and be at your bedside. The feeling was nostalgic. Through the night, sleep failed me, thinking about you.
I had to pray to you to console me. You answered me from heaven. I got the sign. I am filled with relief and courage.
The Lord took you on the day of the Lord. He makes no mistakes. You are a special of the Lord. You were a living saint on earth. And now, you have gone to join the triumphant saints in heaven. I have not doubt at all within me about this.
I received your blessing some moments before your birth into eternal life. I also received your blessing now that you are in heaven. I am no longer shedding tears because you taught how to laugh in tears. I am no longer weak because you taught how to be strong in weakness. You taught how to commend everything to God in prayer. Now, all have been transformed into a hymn of love. You are always young in the heart and you will never grow old in my heart.
Adieu my father
Adieu my mentor
Adieu my friend
Adieu Holy Priest of God.