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A PRIEST'S PASSION FOR THE POOR

By NBF News
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August 7, 1999, Rev. Fr. Paulinus Ike Ogara literally died to the world. That was the day he solemnly took the vow of poverty, chastity and obedience and was subsequently ordained a priest by the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, Most Rev. Dr. Francis Okobo.

For the past 11 years, the young priest has not reneged on his promise to serve the poor nor has he been deterred by the discouragements of his arduous vocation. With his eyes set on the heavenly crown, the priest said he would strive to create a new world resting on the foundation of unselfish love.

Driven by the zeal for a new world for the poor, Fr. Ogara recently launched a non-profit organization, the Friends of The Poor Apostolate, as a platform for addressing the plight of the underprivileged.

Speaking at the ceremony in St Patrick Catholic Church, Obollo-Afor, Enugu State, Fr. Ogara said the organization would unite people of similar interests and aspirations to advocate the rights of the poor in the country.

'I want my fellow human beings to enter the world of the poor and take a look at their appalling living conditions. The situation is so absolutely wrenching such that it is impossible not to feel sympathy,' he said.

Fr. Ogara, an author of many books, painted a pathetic picture of millions of people who are living in horrendous conditions.

'Finding themselves in dire existential straits and dissatisfied with their lot, many of the world's poor have become restless and listless, wandering in a wilderness of confusion, adapting unreflectively to conflicting and bewildering tendencies, attempting to do the impossible and the ignoble in order to escape the poverty trap. Even though they have no death wish, it is clear from their escapades that they are signing their own death warrants', he said.

The priest lamented the agony of the oppressed, where many are in the chains of poverty due to the unscrupulous acts of some selfish individuals. He noted that many of the world's rich who cock their ears to the cries of their poor neighbours are living in a false paradise.

'This is a country where few individuals corner our resources and swim in an ocean of wealth surrounded by a vast desert of poverty. This sorry state of affairs remains a permanent sore on the conscience of humanity. Something must be done to redress the imbalance. There is need for a proactive network of solidarity as no single individual can cope with the demands single -handed,' he explained.

He said the organization would strive to crate an egalitarian society where everybody is catered for and none is allowed to go hungry.

According to him, the mission would involve donations to the poor, visits to charity homes, scholarships to indigents students, empowerment programmes for the youths, among others.

'The poor have rights. This is our motto by which we wish to show that the poor are human like the rest of us. As human persons, they are subjects of rights and therefore, entitled to a fair share of the world's riches. The poor look up to us to plead their cause. We must look at them with compassion and feel their anguish in our hearts,' he concluded.