THE VISION, SPIRITUALITY AND CHARISMA OF VERY REV. FR. DENIS MARY JOSEPH ONONUJU OBIAGA CSSp
Very Rev. Fr. Denis Mary Joseph Ononuju Obiaga’s family background had a lot of influence in forming his vision of life. He was born on the 15th of October, 1930 and brought up by God fearing parents; Late Mr. George and Susan Obiaga, from Umuohi Village, Okija, Anambra State, from whom he also got a sound Christian education.
Coming from God-fearing parents, he was brought up in the love of God and neighbor, hard work, aversion for evil and all kinds of sin, and compassion for those in difficult situations.
Sequel to this, he started nurturing the desire to serve God through priestly and religious life, which he actualized in the Holy Ghost Congregation. He entered Holy Ghost Congregation and after his ordination on 6th June 1965, as one of the first Nigerian Holy Ghost Priests, was later sent on a mission to Sierra Leone.
As a Priest, he continued to manifest his concern for the well being of others in a way that is inexplicable. After being called back to Nigeria from Sierra Leone at the end of the Nigerian civil war, as a result of the shortage of Priests, his vision for the well being of others especially those in need and difficult situations became manifest; as he saw many people living in abject poverty and destitution as an aftermath of the civil war. He became entirely committed to the poor, providing them with food and hospitality. He also manifested a great concern for the sacredness of human life, by helping those with cases of unmarried teenage pregnancies, taking them to Catholic hospitals and convents where they would be cared for.
He continued this way, praying that God might enlighten him on how to continue with this apostolate, especially when these Catholic hospitals and convents started refusing him help due to lack of accommodation.
Furthermore, he observed that there are among the youth, a gradual but steady loss of the sense of true values, lack of deep appreciation for the sacred–be it person or things. Talk about sanctification and salvation of souls were no longer priorities in the lives of majority of the youth. Holy ambition, apostolic zeal and regard for righteousness were no longer items of common interest and conversation among a good number of the youths. Rather, increased interests in irreligiousity and crime were rampant.
Fr. Denis Mary Joseph’s vision is interpolated in his spirituality. His vision and spirituality is the perfect and practical love of God and neighbour directed towards the poor, the destitute, the orphans, the marginalized and the youths who especially in this millennium, have lost the sense of sacredness and are more attached to the mundane.
To fully bring these visions into reality, he founded two Religious Congregations, who by their words, actions and examples live to revive the apostolic spirit of love; where those who have will not have in excess and those who have not would not suffer want; a life lived in imitation of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph;
A life of simplicity and mutual trust; a life where individual differences would be drowned; a life of childlike confidence in God.
The Holy Family Sisters of the Needy was founded on 19th March 1983 to carry on with his vision of helping the needy–the sick, the poor, the orphans, the marginalized and less privileged of the society, teenage pregnant youths, etc.The Holy Family Fathers and Brothers of the Youth was as well founded on 11th February 2003 to carry on with his vision of helping the youths to discover true and positive values, to abstain from ill related behaviours and to rediscover the sense of sacredness and sanctity of life.
HIS SPIRITUAL/PRAYER LIFE
Those who have had a close encounter with Very Rev. Fr. Dennis Mary Joseph Ononuju Obiaga CSSp will testify that he is a man of prayer, and to pray in season and out of season is his watchword. He believes that there is nothing that gives one security in life other than prayerfulness and having a childlike confidence in God. He so much likes the Holy Eucharist that he cannot pass a day without celebrating the Holy Mass. He is also devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He sees the world boiling like hot water and believes that it is only the Blessed Virgin Mary that can bring it to a cooling point. Besides this, he has as his favourite prayer, the “Pater noster”. This is why he would like his members to always say this prayer devotedly with their arms outstretched. He calls it the compendium of all prayers, because it is the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Another aspect of his spirituality is his life of selflessness and mortification. He prefers the other more than himself. He will forfeit his own comfort to give joy and solace to the people around him. He is of the opinion that if you selflessly think of other people’s wellbeing, God will definitely take care of yours. Therefore, his aim for mortification is to give comfort to others.
Furthermore, we cannot conclude without mentioning that there are numerous saints noted for the work of charity that influenced our Father Founder.
St. Theresa of the infant Jesus
St. John Bosco
St. John Mary Vianney
St. Vincent de Paul
Pope St. Pius X
St. Martin de Pores
These Saints, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, are the Patron Saints of his two Foundations: The Holy Family Sisters of the Needy and the Holy Family Fathers and Bothers of the Youth.