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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Father Corneille Ose, SJ



Gordon: When did you attend the University of Benin, what did you study, and how did your studies help your career?

Father Cornelius:  I had my undergraduate program at the University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria from September 2022 to September 2006. I graduated with a degree  in Political Science and Public Administration.

 

My studies at the University of Benin and the experiences I had and gathered with the friends made are what have shaped who I am today. My ideas and visions for what it means to be a human being, even as a Jesuit, re shaped by those experiences. I am deeply grateful for friends, my time at the University of Benin was formative in a sense.

 

Gordon: When did you attend Faculté de Philosophie Saint-Pierre Canisius. what degree did you earn, and who is your favorite French author?

 

Father Cornelius: As a Jesuit novice, my first mission immediately after my first vows was to Saint-Pierre Canisius at the Falcute de  Philosophie in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from July 2011 to July 2013 where I studied and obtained a  Baccalaureate en philosophie.


Some of my best French authors were Michel Foucault, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricoeur, etc


Gordon: When did you attend the Nigeria Institute of Management, what did you study, and what did you like most about the school?


Father Cornelius: I took a short course with The National Institute of Management (NIM) during my one-year compulsory National Service which spanned from March 2007 to August 2008. It was during this period that I engaged myself with this certificate course.

This certificate course was all about management in all ramifications including finances, risk, strategic planning, project management, etc. My best moment during this certificate course was meeting and spending time with young graduates like myself with all the hopes and fears of  engaging the world.


It was also a moment of trying and putting oneself in so many things hoping that something good come out of them.


Gordon: You have attended Boston College several times. Please list the degrees that you earned, what was your favorite course, and why was it  your favorite?


Father Cornelius: I was missioned to Boston College for my theological formation as a Jesuit from August 2015 to May 2019.


I began with the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from August 2015 to May 2018. While I was almost finishing, I started the Master in Theology (Th.M.) from August 2017 to May 2018

With the approval of my Provincial, I began the (M. A) in Comparative Politics and International Relations, from August 2018 to May 2019.


During my M. Div., my favorite course among others was with Prof. Thomas Stegman, S.J. of blessed memory. It was in “Paul’s Letter to the Romans). This experience got me thinking about a Ph.D. in Scriptures. I also took a course with Prof. Richard Clifford, S.J., on “Great themes of the Bible.” The experience of these great professors is still with me. You can feel it the way I engage the scripture and bring it alive pastorally.


While in graduate school at the Morrissey College of Arts Sciences, I had an experience with my professors Prof. Timothy Crawford and Prof. David Deese of the Department of Political Science. These two professors of two different areas of Political Science touched my life with their simplicity despite the mastery of their fields and vast knowledge of the


Gordon: Why did you decide to be a Jesuit?

 

Father Cornelius: The decision to become a Jesuit remains a mystery to me to date. I was never an altar boy neither was I close to Jesuits as friends, never! I guess it all started after reading a book on church history on the ‘cater reformation’ and the role the Jesuits played. This is probably for  me the small ‘River Cardoner’ experience. However, I think, the desire to serve selflessly, be faithful to and be myself also contributed to the decision to be a Jesuit 

 

Gordon: When did you serve as an Administrative Assistant at the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism and what did you enjoy most about your work?

 

Father Cornelius: During my National Service experience in Nigeria just after graduation, I was assigned to the ‘Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism’ in Umuahia, Abia State in the Eastern part of Nigeria.

 

One of the experiences that stayed with me apart from responding to basic administrative responsibilities was the opportunity to learn about other parts of Nigeria (diversity) and the oneness that we all shared as human beings. This was a culmination of the experiences that made me who I am today.

 

Gordon: When did you serve as Volunteer Chaplain at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and what is one of your favorite memories when you were there?


 Father Cornelius: Serving as a weekend chaplain for almost two years reshaped my worldview on the uniqueness and how interconnected we are as human beings. A black Jesuit Deacon serving in an all-white community is sometimes a challenge. You cannot study in Boston College Clough School of Theology and Ministry (BCCSTM), without engaging in pastoral activities.


