Monsignor Joseph P Omesa delivered the homily on the occasion of the 80th Birthday celebration for Father Richard Wall by the Catholic diocese of Uromi, Nigeria at St Anthony’s Cathedral, Uromi on 3 April 2013.
Happy Easter, my brothers and sisters in Christ.
First of all, I wish to thank the Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Uromi, Very Rev. Father John Akhidue and the Administrator of this Cathedral, Very Rev. Father Peter Egbe, for the kind invitation to be with you and say a few words to mark the 80th birthday of Very Rev. Father Richard Augustine Wall, SMA. Still in the mood of the Easter season, today’s readings tell us in one case of the man (at the Beautiful Gate) who struggled to be set free to be like others. He was as enthusiastic as a little baby who wants to lift himself up to hold the bars of the cot and rattle them as if to demand release into the wider world. This man was put down beside the temple to ask for alms. His plea for help is answered, in a way he could never have expected; healed in the name of Jesus, the Nazarene, he is given the power to walk and he went into the temple jumping with joy. In the second case, two disciples, (on the road to Emmaus) walking down the road in sorrow, are transformed through their meeting the Risen Christ. Their hearts burn with enthusiasm for life again, and their returning steps to Jerusalem are much quicker than those of the outward journey.
The Lord who has caused these transformations is a Lord who had to suffer, and so enter into his glory. The joys of life do not come without some sorrows, and for many people it is the sorrows that seem to ultimately bring triumph. The early missionaries accepted these sorrows with joy. They faced each day with enthusiasm, and with hearts that burned within them.
Very Reverend Father Richard Augustine Wall was born in 1932 in Shandangan, Co. Cork, Ireland. He is the sixth child in a family of five girls and two boys. His priesthood owes much to the influence of his sister Eileen and some priests he met in his early years. He was ordained a priest on the 13th day of June, 1956.
After ordination to the priesthood Father Richard came to Nigeria as a missionary in 1956 to the Diocese of Benin City. When he arrived there were 80 SMA and six Nigerian priests. Today this figure has been reversed, an indication of the growth of the Church in this region. He was appointed that year as assistant priest to Sapele in Benin Diocese where he worked for a short time under Fr. Joseph Conboy until he was appointed as Secretary to Bishop Joseph Patrick Kelly. On his return from leave in 1961, he was posted to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Asaba and three years later, to Ogwashi-Uku where he remained until 1968. Father Wall in obedience saw himself back to Bishop Kelly’s Secretary’s desk for the second time. While in this position, he was elected as deputy Regional Superior to Fr. Mick Drew in 1969 and had to go to Uromi, doubling as Parish Priest of this Church. When Fr. Drew died while on leave in 1973, Father Richard Wall was elected Regional Superior , a post which he occupied with distinction for ten years. He relinquished this position to become the Parish Priest of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Eme-Ora for five years. In 1989, he was appointed to Irrua and in 1993, he established a Parish at Eidenu an outstation of Irrua. Five years later he moved to Iruekpen. In 2001, he was appointed to St. Patrick’s Church, Ebhoiyi to assist Fr. Festus Omede. In 2001 he moved to his present residence at the SMA House, Uromi where he has been exercising pastoral ministry in a variety of places. It is a well known fact that Father Wall in his pastoral zeal helped towards the building of Churches in sixteen outstations in the present Uromi Diocese.
Father Richard has been exemplary in the rural outreach programme of the Church. What I have mentioned here is a rather conservative listing of his activities in this area. You may wish to know that this great missionary served at Iruekpen, Eme-Ora for several years without complain or grumbling.
While many shy away from rural assignments, Father Wall has always been ready to work anywhere. He has always been pastoral in his approach. His life of perseverance and dedication to his priestly call, one can say makes him takes his assignments seriously. Father Wall came with a missionary heart and his task has been to find the Catholics scattered across the then Diocese of Benin, often in the face of hostility and skepticism by the people.
He is a member of the greatest generation, a generation of men and women who during the most difficult period of the growth of the Church here in Nigeria were never deterred at encountering difficulties but performed great acts of courage and selflessly shaped the Church after the Second World War and during and after the Nigerian Civil War. When Reverend Father Wall came to Benin Diocese, there were about 80 SMA priests. He has remained in the then Benin Diocese to witness the tremendous growth of the Church, from Warri Diocese, to Issele-Uku, to Auchi, Bomadi and Uromi, dioceses and to the transformation of the then Benin Diocese to an Archdiocese in 1994.
Today as the living archive (he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of priests, parishes and parishioners in the entire region) of this Province, Father Wall dared to bring values of the beatitudes to the people he served, values that continue to confound people.
I thank all those who have arranged this Mass of Thanksgiving in his honour to mark the occasion of his 80th birthday which was actually nearly a year ago. We extend to him our hearty congratulations. It is right that we should assemble like this and recognise his worth and service while we can still see one another’s eyes. May God bless you all. Amen.
Rev Msgr Joseph P Omesa