BIOGRAPHY OF REV. FR. BENJAMIN IZUCHUKWU OKALA, C.S.Sp.
Rev. Fr. Benjamin Izuchukwu Okala, C.S.Sp. is a Roman Catholic Priest of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Congregation of the Holy Spirit, Province of Nigeria, South-East). He was born on the 31st day of October, 1981 at U.N.T.H Enugu, Enugu State to the family of Late Sir. Benjamin Iwobi Okala & Lady Rosaline Uchechukwu Iwobi – Okala, KSJI of Ogbeotu village, Onitsha in Onitsha North L.G.A, Anambra State, Nigeria. He is the First Son and third child of the six children (two girls and four boys) of his parents. His home parish is St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Inland Town, Onitsha.
SECULAR EDUCATION AND WORKING BACKGROUND
Rev. Fr. Benjamin attended his Primary Education at Ekulu Primary School, Enugu, Enugu State (1986–1992); his Junior Secondary School at St. Mary’s High School, Ifitedunu, Anambra State (1992–1995) and finished Senior Secondary School at Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, Anambra State (1995–1999). He also did his Tertiary Education at Nnamdi Azikiwe University (Unizik), Awka, Anambra State, where he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Physics Electronics, Engineering and Technology, (1999-2004).
Meanwhile, in 2003, he did his Industrial Training with Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited, Port Harcourt, Rivers State (Works & Maintenance Department). After his Tertiary Education, he was posted to Benin City, Edo State for his National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) program in 2005, and later gained full employment in a Telecommunication Company: Ultima Integrated Systems Limited, Port Harcourt, Rivers State; a company that works for Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited, Port Harcourt. There, he worked as the Field/ Systems Engineer (in-charge of Computers/ Internet & Satellite/ CCTV installations) and later was promoted to Administrative Assistant (Company’s representative in Project designs & Constructions), (2005-2009).
Rev. Fr. Benjamin started his Pre-postulancy (apostolic work) at Holy Ghost Academy, Amaokpala, Anambra State (2009-2010). After that, he proceeded to Spiritan Postulate, Akabo, Imo State where he did his Postulancy (2010-2011). Also Novitiate at Spiritan Novitiate, Awo-Omamma, Imo State (2011-2012) and his First Religious Profession on the 8th of September, 2012. His Philosophical Studies was at Spiritan School of Philosophy, Isienu-Nsukka, Enugu State (2012-2014). Afterward, he did his one year apostolic work (Prefecting) at Holy Ghost Academy, Amaokpala, Anambra State as the School Auxiliary (2014-2015). After a successful apostolic work, he was approved to study Theology in Spiritan International School of Theology, Attakwu, Enugu State (2015-2019), where he also acquired another Bachelors of Arts degree in Religion and Cultural Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Higher National Diploma in Theology and Master’s Degree in Theology from Duquesne University Pittsburg, USA.
LIFE EXPERIENCE AND VOCATION STORY
Rev. Fr. Benjamin never dreamt of becoming a Priest before. In fact, as someone who got employment in a reputable company immediately after his graduation from Unizik, he was planning to marry and then settle down in 2008. Meanwhile, he determined to pattern his life the way our Lord Jesus Christ lived and to become one of His disciples forever. He devoted his life to helping the poor, preaching the Word of God with love daily, so that people may see Christ in his character and utterances and then repent genuinely and live righteously.
At a point in 2007, just like the divine encounters/ call of Isaiah, Jeremiah, St. Matthew, St. Paul, St. Augustine etc., Rev. Fr. Benjamin started having an inner yearning and a driving force to serve God in a very special way, and that became a disturbance to him. As if that was not enough, he began to have series of revelations both physically and spiritually (dreams/visions). Moreover, some people, having encountered him, started making some comments: “this your way of life may lead you to priesthood…” Surprisingly, even one of the ladies he was thinking of settling down with as a wife, gave him a shock of his life. After preaching in her family house, she joyfully exclaimed: “I will go to Seminary schools and tell them that one of their brothers is here; that something is wasting away.” This statement troubled him so much; owing to his previous experiences. He tried to ignore and discard these unprecedented disturbances about priesthood because, he saw himself unworthy to be called to that Sacred Ministry based on his life experiences. But the revelations continued unabated; more than eighteen (18) different times.
Consequently, he began to notice that he was much happier and joyful when preaching to people, rendering selfless services in the Church and supporting the poor with his resources, than the engineering job he was doing. Sequel to this, after several daily prayers/ meditations in the Chapel before the Blessed Sacrament for more than 6 months, and then consultations with his Parish priest and also his spiritual director then at Mater Misericordiae Parish, Rumuomasi, Port Harcourt, he made up his mind to enter the seminary. For a year, he started reading several books and articles about priesthood, and these helped to build up his courage. Hence, he wrote application letters to Onitsha Archdiocese, Nnewi diocese and four Religious Congregations (Spiritans, Redemptorists, Missionary of St. Paul and Society Mission). Fortunately for him, he was invited for an interview by the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans) which was successful. Subsequently, he resigned from his job in 2009 and joined the Congregation. Meanwhile, he never told his parents about this initially, because he did not want them to discourage him. As the first son, they were already expecting him to marry and settle down. When he eventually told them at the verge of resigning from his job, it was like a bombshell to them. But later, after prayers, they accepted it as the will of God.
