By Rev. Fr. Anthony Aneke
To seek the intercession of the saints or those presumed to have lived a live worthy of sainthood in times of great need is not only an age-long Catholic tradition but an article of faith…We believe in the fellowship of the saints. In the Catholic tradition, a “saint” is anyone in Heaven, whether recognized on Earth or not, who form the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). These “may include our own mothers, grandmothers or other loved ones (cf. 2 Tim 1:5)” who may have not always lived perfect lives but “amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord”.
The title “Saint” denotes a person who has been formally canonized, that is, officially and authoritatively declared a saint, by the Church as holder of the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and is therefore believed to be in Heaven by the grace of God. There are many persons that the Church believes to be in Heaven who have not been formally canonized and who are otherwise titled “saints” because of the fame of their holiness. The saint is seen as a holy person who is known for his or her “heroic sanctity and virtue”.
Catholics venerate the saints and look to them as examples of lives well lived in the faith. Many find comfort in the knowledge that holy people shared in their same struggles, sins, doubts, or hardships and ask specific saints to pray for them. Some saints are the patrons of certain occupations or causes, and these saints are often invoked to aid people in those professions or situations.
It is important to point out here that the Catholic Church does not “make” or “create” saints, but rather recognizes them. Proofs of ‘heroicity’ required in the process of beatification will serve to illustrate in detail the general principles upon proof of their “holiness” or likeness to God.
The cause of beatification and canonization of Late Bishop Michael Ugwuja Eneja has evoked a lot of interests and reactions most recently. Eneja was born in Ibagwa Ani, and was ordained a priest on July 29, 1951 from the Diocese of Enugu. He was appointed bishop of the Diocese of Enugu on November 10, 1977 and received his episcopal consecration on February 28, 1978. He remained bishop of the Diocese of Enugu until his retirement on November 8, 1996. He died on November 14, 2008.
Eneja is reputed to be a man of humility and brotherly love par excellence. Sanctity and the necessity of acquiring it loomed large in all his homilies and public addresses. For him, “It is sanctity; union with God, that is the whole aim of the struggle.” As bishop, he not only continued his ascetic life-style, but also endeavoured to inculcate the same in priests and lay people alike. Until his death, Eneja maintained that, “Self-denial is a sine-qua-none of good living.”
The entire process
In the journey to the sainthood, the official process of canonization, called a Cause, does not begin until five years after the death of the candidate. In this period, the Church try to ascertain whether the candidate enjoys a true and widespread reputation of holiness and of intercessory prayer. When a Cause is officially begun, the candidate receives the title “Servant of God.”
The first stage of the process (preliminary stage) begins with the official opening of the Cause by the bishop of the diocese* where the Servant of God died, and the appointment of a postulator, to assist in its promotion. The bishop nominates various officials for a tribunal to gather all the evidence for and against the canonization. Two theologians examine the Servant of God’s writings to make sure there is nothing in them contrary to the faith and moral teaching of the Church. Afterwards, they proceed to taking the testimony of witnesses who knew the candidate well.
In 2013, Enugu Diocese decided to begin the process of Canonization of Bishop Michael Eneja. Rev. Fr. Michael Chime was appointed the Postulator for the Cause. In 2014, Fr. Chime was sent to Rome for a year course on canonization processes. When he came back, a commission was constituted to help him as the postulator and the Cause started in earnest. Speaking with the Choice Flame Newspaper, Fr. Chime maintained that the preliminary processes of the cause which involves petitioning by the postulator which culminates into obtaining a Nihil Obstat from Rome for the cause of Eneje’s Beatification has been actualized. The ‘Nihil Obstat’ points to the permission of Rome that the Cause can go on. Therefore, Rome has nothing against the process.
Still on the preliminary stage, The Bishop of the Diocese Most Rev. C.V.C. Onaga constituted a board of Enquiry for the Cause. The members of the board of Enquiry are; Most Rev. Ernest Obodo (auxiliary bishop of Enugu) as the apostolic delegate, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Clement Obasi as the Promoter of Justice, Rev. Fr. Dr.Joseph Ezechi as the Notary and Rev. Fr Anthony Anigbogu as the Vice Notary. This board of Enquiry collects evidence for and against the cause of the canonization process of Michael Eneja through interview sessions and other enquiries.
The second stage towards canonization of a saint begins when all the evidence collected is studied by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. If the evidence reveals true holiness exercised by the Servant of God, the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation informs the Pope that the Servant of God either was a true Martyr or has lived a life of extraordinary and heroic virtue. The Pope orders the Congregation to issue the decree either of Martyrdom or of Heroic Virtue, and the Servant of God is given the title “Venerable.” This means that the Servant of God either died as a true Martyr for Christ or led a life of heroic virtue and, is worthy of imitation by the faithful.
