Some two decades after Pope St. John Paul II beatified the first Nigerian, Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi making him the first West African to achieve that feat, a second canonization cause is underway in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country where 25 percent of the population is estimated to be Catholic.
“The process of Ogu’s Sainthood is already in motion,” the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CNBC) Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze has been quoted as saying, referencing the candidate, 14-year-old Vivian Uchechu Ogu.
“Another Catholic saint may emerge from the country (Nigeria) if the Vatican process leading to the beatification and canonization of 14-year-old virgin Vivian Ogu finally sails through,” the Archbishop of Benin City added during a Mass held in memory of Vivian, at the end of National Mission Congress of Nigeria.
Speaking during the Mass held at the Vivian Ogu Missionary Animation Centre in Benin City, the International President of Pontifical Mission Societies, Archbishop Guampetno Dal Toso who represented Pope Francis at the event, eulogized Vivian Ogu saying, “We have here in Nigeria this good example of a young woman who gave her life for the fidelity of her faith.”
“She showed us how we can live our faith without minding the consequences,” Archbishop Dal Toso is quoted as eulogizing Vivian Ogu on behalf of the Holy Father during Mass at the Centre dedicated to her, reported to be “the site (where) the teenager was shot dead.”
According to an official account of her life, Vivian who was born in Southern Nigeria’s Benin City, “died a heroic death by opting to be killed rather than being sexually defiled.”
According to a Comboni Youth report, Vivian’s death reveals that her deep commitment to holiness saw her teach her peers to engage in “periodic acts of mortification for salvation”, an act that saw her appointed in several leadership positions in the Church, among them the first president of the Pontifical Association of the Holy Childhood (PAHC) in her parish.
The second-born in a family of four met her death on Sunday November 15, 2009, in a similar manner like her role model, 12-year-old Italian virgin-martyr Saint Maria Goretti who chose death over rape and whose stories Vivian often narrated to call her peers to holiness.
While home on the evening of the fateful day, armed thieves raided their family house and kidnapped her and her sister. When the thieves tried to rape her, she fought back much to the chagrin of the rapists who shot and killed her.
Speaking during the Saturday Mass, the Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan noted that Vivian’s death was special since many people have died in a similar manner but there is nothing much that comes out of their deaths.
“But Vivian’s case has proven otherwise. You must see the hand of God in this. How many times have we been hearing that armed robbers killed people? This is not the first time armed robbers are killing people but this particular case is special,” Nigerian Cardinal Onaiyekan noted.
“It must be because God wants to use her to tell a story that we are so anxious to try to save our lives and in that … we give in to everything thinking that we are saving our lives whereas Jesus said those who want to save their lives will lose it and those who lose their lives for his sake will gain it,” the Prelate added.
Upon learning about Vivian’s heroic death, the government of Edo State granted the land where she was killed to the Archdiocese of Benin City while the local city council named a street after her.
Since 2010, the faithful from the Archdiocese have been making annual pilgrimages to the death site (Vivian Ogu Missionary Animation Centre) for an annual memorial.
In March 2014, Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze of Benin City instituted the Vivian Ogu Movement which is tasked with the responsibility of promoting the canonization cause through preservation of her death site as well as collecting testimonies from witnesses.
If the canonization cause is approved by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Vivian might be the second Nigerian and West African to be beatified after Blessed Michael Cyprian Iwene Tansi, a Nigerian priest turned Monk, who was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in March 1998 in Oba, Nigeria.