Deptford: Memorial Mass for Africa's Oldest Catholic Bishop

Fr Verissimo and other priests at the Mass

Fr Verissimo and other priests at the Mass

The last day of January was a day Ijebu Catholics, fellow Nigerians and other nationalities gathered in remembrance of the oldest Catholic Bishop of Nigeria; Most Revd Anthony Saliu Sanusi.

The service was however not in Nigeria but in the United Kingdom at Our Lady of the Assumption in  Deptford, south London. The Ijebus in collaboration with the Yoruba Catholic Community organised the Memorial Mass to pray for the repose of the soul of the late bishop who died on 7 December 2009, just three weeks before his 99th birthday.

Very Rev Monsignor Brian Udaigwe, the first Chancellor of the Nunciature of Great Britain, Scotland and Wales, presided at the Mass. Other priests there were Fr Gregory-Mario Verissimo of the Diocese of Ijebu Ode, working in Southwark, Fr Michael Banjo, also of the Diocese of Ijebu Ode but currently studying in Rome, Fr Michael Akintolu of Abeokuta, studying in Scotland and Frs Franklin Augustine MSP and Ugochukwu Nnaji MSP, both working in Southwark.

In his homily, Fr Verissimo, described the late Bishop as a man of providence, who from the very moment he heard of Christ as a boy in his Christian primary school, abandoned himself to divine providence, asking God to lead him wherever he willed.

Thus he converted from Islam to Christianity and received baptism and the other sacraments; eventually becoming a priest and then a bishop. Fr Verissimo encouraged all to show genuine love for God, His people, the Church and the world stating that it is by so doing that we can make the world a more loving and peaceful place for all.

Before the conclusion of the Mass, there was an African-style thanksgiving procession, with singing,  clapping and dancing, thanking God for using the late Bishop to build the Catholic Church in Ijebu-Ode Diocese.

The incumbent bishop of Ijebu Ode, Most Rev Albert A Fashina, sent a letter which was printed in the mass programme. In the message, he thanked those who organised the Memorial Mass for his predecessor. He also encouraged the Ijebus and other Nigerian Catholic diaspora in the UK to endeavour to draw on the inspiring life of Baba Sanusi in deepening their faith. Finally, he bestowed his apostolic blessing on all.

After the Mass, guests were treated to a reception in the Church hall.

Fr Gregory-Mario Verissimo, Priest of Catholic Diocese of Ijebu Ode, working in Southwark

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