When, as Catholic Christians, we celebrate the funeral Mass of one of the faithful, the Church reminds us that life does not end in death. Yes. Life does not end in death. We believe it and we preach it. Our belief that life does not end in death is anchored on the teaching of Jesus Christ who in the Gospel of John says: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26). Consequently, at the funeral Mass of a departed faithful we pray:
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.
In him the hope of blessed resurrection has dawned,
that those saddened by the certainty of dying
might be consoled by the promise of immortality to come.
Indeed for your faithful, Lord,
life is changed not ended,
and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust,
an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven. (Preface I for the Dead)
The maxim of the Church, lex orandi, lex credenda (the rule of prayer is (inspired by) the rule of belief) manifests the unity between what we believe and how we pray. The author of this news report had to reflect on this maxim and was inspired to craft this news report in this way based on the testimonies of priests and family members of late Rev. Fr. Robert Obro, SMA.
Listening to these testimonies, we can say without fear of contradiction that he was a quintessential priest and missionary. He was born on the 9th of September 1962 into a pagan family. Having converted to Christianity through the effort of a friend who gave him the opportunity of experiencing the beauty of Catholicism through participation at the Holy Mass during his visit, he received the sacrament of Baptism in 1982. As the first Catholic and first Christian in his family, God used him to lead his parents and siblings to the faith. Thus, his missionary voyage began in the domestic Church, his family. From the domestic Church he desired to take the Gospel to faraway places. Hence, in October 1986 he was among the very first six Africans to join the Society of African Missions (SMA). Ordained on the 17th of August 1996 he spent the rest 24 years of his life as a missionary in different countries in Africa. From 1996-1998 he was on mission in Cote d’Ivoire. From 1998-2001 he was a missionary in Central Africa Republic. Returning to Nigeria he was at the SMA formation house sharing the fruit of his missionary enterprise and preparing future missionaries of the Society at the SMA formation house in Bodija Ibadan (2001-2004). From2004-2006 he engaged in further studies at theUniversity of Ibadan where he obtained an M.A. Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies. He returned to Cote d’Ivoire in 2006 and was there till 2007 when he was sent on mission in Liberia. From 2009 when he returned to Nigeria till 2017 he was actively engaged in pastoral activities in Nigeria. From 2013-2017 he was parish priest at St. Andrew Catholic Church, Ugbiyokho in the Archdiocese of Benin City. After his one-year sabbatical from 2017-2018 he was posted to work in Uromi Diocese. He was the pioneer Priest-in-charge of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Egbele Uromi and Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Utako Uromi.
He dedicated himself completely to the service of the faithful in these Churches. He was a great pastor of souls. He will be dearly remembered by all, especially his parishioners, the Clergy and Consecrated persons of Uromi Diocese with whom he spent the last years of his life. In fact, Fr. Robert Obro, preached the 2020 Lenten Retreat of the Clergy and Consecrated persons of Uromi Diocese.
Having been called by our Eternal Father to his eternal reward in heaven on Thursday, 23rd April 2020, after a brief illness, due to the uncertainty as to when the coronavirus pandemic ravaging Nigeria and other parts of the world will end, the Superiors of his religious missionary family, the Society of Africa Missions decided that he be buried at the SMA house in Uromi. Office for the dead and Vigil Mass were said for the peaceful repose of his soul on Thursday, 30th April 2020. On Friday, 1st May 2020, after the Office for the dead and Funeral Masshe was laid to rest. While Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Imoniunu, SMA presided at the Vigil Mass, Rev. Fr. Claude Nikpithe, SMA, Nigeria Provincial Councilor, Presided at the Funeral Mass.
Each of these celebrations were attended by not more than 20 persons. They were representatives of the SMA, the family, priests and consecrated persons of Uromi Diocese and his parishioners. It was an unusual way to bury a man of the people. The Councilor expressed gratitude to those who represented the various groups and those who desired to be part of the funeral celebration but were not allowed to come due to the restriction on public gatherings imposed by Edo State Government owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
May God grant eternal rest to the soul of his servant and priest, Fr. Robert Obro, SMA.
What some persons say about him
- Fr. Robert Obro, SMA was full of life and humor. He was a priest, a good man who knew how to relate well with his parishioners. I am sure he will crack some jokes with St Peter at the gate of heaven. Words of the homilist at the vigil Mass, Rev. Fr. GregoryAbuya, Secretary of Uromi Deanery
- Everyone that encountered him encountered a joyful priest who transmitted joy to them. He has lived his life. He tried his best. He was a man of faith and a man of vision; a man who was always disposed to go in the way Christ led. Words of the homilist at the Funeral Mass, Very Rev. Fr. Christopher Ehidiamhen, Spiritual Director to Late Fr. Robert Obro, SMA and President of Nigerian Catholic Diocesan Priests Association, Uromi Diocese.
- He was a disciplinarian and a man who stood for the truth. We believe that we did not lose him but have gained an additional saint in heaven interceding for us. Prof Sunny Obro, Younger brother.
- There was never a dull moment with Fr. Robert Obro, SMA. He was a happy man. The priests in Uromi will miss him for his charming personality. Very Rev. Fr. Richard Oboh, Dean of Uromi Deanery.