HIS LORDSHIP MOST REV. JONAS BENSON OKOYE
Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye was born to the family of Mr. Patrick and Mrs Theresa Anazoba Okoye of Amata clan in Adazi-Nnukwu, Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State. Born in the city of Kaduna on the 25th day of January 1963, Bishop Jonas Benson is the second son and the fifth child in a family of eight children. He started his primary school education at Ojiako Primary School, Adazi-Nnukwu in 1971. In 1972, he returned to Kaduna to continue his primary school education at the prestigious St. Gregory Primary School. His inspiration to the vocation of priesthood was aroused in his early years when he was an altar server under Rev. Fr. Miniham at St. Joseph's Catholic Cathedral, Kaduna. He however came back to Ojiako Primary School atAdazi-Nnukwu in order to complete his primary education and secure admission into secondary school in the south eastern part of Nigeria. Although the young Jonas secured admission into the conventional secondary school and the seminary, he willingly opted for the latter, hence his primary priesthood formation between 1976 and 1977 at St. Paul's Seminary, Ukpor. By 1978, His Lordship Jonas Benson Okoye moved on to All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha after successfully completing one year at St. Paul's Seminary, Ukpor. In 1981, he sat for the West African School Certificate Examination. Because of his outstanding performance, he was retained in his Alma Matter the following year to teach the younger seminarians Geography, English Literature and Special Mathematics. He was also appointed the school bursar.
In 1983, his Bishop, His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. A. K. Obiefuna, the then Bishop of Awka, sent him to Bigard Memorial Seminary, Ikot-Ekpene (now St. Joseph's Major Seminary) to begin his study of philosophy. At the end of his four year philosophy course at lkot-Ekpene, he obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy with honours certified by the Pontifical Urban University, Rome to which the institution was affiliated. Thereafter, he was sent on one year apostolic work to join in the formation of the seminarians at St. John Bosco's Minor Seminary, Isuaniocha. There, he taught Religion, Liturgy, Latin and English Literature. After a creditable one year service in 1988, the purposeful young Jonas Benson was sent to Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu to begin theological studies as the last phase of his journey to the priesthood. He sat for his Bachelor's Degree in the study of Divinity in 1992 and obtained a first class grade with honours. Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye was ordained a priest in 1992 by His Grace, Archbishop A. K. Obiefuna at St. Andrew's Catholic Church, Adazi-Nnukwu. After his ordination, he was posted to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Ezinifite as parochial vicar. A year after, 1993, he was appointed Parish Priest of St. Peter's Catholic Church, Oko where he served for two years. The same 1993, he was appointed Defender of the Bond in Awka Diocesan Ecclesiastical Tribunal which position he held until 1995 when he was sent to the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) for post-graduate studies in Canon law (1995-1997). On his return he was appointed the Parish Priest of St. John's Catholic Church, Neni (1997-2002). He was also the Chaplain, Knights of St. Mulumba, Anaocha Sub-Council (1997-2002); Dean, Neni Deanery (2000-2002); and Vice Officialis Awka Diocesan Ecclesiastical Tribunal (1997-2002).
In 2002,Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye was asked to continue his canonical studies at the famous St. Paul University, Ottawa in Canada where he obtained Licentiate Degree in Canon Law (JCL). He then proceeded to Lateran University, Rome (2003-2006) and obtained a Doctorate degree with Summa cum Laude Probatus in Canon Law (JCD). He also did courses in Canonical Jurisprudence in the Roman Rota (2004-2005). On his return from studies in 2006, Bishop Jonas Benson was appointed the Parish Priest of Immaculate Heart Parish, Ekwulobia (2006-2007); Parish Priest, St. Matthew's Catholic Church, Amawbia (2007-2013) as well as the Dean Amawbia Deanery (2007-2013). He was the Parish Priest of St. Mary's Catholic Church, Awka and the Dean Awka Deanery II. His Lordship, Dr. Jonas Benson Okoye has been the Judicial Vicar, Catholic Diocese of Awka and a Judge in the Onitsha Inter-Diocesan Ecclesiastical Tribunal from 2007 till his appointment as Bishop. He has also served in various Commissions, both at the National and Diocesan level. He was a member CBCN Committee on Seminary Formation (2008-2012). Bishop Okoye is a member CBCN Committee on Canon Law (2011-date); Secretary Awka Diocesan Finance Council (2007-date); member Awka Diocesan Presbyterial Council (2007 - date); member Awka Diocesan College of Consultors (2009-date); member Diocesan Examination Board (2007- date). He was elected the President Canon Law Society of Nigeria in 2009 and was re-elected for a second tenure in 2012. His Lordship is a recipient of many merit awards exemplified in: Henry Dunant Gold Merit Award from Red Cross Society of Nigeria (2009); Clergy Merit Award by St Jude Igbo Speaking Catholic, Archdiocese of Kaduna (2009); Vocational Excellence Award, Rotary Club of Nigeria, Njikoka, Anambra State (2012), etc. Bishop Jonas Benson is committed to the encapsulation of his thoughts, knowledge and learning via reachable publications like pamphlets and books that both provoke questions and soothe the enquiries that perturb the hearts and minds of many. Some of his published works are:
Books Abortion and Euthanasia - The Crime of our Day Equality of Spouses in Can.1135, 1987 A Colloqium of Service, 1997 Can. 1341: Judicial and Pastoral Discretion in the Application of Canonical Penalties, 2002 The Suicide: A Patient or a Sinner? 2006 (In the Light of Canonico-Ecclesiastical Penalty) 2011
