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The Traditional Catholic Mission in Africa

A Remnant Update POSTED: 2/24/11

 Fr. Sumich at the FSSP mission in Nigeria

Editor’s Note: Many thanks to our friend Father Antony Sumich for authorizing the following progress report on the Fraternity of St. Peter’s mission in Nigeria. Readers may recall the encouraging report Fr. Sumich provided in these columns last year, and our many new subscribers to The Remnant will no doubt be interested to learn that Father Sumich was ordained for the FSSP only a couple of years ago. A New Zealander of Croatian descent, he was a rugby star not all that long ago. While living in Croatia for six years, in fact, he’d even coached the Croatian national team. But then he heard a silent voice calling him to the priesthood, to Tradition, to the FSSP and finally to Nigeria where today he labors in fields far removed from those in which he used to play. In these new fields the object is to pray and the goal is to save souls.

Today the whole world is warring against Christ, and various strategies are being employed by good priests from different societies and fraternities—all trying to save souls, all working for the “preservation and augmentation of the Catholic Faith”. For some this includes direct confrontation; for others it’s quiet but consistent restoration of all things Catholic.  Both are necessary. Both are clearly part of God’s plan.

I doubt very much that Fr. Sumich is discussing the pros and cons of Vatican II with the Nigerians every Sunday morning; nor is he sniping at the SSPX or involving himself in all sorts of political intrigue. He is caring for souls, however, and dealing with distressed consciences, providing the Sacraments, offering the traditional Latin Mass, planting the seeds of the Catholic Faith—exactly as faithful priests have always done in times of great crisis and spiritual upheaval.

At this critical moment in history, when Christ’s holy priesthood is under universal and diabolical attack, let us thank God for the tradition-minded priests still working in His faithful service. Anyone wishing to send a donation to help Father Sumich and his brother priests continue their vital missionary work in Nigeria may do so in care of the Fraternity of St. Peter North American Headquarters, Griffin Road, PO Box 196, Elmhurst, PA 18416.  ...Michael J. Matt

Dear Remnant Readers:

As expected, 2010 was as busy as 2009 here at our mission parish of Nne Enyemaka in Umuaka, Imo State, Nigeria (Nne Enyemaka is Igbo for "Our Lady of Perpetual Help").  Our days filled with hard work, and there are many blessings on which to reflect  here at night.

The beginning of the year found us sweating away and praying for the Harmattan wind to blow a little more regularly in our neighborhood. The Harmattan is the dry wind which blows down from the Sahara and deposits large amounts of dust in its wake. Hardly the type of thing you’d want for Christmas, perhaps, but when the alternative is intense heat and high humidity—well a dry, dusty wind is indeed the answer to prayers.

During the night, the Harmattan also carries cooler air down from the North, which can reduce temperatures down below 20 degrees (C)—something that usually causes the locals to go running for their ski jackets. But, alas, we only received about a dozen or so Harmattan days; the rest were grimy-collar days that ended in delirious nights and dreams of electric fans (that actually have electricity going into them), swimming pools and ice cream.

January was Epiphany time, and so we embarked on the annual blessing of the houses of our parishioners. It was (as always) inspirational to visit the people in their homes and be humbled by their warm and welcoming reception.

It’s no small test of physical stamina for priests to keep going all day in cassock, surplice and stole, with a burning thurible in hand, as though the 40-plus degree (C) temperatures were not warm enough. Weight gain isn’t exactly a viable option for traditional Catholic priests working in Africa.

Around this time the Bishop Emeritus, His Lordship Bishop Gregory Ochiagha, agreed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination at our parish on the exact day of his 50th jubilee (1st August). This was big news as no African Bishop was doing anything to actively promote the Traditional Latin Mass. Much work would have to be done in preparation for this Pontifical High Mass, especially as the Bishop had intimated his hope that we would make great progress with construction on our new church, and that it would be great if he could be the first to celebrate Mass there. He seemed unconcerned about the vast amount of money we still needed to raise in order to complete the building project.  Instead he told us: “I never worried about money when I was building our Cathedral here. If you are determined, you will find what you need.”  And that was that.