PERSONALITY AND SKILLS
Despite his unworthiness and weaknesses, God still called him to work in His vineyard, just like St. Matthew the Evangelist (a Task Collector & Working-class) whom he shares some life experiences with. First, while in Unizik, he was the Taskforce Chairman of the Student Union Government (SUG) in his 3rd year and the Chief of Keggite Club International of the school in his 5th year. Before he entered the seminary, he was also working in a reputable company in Port Harcourt, and later abandoned it and followed Christ more closely, just like St. Matthew did when Christ called him.
Rev. Fr. Benjamin is humble, obedient, caring, selfless, generous and courageous. He is man of unshakable faith. He possesses some good leadership qualities. In addition to the ones mentioned above, during his Youth Service (NYSC), he was one of the best Platoon Leaders. He also led the Computer department in his office at Port Harcourt, and held other leadership offices in his seminary days, just to mention a few. Furthermore, he is proficient in Electronic/ Computer configuration and repairs, as well as Satellite installations and networking, and Art works. He is very gifted with musical instruments, especially beating of drums. Just like his uncle: Emmanuel Okala (MON), who was one time Nigeria’s best goalkeeper, Rev. Fr. Benjamin is also a good goalkeeper and table tennis player. He was the goalkeeper of his department in Unizik and also in Port Harcourt. Besides, he was the Best (No.1) goalkeeper in the Seminary: Novitiate, Philosophy and Theology for 8 years before he sustained an injury. When he recuperated, he resorted to coaching, and later won an award during Rector’s Cup Competition in 2018/ 2019 session as the Best Coach of the tournament.
Rev. Fr. Benjamin is a member of the Eucharistic Adorers, Confraternity of the Holy Spirit and Catholic Charismatic Renewal – Evangelical and Intercessory Ministries. He loves studying the Scriptures, praying, meditation and visitation of the Blessed Sacrament. He finds inner joy through the Holy Eucharist and Sacrament of Reconciliation. He also likes helping people especially through prayers, counselling, and then making peace. Furthermore, he is much happier when people are first satisfied positively and comfortable, particularly the poor, sick, needy and marginalized.
HEALTH HISTORY/ CHALLENGES
Most of the times, to answer Divine Call, one must pass through difficult or trying moments in order to be purified and equipped for the task ahead. In this regard, Rev. Fr. Benjamin passed through Divine Furnace since he entered the seminary. He had several health challenges, which wanted to thwart his journey to the priesthood, but through the help of the Holy Spirit he survived all the challenges that encroached him. Amidst all the challenges, his faith in Jesus Christ remained unshakeable. He never despaired, but always thanking God with grateful heart, approaching every challenge with smiles and seeing them as his own share of suffering in following Christ. To God be the Glory!
APOSTOLIC WORK EXPERIENCE
- Holy Ghost Academy, Amaokpala, Anambra State – (2009-2010)
- Fr. Philip Agu Secondary School, Akabo, Imo State – (2010)
- Spiritan School of Philosophy, Isienu-Nsukka, Enugu State – (2013)
- Holy Ghost Academy, Amaokpala, Anambra State – (2014-2015)
- Spiritan International School of Theology, Attakwu, Enugu State – (2016)
- St. Martins of Tours Catholic Parish, Ihiala, Anambra State – (2017)
- Lectorate – (4th December, 2016)
- Acolyte – (25th November, 2017)
- Final Profession – (3rd August, 2018)
- Diaconate Ordination – (4th August, 2018)
- Priestly Ordination – (21st September, 2019)
By the special grace of God Almighty, Rev. Fr. Benjamin Okala is the First Indigenous Holy Ghost Priest of Onitsha since 1885 (136 years ago). He was ordained by His Excellency, Most Rev. Dr. Valerian Maduka Okeke, the Archbishop of Onitsha and Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province on Saturday, 21st September, 2019 at St. Mary’s Catholic Parish, Inland Town, Onitsha.
He is currently working at Holy Ghost Academy, Amaokpala, Orumba North L.G.A, Anambra State (a mission school established by the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers Province of Nigeria, South-East) as a Staff, Teacher, and Formator. He is also the Y.C.S (Young Catholic Students) Chaplain and the Priest in charge of the School’s I.C.T Department.
I determine to pattern my life the way Jesus Christ lived His life on earth, and to become one of His disciples forever; by acting in obedience to His will and commands.
Thus, I have decided to be a Saint, to live a life of holiness & virtue and to stay away from sin. To preach the Word of God everyday of my life in any where I find myself, in order to bring back the strayed and enlarge the Kingdom of God.
To fulfil God’s divine purpose for my life and finally return back to the Almighty God to rule with Christ forever.
“All I want is to know Christ and the Power of His Resurrection, that I may associate in His suffering and participate in His Death (Philippians 3:10).”
All these I can achieve with the help of the Holy Spirit, Amen (Philippians 4:13).