Bishop Francis Folorunsho Alonge, immediate past Bishop of Ondo Catholic Diocese, was ordained priest exactly fifty years ago today. He spoke with HAKEEM GBADAMOSI on his journey in the Lord?s Vineyard.
The journey so far
I give glory to the Almighty God that the journey has been very good, pleasant and full of challenges. In any landmark, you find the good and the disappointing. But the celebration of the golden anniversary of my priesthood ordination is just an opportunity to thank God for His blessings.
It is not time for singing praises or to begin to count achievements, because in the Church we are not politicians.
We are not out there to go and proclaim ourselves. Our business is to proclaim Christ and that?s what we are ordained for. It?s been a pleasant and fulfilling journey.
If I am asked to do it again, I will be glad to. I have spent 39 years of the 50 years as Bishop, and I thank God for that too. I am grateful to Almighty God for giving me the opportunity to take the responsibility of tending a little corner of the Lord?s Vineyard, and I give all the glory to God for whatever I have achieved.
Inspiration for choosing priesthood
I was born into a Catholic family and we are only two children of my mother. My mother had a lot of problems in having children. So when I decided to go into priesthood, the whole household met and said why would I decide to go to the seminary when we were only two children. But I made them realise that they didn?t send me to the world and that God sent me to the world. I felt like going to the seminary, so it was my own personal decision to work for God. So I went down there and I was accepted.
But what really motivated me to go to the seminary was around 1949 when I was about finishing my primary school. I was a member of the choir formed by the first Ekiti Reverend Father, Monsignor Oguntuyi.
That was when Latin was the official language used in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. About 12 of us made up the Choir. We were drilled in the singing of the Latin chants which we used during high Mass and during celebrations.
The boys of this choir were also taught to read and sing both ?plain chant? (Gregorian Music) and Polyphonic Music, as well as to play the organ and conduct the choir on Sundays. I was interested in it then. During Easter and Christmas, we used to act the resurrection of Christ and the birth of Christ.
I was fascinated by all these things and that was one of the things that took me to the seminary. I loved to be with this priest simply because he looked on to us as his children then and about 12 of us followed him from one village to the other to sing on occasions.
Eventually when it was time to finish our primary school, five of us decided to enter the seminary, and we entered. Out of the five, two of us reached the end; Monsignor Adegoke and myself and we were ordained. When I got to seminary, I identified with what we were being taught there and eventually the Bishop called us and told us to prepare for ordination. We we?re ordained and that was the beginning of a very long but pleasant story.
Challenges of priesthood
Personally, I didn?t encounter any problem, because in priesthood, you work under authority and you don?t go against the wish of the authority. You are safe if you follow the wish of the authority, because if you make a mistake, it will not be you that made the mistake but the man who is ordering you. He takes responsibility. Once you obey him, you won?t go astray.
So being obedient is the most important part of the dedication of the priest Some people think staying unmarried is the most challenging aspect of priesthood. Staying unmarried is necessary so as to devote all your time, efforts, heart and love to God?s work. But obeying authority is among the most difficult of all the challenges. But once you have decided to submit yourself, there will be no problem. Nothing has actually made me decide to leave at any time and for this, I thank God,
Achievements as Bishop of Ondo Catholic Diocese
This is one area I don?t like to talk because I am not trying to promote myself. I am not contesting election. People know me; they see me and know what I have been able to put in place. There are priests who worked with me. They should be able to say one or two things about me. It is not in my place to praise myself.
There was a time someone said he wanted to write my life story. I told him I won?t be able to grant any interview about myself. I urged him to write whatever he knows about me and he wrote what he thought and saw and it was a good one. I have nothing to hide.
Our life is a public life. If you really want to know about any Bishop, ask the priests around him. They will be able to tell you if he is good or bad or if he?s a real man of God. That?s how you can get to know anybody.
Life after retirement.
I have been doing various kinds of research since I retired. I have some hindrances, especially with the irregular power supply. What I was hoping is that there would be regular power supply to enable me to research different things on the Internet.
So far, I have been able to research about 5,000 research topics since in the last two years ago. Most of my research is based on church history and literature, because I studied English literature in my university. I have plenty of time and I was able to research these topics and understand them better.
If NEPA was more efficient, I would have achieved more. We run this place on generator and we have not had regular power supply for the past six months. If the electricity authority could make sure that we have regular supply of power, things would turn around for this country.