This is a special year for SMA Formation House in Ibadan, Nigeria as it celebrates the Silver Jubilee of its foundation. For the past 25 years a steady stream of students from Nigeria and other countries have come to the House each year to begin or continue their journey to SMA priesthood.
The first SMA priests arrived in Ibadan in 1884. It took ten years for the local king – the Alafin of Oyo – to allow a permanent presence of Catholic clergy in the city. The first church was built on Oke-Are hill and today it is within the grounds of St Theresa’s Minor seminary. “At the time Oke-Are was almost unapproachable because of the thick impenetrable bush that covered the hill… it was regarded as an abode of spirits and certain worshippers offered sacrifice there.” In 1983 the SMA General Assembly decided to invite Africans to join the SMA. Up to then the SMA encouraged young men to join their local diocese in order to help build up the local clergy [one of the aims of Bishop deBrésillac, SMA Founder]. Four SMAs were chosen to recruit suitable candidates and establish a Formation House in Ibadan, with the seminarians attending Ss Peter & Paul Major seminary which itself had been founded by Fr Maurice Maguire SMA. Kieran O’Reilly [now Archbishop of Cashel and Emly], Eddie Deeney and Fintan Daly along with French SMA, and former Superior General, Joseph Hardy. Frs O’Reilly and Deeney rented a suitable property at 20 Oshuntokun Avenue, within walking distance of the seminary.
In January 1987, Fr Des Corrigan arrived from Ireland where he had been the Spiritual Director at the SMA Formation House in Maynooth. To him we owe the magnificent SMA Formation House whose Silver Jubilee we celebrate this year. On 31 May 1988, at a cost of $100,000, he bought the present property which is home to the present seminary.
Fr Daniel Cardot, SMA Vicar General, blessed the site and turned the first sod on 28 October 1989 for the Formation House that we have today. 28 September 1990 was the day the priests and seminarians moved into their new home. On 7 December 1990 the official opening and blessing of the new Formation House took place with Archbishop Felix Alaba Job as Chief Celebrant and SMA Superior General, Fr Patrick J Harrington preaching the homily.
In celebrating this Silver Jubilee we first of all thank God for all He has done for us in Bodija. Over one hundred SMA priests from many countries in Africa and from as far away as India have got part or all of their formation in the House. Most of them are now working as missionaries in different parts of Africa, often in difficult circumstances. They include two bishops: Bishop Nestor Nongo-Aziagbia SMA of Bossangoa diocese [Central African Republic] and Bishop Francois Gnonhossou SMA [Dassa-Zoumé, Benin Republic].
On this Silver Jubilee year, after God, we thank the many people who continue to support us by their prayer and contributions and continue to make the work possible. We are thankful for the many young Africans who have responded so generously to the call of Christ to go outside their own countries as missionaries to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to places where the Church is not well established. More than 100 SMA priests were ordained from Bodija in the last 25 years. We thank the various formators who over the years have contributed to the growth of the House and have so generously given themselves to the work of the formation of a new generation of SMAs.
The present formation team reflect the internationality of the SMA: Fr Edward Muge [from Nigeria], Fr Simon Assogba [Benin Republic], Fr Tim Cullinane [Ireland] and Fr Wilfried Kouijzer [Netherlands]
A series of lectures and seminars have been organized and invitations have been sent out to our supporters in various parts of the country to come to visit the House and meet the students and formation staff. The students are producing a special CD for the occasion. There will be a special edition of the House magazine, “The Voice of Bodija” focusing on the theme “SMA Mission, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”
A highlight of the year was the diaconate ordination and priestly ordination of some Nigerian SMAs on 4 July last by former seminarian, Bishop Nestor Nongo-Aziagbia SMA.
The celebrations will build up to a crescendo with a grand finale on 7 – 8 December 2015, when former students and formators of the House will come together for special celebrations culminating in a Jubilee Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December, [159th anniversary of the foundation of the SMA by Bishop deBrésillac] with the Archbishop of Ibadan, Most Rev Dr Gabriel Abegunrin, as Principal Celebrant. As part of the occasion it is hoped to unveil a statue of our Founder. This statue will stand as a fitting symbol for present and future generations of SMA seminarians for the whole purpose of the House is to form missionaries to carry on the mission of Melchior de Marion Bresillac with the same vision, passion and commitment that he had.
We hope that you will be able to join and support us as part of the celebrations, especially for the grand finale in December.
SMA BODIJA JUBILEE PRAYER
A special Jubilee prayer has been composed, which we invite you to pray with us during the year:
God of tenderness and love, you inspired Melchior de Marion Brésillac to found the Society of African Missions and in our own time inspired the leaders of the SMA to set up a Formation House in Bodija to form SMA missionaries to continue his work.
As we celebrate the Silver Jubilee of this House, we ask you to bless our celebrations during this Jubilee year.
We thank you for the blessings of the past 25 years.
We thank you for the gift of our students and formators, past and present.
We thank you for our benefactors who continue to support us by their prayers and financial help.
Looking to the future, we pray that you continue to bless and sustain the work of the House so that it will continue to produce missionaries with the vision, passion and commitment of Melchior de Marion Bresillac, missionaries who will be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world “wherever they are.
Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us
Melchior de Marion Bresillac, servant of God, pray for us.