Father Evaristus departed in February for the US in order to renew his green card, which left Fr. Sumich as the only priest at the parish for an indefinite period. It was a busy time for Fr. Sumich, especially on Sundays when he’d get up early to say prayers, meditate and then enter the confessional at 6:30am.  Low Mass was at 7am; then it was back to the confessional until the 10am Sung Mass. There were still more confessions to be heard after Mass, and then it was three hours in torrential rain, over endless potholes and through countless checkpoints to hear confessions and offer Mass at Port Harcourt (once rivaling Mogadishu as the kidnapping capital of Africa) at 5 in the afternoon.

Then, with any luck, some much-needed sleep.

The continuation of the construction on the church in Umuaka began as the rains grew in intensity in April. The project had to be put in the hands of our protector, Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Nne Enyemaka Ebebe). We were not to be disappointed.

Construction continued at a fair pace and the main difficulty proved to be, not the weather, but the vast array of ‘experts’ all claiming to be qualified, who thought that if a job can be done cheaper then it MUST be better. The architect himself indicated that almost all construction work in the country is done without any professional approval. We can only pray that natural disaster in the future does not test the theory. Photos of the construction can be seen at

In May the parishioners undertook the annual 20-kilometer reparation walk from Orlu to Umuaka after the traditional day of prayer to beg for good weather. The walk was well attended and the weather lovely. See photos here: 

What must be astounding to non-Africans is that although the weather was very hot (and the road even hotter), all the attendees were dressed in clothing that covered most of the body. All the women wore dresses (usually full length) and had their heads covered, while the men wore long trousers. Anything else would seem most immodest to an African. One man decided to walk the entire length barefoot! That is no mean feat, even for an African, given the hardness of their feet (no pun intended).

In June, Mr Timothy O’Brien, a seminarian from the Our Lady of Guadalupe seminary in the US, came to spend a month with us. He was immediately drafted into the working crews on the church floor. Fortunately, as a former soldier he had no difficulty adapting to the rigors of that.

Miraculously, the rains stayed away, sometimes for days on end, whenever we were pouring concrete.  We thus made great progress on the concrete floor by the time Fr. Evaristus returned to us in June. 

With the Bishop due on the 1st of August, we were now moving full speed ahead. In July, Mr O’Brien was replaced by a German seminarian, Herr Simon Gräuter, who also had served in the military.  He too soon found himself sweating away on the worksite during the days while busy in the liturgical preparations for the Bishop’s Mass in the evenings.

The big day in Umuaka finally arrived, and Our Lady once more took care of the weather, with rain in the night and a beautiful day to greet the bishop and the large crowd of some 1500. Quite a few photos were posted on the website here: 

The Bishop was very happy, the Mass servers were excellent, the music beautiful (our choir had spent 3 months practicing), and the vestments top quality. Unfortunately, there was sparse press coverage of the event. Word of mouth went only so far, and so the event did not receive anywhere near the attention it ought to have done. In his homily, Bishop Ochiagha said that he believes concelebration has had a very negative effect on the priestly character, since the priest has now become just another part in the whole rather than an alter Christus.

In September, Fr. Sumich took his holiday and visited New Zealand for the first time since his ordination. On his way back home, he attended the canonization in Rome of St Mary of the Cross, Australasia’s first Saint. Now returned, he drives to Port Harcourt for all but one Sunday of the month to look after the growing community there, and Fr. Evaristus says the Masses in Umuaka. By the end of the year, the large concrete floor on the new church was almost completed, and the new land donated to the FSSP is now being cleared by Fr. Sumich. The plans are to build a multi-purpose hall there for retreats and seminars.

At the end of the 2010, we thank Our Lady for her maternal protection and ask your prayers for our work, that our vineyard here in Africa may continue to grow and bear abundant fruit.

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