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Popular Nigerian Catholic Priest and Traditional Doctor, Rev. Fr. Arazu Dies at 82

 


By Izunna Okafor, Awka

After a long period of being away from public view, the famous Catholic priest, traditional doctor, and herbalist, Rev. Fr. Dr. Raymond Arazu has answered the divine call.

The passage of the Holy Ghost Father was disclosed in a statement signed by the Provincial Secretary, Congregation of the Holy Spirit (C.S.Sp.), Fr. Vitalis Anusionwu, who also disclosed that he died of age-related ailments, including diabetes and prostrate cancer.

According to the statement, Fr. Arazu died in the morning of Sunday, December 26, 2021, at the Parklane Hospital, Enugu State.

The statement reads in full: “It is with a deep sense of loss but also in total submission to the will of God that we announce the transition of our confrere, Rev. Fr. Dr. Raymond ARAZU, C.S.Sp. whose sad event occurred in the morning of Sunday, December 26, 2021.

“Fr. Arazu, as you know, had been weak in health and had been effectively managed by health experts. He struggled with prostate cancer for a long time and then diabetes. As he became weaker a few days ago, he was taken to Parklane Hospital, Enugu, where he departed this world, around 7 a.m today being the 26th of December, 2021.

“Please do remember him in your prayers and also say Masses for his repose following our tradition.

“When his funeral date and arrangements have been finalized, it will be communicated accordingly.

“May he rest in perfect peace, Amen!

“Fraternally yours in the Holy Spirit,

“Fr. Vitalis Anusionwu, C.S.Sp.

Provincial Secretary.”

Until his death, Very Reverend Father Dr. Raymond Chukwunyereugwu, Arazu CSSP, born on May 27, 1939, was the eight child of his parents, Mr. Charles Ikeghalibe and Mrs. Mary Ogomma Arazu, of Ihembosi in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, who were the first to be administered with Holy Matrimony in the community in 1918.

Father Arazu started his primary education at Saint Anthony’s Primary School, Ihembosi, and later, Saint Michael’s, Amakwa Ozubulu. He finished at the age of fourteen in 1953. On completion of his primary education, he began to nurse the idea of becoming a Roman Catholic priest because the priests then normally asked him to seat at the front row whenever a mass was being conducted.

Father Godfrey Okoye, who later became Bishop Okoye and who worked as a parish priest of Ihiala, influenced the decision of Father Raymond Arazu to enroll in the Holy Ghost Juniorate Ihiala. Father Okoye used to visit his school, Saint Michael’s Primary School, Amakwa Ozubulu as manager of schools then.

However, the death of Arazu's father became a major obstacle to him. His mother objected his continuing the vocation. She did not even attend his ordination. His mother later confessed that her decision was as a result of the advice from some people that if he becomes a Holy Ghost father, she would never see him again.

Reverend Father Arazu was among the best students that cleared and credited all the seven papers at the London General Certificate of Education in 1958. In 1959, he enrolled into the Holy Ghost Novitiate, Awo Mmama, Imo state to study the practice of spirituality. Between 1960 and 1961, he went to study philosophy at the Holy Ghost Scholarsticate, while in 1962, he went back to Ihiala to teach Geography and Mathematics at the Holy Ghost Juniorate.

That year, Father Raymond Arazu sat for the General Certificate in Education (London) Advanced Level and got Latin and English Literature. From 1963 to 1966, he went to Holy Ghost Scholarsticate, Isienu, Nsukka, to complete the theological course he started at Awo Mmama. 

On April 11, 1966, Reverend Father Arazu was ordained a priest at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Onitsha by His Grace, the late Archbishop Charles Heerey CSSP, together with six others.

Father Arazu studied and travelled round the globe. For instance, he studied at the Gregorian University, Rome between 1966 and 1968 where most lectures in the University, founded in the sixteenth century, are still delivered in Latin.

He did his Masters Degree project for the Spanish Professor, Zalba S.J., in Latin who gave him ninety percent for the project. In 1969, he did his Doctorate Degree at the Lateran University also in Rome.

On returning to Nigeria, Bishop Okoye deployed him to Ukpor town to minister to the candidates he had assembled for the sisterhood, the daughters of the Divine Love. He conducted secondary school classes and instructions in spirituality, liturgy, among others for them until the war ended in 1970.

Father Arazu served in many capacities as a priest. He served as a parish priest at Saint Michael’s Construction Enugu and at Emene Parish before his religious superiors in Nigeria asked him to go back to Rome in 1970 to complete his PhD course in Moral Theology. 

While in Rome, Father Arazu was involved in the translation of bible psalms into Igbo poetry and music, a work he started in 1961.

He successfully defended his PhD in 1972. He also did his post graduate certificate in Education at the Southampton University where he was awarded the Best Student of the Year, among over three hundred students. He also bagged the Gabib Award, the Southampton Teachers Association Prize, awarded annually to the best student in the Certificate in Education Course in the University. Father Arazu spoke and was fluent in French, Italian and German languages.

On return in 1973, he was posted to Saint Martin’s Church, Ihiala, as a parish priest. He served as English teacher at the Holy Ghost Juniorate Ihiala and also as a part-time lecturer at Federal School of Social Work, Emene-Enugu for two years.

He was the Special Director for the Institute of Ecumenical Education, Thinkers Corner Enugu; President-General, Ihembosi Progress Assembly for twelve years; member, Anambra State Traditional Medicine Board for four years; part-time lecturer at the Spiritan International School of Theology, Atakwu near Enugu for four years; Chairman of Enugu Based Association for Scientific Conservation and Utilization of Medicinal Plants of Nigeria, among others.

Untill his demise, Fr. Arazu was also the custodian of the ọfọ of his clan, the Eze Dibia clan in Otuke village, Ihiala.

He died on Sunday, 26th December, 2021.

May his gentle and highly resourceful soul rest in perfect peace, Amen.

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