“The righteous man, though he dies early, will be at rest. For old age is not honoured for length of time, nor measured by number of years; but understanding is grey hair for men and a blameless life is ripe old age” (Wis 4:7-8). Those words of the Book of Wisdom became the testimony of the life of Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Uade Ogbeide, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Uromi who passed on to eternity on the 19th day of February 2014. His life was one type which many would describe as really short but which left a big mark in the heart of all who had opportunity to meet him in his lifetime. He was the second of the seven surviving children but the first of the two sons of Late Pa Francis Ogbeide of Usigbe, Ewohimi, Edo State. In a typical African setting, that status meant that great responsibility awaited him in life, and he was aware of that.

Born on 14th April 1976, the young Emmanuel grew up as a model to many of his contemporaries, a leader of the Block Rosary Crusade and the Legion of Mary. After his primary and secondary school education in Benin, he proceeded to the higher institution where he obtained a diploma in Community Development Education from the University of Benin and Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration from Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma. Soon after, he got an appointment to work with the First Bank but in the same week that he got that appointment, he also received his admission letter to proceed to St. John of the Cross Spiritual Year Seminary Ekpoma to begin his study for the priesthood. It was a battle of decision for Emmanuel but he chose to answer God’s call despite the responsibilities that would have needed his attention as the first son. That was not a surprise to those who knew him before then. They were rather surprised he didn’t go to the seminary earlier.

Throughout the period of his seminary training, he manifested a kind of courage and firmness, the secret of which is seen on the souvenir almanac for his priestly ordination, where he wrote, My life is my vocation, my being is my donation, my God is my all, my happiness is his call, my fear is my yes, my hope is his grace, my portion is my Lord. That was a declaration of total self emptying of oneself to God, and looking back on the life and times of Fr. Emmanuel, one could see a manifestation of that declaration in his life.

It is of little wonder then why he was able to leave a deep impression in the life of the parishioners of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church Ebhoiyi Uromi within the very short time he spent with them before his death. After his priestly ordination with his classmates on 10th of August 2013 at the same parish, he got his first appointment to work in the parish, where he eventually spent the only 6 months and 18 days of his priestly ministry. It was indeed six eventful months which was spent for God and the people, an exemplification of his declaration that his life is his vocation, his being his donation, God being his all, his happiness found in his call, his hope being in God’s grace, his portion being the Lord. Despite the fact that he had his sick parents to take care of, which made him to shuttle Benin-Uromi very often, he was never found wanting in his pastoral ministry. Imagine the heartbreak which his death caused the parishioners. It left a deep mark on them such that their love for him grew even stronger. That is why since he passed on about 3 years ago, there are always series of events in his memory at the parish.

The event, as is always the case since its inception, began with a Holy Mass. This year, it was presided over by one of his classmates, Rev. Fr. Ambrose Obaze on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. In his homily at the Mass, Fr. JohnBosco Ezeonwumelu told the people of God that our gathering is for celebration of life and not for mourning. This is because Fr. Emmanuel desired to live for God and did so till the very end. His very last post on the Facebook on Wednesday, February 12, 2014, two days before the accident of February 15, 2014 that led to his death, reads, As we, through the help, mercy and benevolence of God begin this new day, let us ask God to purify all our thoughts so that our actions, which are largely a manifestation of our thoughts may win us Gods Salvation.

On Friday, February 17, 2017, the parishioners of St. Patrick and his friends and well wishers went on a pilgrimage to the grave side of Fr. Emma at the Priests’ Cemetery at Brother Roman Centre Ekpoma. Highlights of this event were the prayerful adornment of Fr. Emma’s grave with flowers, a sign of their undying love for him. This was preceded by a Memorial Mass for him presided over by Rev. Fr. JohnBosco Ezeonwumelu in the Chapel of the centre beside the Cemetery. Preaching at the Mass, Rev. Fr. Kevin Ibhaze, a classmate of Fr. Emma and presently one of the assistant parish priests of St. Patrick Ebhoiyi Uromi, reminded all once more that it is all about celebration of the life of Fr. Emmanuel Ogbeide and his legacies. He then encouraged all to always pray for him and also try to carry on the legacy he left behind.

Indeed, the legacies that Fr. Emmanuel Ogbeide left behind are so great that they would remain sources of inspiration to all who hear about him. It is an encouragement to those who try their best to do good not to relent as there is indeed reward for good deeds in this world and in the next.

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