ABOUT THE FOUNDER
The man, Fr Gilbert Ohai
Rev Fr Gilbert Ikechukwu Chukwanugo Ohai was born on September 7, 1950 to Mr Matthias and Susanna Ohai of Umuona, Umueke Amofu Ekwegbe in Igbo-etiti Local Government Area of Enugu State. He was the second out of the three children of his parents. He had his primary education at St Joseph Catholic School, Ekwegbe. He later left with his brother, Mathew Sunday Ohai to Premier School, Ukehe where he got his First School Leaving Certificate in 1970. He could not continue with his secondary education because of financial constraints. In 1978, he learnt and established a patent medicine store at Ojoto in Idemili Local Government Area of Anambra State. His business flourished such he was able to buy a car for himself though it was later stolen.
His Divine Call
From all indications, Fr Gilbert had what one would term a late vocation. He was among those called at the evening time according to the scripture and he did not hesitate to answer the call of the divine master. In 1979, he took the entrance examination to the junior seminary and was admitted into St Paul’s Seminary at the age of thirty. From there, he proceeded to All Hallows Seminary at Onitsha in Anambra State and later to Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary, Owerri for the remaining part of the training.
His Seminary Days
He was gifted in handicraft especially in mason work and traditional medicine. He plastered the auditorium and built four lavatories for the domestic workers in the seminary. After his ordination, the late Archbishop A.K. Obiefuna requested for priests who would voluntarily offer themselves for the church in the riverine area of Anam, a town in Anambra west. All the priests declined except Rev. Fr. Gilbert. He willingly gave himself for the difficult apostolate at the riverine areas. The archbishop did not hesitate to bless and send him to Oroma-Etiti, Anam. In the seminary, the ascetic and deep spirituality of Fr Gilbert Ohai captivated other seminarians who formed themselves as the ‘Ohai Group’ or ‘Ohai Disciples.’ Fr Ohai maintained his ascetic life, quietude, humility and dedication. He worked as the school doctor, herdsman, farmer and mason. He rarely went on holiday since he voluntarily stayed back to help in the seminary. At the end of his junior seminary, Monsignor Achebe wrote a report which read thus, ‘he is very good, very hardworking, devoted, trust worthy, conscientious, eager to promote discipline in the seminary. In the senior seminary, Monsignor Okere wrote the following: he is deeply spiritual, conscientious, caring, hardworking, very industrious, generous, and prayerful but he should minimize ascetism.
He went for an inter-diocesan apostolic work at Umuobom in Imo State and his report read thus, he exhibited a very high degree of apostolic zeal.
Fr Obielo who was his rector at Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Owerri said that Fr Ohai’s saintly life is still strongly felt in the seminary. His footprints are everywhere, his works are quite laudable.
Why Ohai desired the holy priesthood
Before his seminary days, Ohai was asked why he loved the holy priesthood and he answered,
I want to do God’s work as is written in the Bible and lived by the saints. Moreover, God’s mercy and the way he answers my prayer is a motivating factor. The lives of the saints and the gospel of Christ are other factors. Furthermore, I love Reverend Fr Ikeobi’s life which has also influenced me and I love the Holy Mass. I want to reach out to the sick, the poor and I love penance.
When he was asked what he cherished most in holy priesthood, he enumerated the following: holiness, obedience, poverty, education and purity of life. What he despised most in the life of priests is the preaching of money instead of Christ. For him, celibacy is a gift of God which only those who are called can live with great and unalloyed joy.
Those who helped him to become a priest are
a. Rev Fr Dr Godwin Ikeobi
b. Rev Fr Elias Menuba
c. Other spiritual directors in the seminaries he attended
In the year 1995, July 15, he was ordained a catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Onitsha.
Life after Ordination
After his priestly ordination on 15 July, 1995, Reverend Father Gilbert Ohai was posted to St Mary’s Umuhamma village in Ukpor, Anambra State. There, he proved himself a worthy ambassador of the church. He started his hospital apostolate which was held on every Wednesday. From there, he was posted to Oroma-Etiti, Anam. There in the riverine area, he continued with the apostolate where most of his clients attested to the efficacy of the herbal drugs. It was discovered that those who received healing became more fervent in their faith in God. One of such people (Rev Sr Gloria Edozieuno ) who was bedridden for two years, got healed and decided to give her life to the service of God who healed her through Fr Ohai. She joined and professed as a sister in the Congregation of Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Another client, Miss Anastasia Offozoba is a reputable Christian, the leader of the lectors and altar Girls in her parish at Holy Cross Parish in Oroma- Etiti, Anam. There are a host of others. Moreover, Fr Ohai remained available and approachable for the people of God.
Fr Ohai prophesied his death before it came to be. According to Mr Patrick Nwabunwanne, a teacher in Fr Ohai Group of Schools formerly known as Seat of Wisdom Secondary School, few months before his demise, he would say, ‘when a big tree falls, the birds will scatter.’ Also in his daily masses, he would always talk about martyrdom, Mrs Victoria Okeke echoed. In one of the masses, he asked the faithful, ‘what else do our people need to get converted to the Truth, may be they need the spilling of blood.’
On Wednesday 16th July, 2003, after he had given free drugs to his clients at the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha, Ohai went back to his parish at Oroma-Etiti, Anam. That very day, three hoodlums who were later killed at Otuocha came in, disconnected the electrical power to ensure there was total darkness in the compound, then, they pounced on him and clubbed him to death. He was carried on a wheel barrow to Mr Sunday Nwachukwu’s house at Umuemum, from there; he was taken down to the river where a canoe was to Waterside Hospital, Onitsha since there was no access road then. The canoe was still in the middle of the river when he gave up since he had lost so much blood. Some people coming back from Umuemum testified that they saw his murderers whom they recognized as total strangers. They accosted them and they confessed that they went for a computer lesson at then computer centre in the parish. Few hours later, the news of father’s death came to them. The teacher, Mr Patrick who was a close associate of Fr Ohai in his school avered that two weeks after his demise, he saw him in the dream and was consoled and admonished to develop a good relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fr Ohai encouraged him to pray always before the statue of our lady which he said, should be blessed by Rev. Fr Theo Odukwe, a priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha.
Fr Ohai and the Education Apostolate
Fr Ohai started the school apostolate with the intention of raising indigenous priests and religious brothers and sisters in Oroma-Etiti, Anam and its environs. He gathered children around him, drew a time table for them. Below is the copy of the time table which was collected from his second-in-charge of the school, Mr Patrick Nwabunwanne.
5.30am -----------------Holy Mass
7.30am ----------------Morning Assembly
8.45pm (Chapel) ---------Night Prayer
9.00pm ------------------- Bed time
NO VISITATION until the stipulated date and day for visiting and/ or PTD (Parent/Teachers’ Day).