When the Servant of God has been declared a Martyr he or she may be beatified, that is, declared “Blessed.” If, on the other hand, the Servant of God has been declared to have lived a life of heroic virtue, it must be proven that one miracle has been granted by God through the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God. Then, he or she is declared “Blessed.” For a healing to be considered a true miracle, a tribunal to gather all the evidence is established in the diocese where the event took place. It must be determined that there is no scientific explanation for the cure and that the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God is proven. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints conducts its study and judgment of the cure by the testimony of medical experts that no scientific reason can explain the recovery, and of theological consultants to verify that the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God was requested.
To be canonized, all of those beatified — both Martyrs and Confessors — one miracle is required. It must be proven that this event took place through the intercession of the Blessed and after the date of his or her Beatification.
When this has been proven, the Pope proceeds to the ceremony of Canonization, which is an act of the infallible teaching authority of the Pope. By this act, the Church declares that he or she is a Saint in heaven with God. It also means that the Saint is worthy of public veneration by the universal Church, and held up as a model for imitation and a powerful intercessor for all.
Currently, The Board of enquiry for the cause of the Canonization of the Bishop Michael Eneja has been on desk in conducting on-going interview sessions in collection testimonies from various people who knew him and had in one way or the other come in contact with the servant of God. Many eloquent and bold testimonies speak for themselves.
Just recently, a report from Nsukka Catholic Diocese website revealed a testimony shared by the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Most Rev. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah while delivering a homily in a mass that kicked-off the 6th Bishop Michael Eneja Annual Memorial Lecture at St. Theresa’s Cathedral, Nsukka. He reeled out graphic miraculous thrilling stories before the congregation on how he had asked for Eneja’s intercession and his requests were met.
In one of his stories, Father Bishop narrated how his face had swollen up a number of times causing him excruciating pains. He explained that a medical examination had ascribed the infirmity to some stones or crystals believed to be hidden in his saliva gland, which medical experts said would need a surgical treatment for its removal.
He further expressed that in one of the occasions while he was in his office, the pain became unbearable and he called on the saintly bishop to help him out of the trauma. “One day, I was sitting in my office and the pain was so severe. After looking at myself, I said to Bishop Eneja. ‘You know I can handle this pain but I do not need this distraction. There are so many works to be done. Come and help me. The type of presence I felt that moment, I cannot explain it,” Bishop Onah said.
Continuing, the Father Bishop expressed that he was in abroad recently for a medical examination to ascertain fully all circumstances surrounding his bulged face with all effort to cure the ailment. Although, a team of medical experts had stated that a surgery would be carried out on him but after another round of X-Ray, he was told that there was no need for an operation anymore as the illness had healed naturally.
“After the X-Ray, they only confirmed that the healing process that started in my office has continued,” said Father Bishop. As if that was not enough, he stated that while returning home, their plane on getting to an airport in Abuja could not land immediately following a notice from the pilot that the airport was closed down as a result of heavy storms. This testimony is put one out of many testimony waiting to be voiced out of many hearts whom Bishop Eneja has miraculously touched.
Therefore, in the midst of this development, The Postulator Fr. Mike Chime speaking to the Choice Flame Newspaper urged everyone that the Board of Enquiry request everyone who knew Bishop Eneja very well: those he taught in the seminaries, priests, sisters, his spiritual sons and daughters, all the lay faithful who had contact and deeply touched by him to come and bear witness of his good life. These testimonies are necessary because they will be presented to Rome in other to facilitate the process of beatification and canonization of Bishop Eneja.
Mostly importantly, The Postulator encouraged the faithful to always say the prayer for the beatification of the servant of God, Bishop Michael Ugwuja Eneja for obtaining of favour through his intercession. Favours received through his intercession should be reported to the postulator.
Merciful Father, it pleased you to call your servant Micheal Ugwuja Eneja, to minister to your people. Like the apostles, he left everything behind to faithfully follow you, and he excelled in meekness and humility, unpretentious holiness and unlimited availability, both in Priestly ministry and in the episcopacy. Having accomplished the mission you assigned to him on earth, he returned to you.
As we thank you for the gift of him, we pray you to show us that you have accepted his selfless services and have admitted him into the company of the saints. Merciful Father, grant us through his intercession and according to your will, the favours we implore you through him… (in silence mention your petitions).
Through these petitions may your named be glorified both now and forever. We make our prayers through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen.
To report favours and miracles obtained, kindly contact the Postulator: Rev. Fr. Dr. Micheal Chukuwma Chime on 08033318211. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org