Public Lectures Youth and Morality (Magazine, Bigard Memorial Seminary lkot-Ekpene 1986) The Business Priest in a Busy Ministry: in the Light of Canon 286 (Bigard '92 Set at Enugu 1998) The Liturgical Season of Lent including the Easter Triduum (Seminar Organized by Awka Diocesan Liturgy and Inculturation Commission (ADLIC), April, 2000) Expectations and Challenges of a Good Leader (Seminar Paper for Neni Deanery Catholic Women Organization, July 2001) Purgatory: What the Church Teaches (Knights of St. Mulumba, Regina Caeli Sub-Council, April 2001) Indissolubility of Catholic Marriage and Making a Happy Home: Our Lady as a Model (National Convention of Confraternity of Christian Mothers' Association at Cana House, Awka, May 2000) Judicial and Pastoral Discretion in Relation to Offences, Persons and Penalties in the Light of Canon 1341 (2010 Annual Conference of Canon Law 'Society of Nigeria) Indulgence - Benefiting from the Treasury of the Church (Youth Magazine, 2010) Pastoral Ministry of the Parish Priest and Parochial Vicar in the Code of Canon law(At Annual Seminar of Uromi Diocesan Priests Feb 2011)
What God has Joined Together; No Man Should Put Asunder (Matt. 19:6): Why Annulment Now? (A Paper Presented at the 2013 Inauguration of the Judicial Year of Abuja Archdiocesan Ecclesiastical Tribunal on the 26th January 2013 at the Cathedral of Twelve Apostles, Wuse). The Decision of Pope Benedict VXI to Resign: Canonico-Ecclesiastical Perspective (Feb. 2013) Most Rev. Dr. Jonas Benson Okoye is driven by a consummate passion to serve humans and God. The primary enabler to this passion of service has been his dogged commitment to the principle of being truthful to self, being fair to others, recognizing the essence of bold association with respectable authorities and institutions; readiness to make sacrifices that fundamentally improve the lives of people, organizations and institutions. In all these he sees himself as a humble servant of God from whom all good things flow. His firm conviction that it shall be well for the faithful here and hereafter emboldens him to teach decency and enhanced living as collateral instead of limitation on the course to eternity. In the midst of adversity, he sustains joy and hope. Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye enjoys work and more work as he blends the growth of spirituality with expanding and entrenching the frontiers of Catholicism in our land. His hobbies include reading and writing, engaging discourses on the path to eternity; and playing table tennis.
Gaudium et Spes is, according to its first words, the title of one of the outstanding documents of the Second Vatican Council, namely the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. It states
AUXILIARY BISHOP'S COAT OF ARMS EXPLAINED
ndeed, the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men and women of our time, especially of those who are poor and marginalized, uneducated and jobless, those afflicted by terrorism whether al Qaeda or Boko Haram in Nigeria, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. In no other age has mankind enjoyed such an abundance of wealth, resources and economic well-being; and yet a huge proportion of the people of the world are plagued by hunger and extreme need while countless numbers are totally illiterate. At no time have men had such a keen sense of freedom, only to be faced by new forms of slavery in living, religious fanatic doctrine and thinking. There is lastly a painstaking search for a better material world, without a parallel spiritual advancement. In the past it was the exception to repudiate God and religion to the point of abandoning them, and then only in individual cases; but nowadays it seems a matter of course to reject them as incompatible with scientific progress and a new kind of humanism. ln many places it is not only in philosophical terms that such trends are expressed, but there are signs of them in literature, art, the humanities, the interpretation of history and even civil law: all of which is very disturbing to many people.
In the midst of it all stands man, at once the author and the victim of mutual distrust, animosity, conflict and woe. Man is growing conscious of the fact that the forces he has unleashed are in his own hands and that it is up to him to control them or be enslaved by them. Here lies the modern dilemma. This existential problem and dilemma has been my concern for long. It has been my earnest desire to seek new ways to interpret the Gospel message, so that even in the face of reoccurring adversity and suffering, corruption and injustice, terrorism and crime, still joy would be radiated and hope enkindled. My elevation to the office of a Bishop at a time plagued by such problems of special urgency in Nigeria gives this desire a new momentum and actually explains my choice of Gaudium et Spes as Motto. My coat of arms was simply designed to reflect my vision and mission.
The coat of arms consists of the hat [qalero or gallero) with six tassels on each side. The shield consists of two halves. The bottom half depicts the symbol of the Risen Lord tearing through the graves like a wheat grain that dies and yields a rich harvest (Joh 12, 24-25). The upper half again is divided into two. The left half reflects the rising sun radiating through the horizon above mountains and valleys with wheat grains in the foreground, all symbolizing joy and hope, abundance and tranquillity for every man and woman. The right half shows the Bible, the Word, which is the source of our proclamation of joy and hope. Above and right down the shield is a simple processional cross. It is my fervent belief that at all times the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the time and interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task. In the language intelligible to every generation, she should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which men ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other. Beneath all that changes there is much that is unchanging, much that has its ultimate foundation in Christ, the Sun of Justice, who is the same yesterday, and today and forever. The key, the centre and purpose of the whole of man's history is to be found in Him. It is in Him that our joy and hope should be anchored, without him life has no meaning, life has no goal.