Ward, Louis J.

1872-1935
Catholic Church (Spiritan)
Nigeria

From all available data the first missionary priest to visit Ogbunike was Rev. Fr. Louis J. Ward. In his own 1917 report to his Superior-general in France he mentioned that his first contact with Ogbunike was in 1912. [1] He went in the company of a religious brother, Adelme Walsh.

Fr. Louis himself was born on June 29, 1872 at Donegal in Ireland.[2] He became a student at Blackrock Juniorate in 1886. He obtained a Master of Arts degree at the Royal University of Ireland, and he taught at his alma mater (Blackrock) before doing his theology at Chevilly (France)[3]. He made his final profession of vows in the Congregation of the Holy Spirit at Orly on October 1, 1902.

In the following year, precisely March 28, 1903 he was ordained a priest at Chevilly. The same year he was sent on a mission to Nigeria. For the next 18 years he toiled in the Lord’s vineyard in Nigeria.

The missionary work brought Fr. Ward to Onitsha where he lived in the Immaculate Conception residence in Ogboli-Onitsha. Their community there consisted of three persons: himself (as director, bursar, school teacher), Father Eugene Groetz (school teacher) and Brother Adelme (school teacher and gardener). It was from this mission house that he made several treks into the vast area under his care. Among the towns he visited was Ogbunike.[4]

He was later transferred to Calabar where he worked in the outstations of Okuni and Akam.

Very tired and with fragile health, he returned to Europe in 1921. After some rest, he was reassigned to the United States of America. He became first an assistant and then in 1928 he was made the parish priest of St Anthony’s Church in Portsmouth.

On February 7, 1935 he died peacefully in the rectory and he was buried in the Ferndale community cemetery.

Denis Chidi Isizoh


Notes:

  1. Bulletin de la Communauté, XVI, 1918-20 (C.S.Sp. Archives in Chevilly, France).

  2. Information on Fr. Louis J. Ward published here is taken from A Spiritan : Who was Who in North America & Trinidad 1732-1981, (Pittsburgh, 1983) by Koren.

  3. He was of average intelligence, as his academic reports in Chevilly showed. I personally went through his examination report card and many of his letters to his superiors in France.

  4. Others include “Abaja (Agbaja), Akpo, Ankankaku (Awka nkakwu), Mgbago (Umuoji Mgbago), Newi (Nnewi), Nkoagu (Nkwoagu), Nnobi, Ogiddi, Ogidioru, Ojoto, Uhé (Uke), Umuoji, Umudim, Umudioka, and Uruagu.” See État du Personnel, des Maisons et des Oeuvres, March 1913 (C.S.Sp. Archives in Chevilly).


This article is reproduced, with permission, from The Dawn From on High : A Brief History of the Catholic Church in Ogbunike, copyright © 1995, by Rev. Fr. Denis Chidi Isizoh, Tipografica Leberit, Rome, Italy. All rights reserved.