Apart from helping with spiritual direction in the school, the Jesuit community requires of me a pastoral engagement. I took up the weekend's chaplaincy engagement at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center now Beth Israel Lahey Health where I was  remarkably touched to be more human and open in dealing with others.


My time as a chaplain served as a preparatory ground for the priestly ordination and further presence ministry. One of my favorite memories was meeting a man who during our short conversation forgave a man who in an accident had killed  his wife and only daughter and showed any remorse. That experience has never left me.


Gordon: Tell us about your service as Weekend Assistant St. Mary of the Annunciation Catholic Church in Melrose.      

                                   

Father Cornelius: As a student and Jesuit at Boston College, you must engage in parish activities once you are ordained a Deacon. It all happened like a dream when  one of the Jesuits by the name Michael Rossman, invited me to come see the parish where he was almost finished serving as a Deacon. When I got there, the experience I had was life-changing and that was how I spent almost two years serving as a Deacon with the good people of Saint Mary of the Annunciation parish and Fr. Kevin Tommy, the then administration in Melrose.


If I am doing well as a priest-in-charge today, these people and their priests made me who I am today by their remarkable generosity and acceptance. In all, there were then about a thousand plus parishioners or more for the three masses—Saturday @ 4:00 p.m., Sunday mornings, at 7:00 a.m., and 9:00 a.m.    

            

Gordon: Tell us about your service as Assistant Pastor Saint Joseph Catholic Church Benin City, Nigeria and were their any problems with the large Muslim population there?

 

Father Cornelius: Immediately after my priestly ordination with eight other Jesuits, in my home parish in Benin City, Nigeria, since I was to resume in Accra, Ghana post-ordination assignment, I decided to stay back in the parish instead of going home or traveling around attending masses of thanksgiving to learn the act of celebrating masses and pastoral presence with God’s people Saint Joseph Parish is situated in the South-South of Nigeria. Although we have a fairly large number of Muslims, it is not prone to religious violence. So, I had a great experience back in my home parish. 

 

Gordon: When did you serve as Assistant Director/Program Officer at Arrupe Jesuit Institute Kwabenya, Accra, Ghana and what were your primary responsibilities?


Father Cornelius: My first mission as a newly ordained Jesuit Priest, was to serve as Assistant Director and Program officer at a newly established apostolate Arrupe Jesuit Institute, Accra, Ghana. A social Apostolate of the Society of Jesus.

My primary activities were assisting in organizing the program of activities for this newly formed apostolate and also putting things in place in terms of structures for those coming ahead of us.


Gordon: Please share with our readers an overview of the poverty in Ghana.

 

Father Cornelius: Poverty is relative. I cannot say today, that while I was in Ghana, there was the vivid presence of poverty, not at all. Yes! Some people lacked basic amenities like we can see in every other part of the world. Accra, Ghana was relatively okay, though expensive to live in, the people were generally okay and could manage their daily experiences. I would say that there is poverty in the mind and body. If you have visited Accra, Ghana, it is a place to enjoy your money if you have it to spend.


Gordon: When did you serve as Assistant Priest-in-Charge Saint Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church in Greater Accra, Ghana and what were some of the challenges that you had to address?


Father Cornelius: After my time at Arrupe Jesuit Institute, I was missioned to Saint Ignatius Catholic Church, Spintex, Accra. Saint Ignatius was a great place to be as a young priest. An affluent area in Accra. There were no challenges except for making sure that the people worked together to build the church and help each other as Christ's body on earth.     


Gordon:  As Priest-in-Charge Saint John Paul II Catholic Church, Grafton, Freetown, please comment on Climate vulnerabilities and how inflation could increase food insecurity and aggravate social tensions. Please comment on these challenges

 

Father Cornelius: Like every other nation in the world, Sierra Leone has its challenges and peculiarities. There is absolutely nothing happening in Sierra Leone that cannot be associated with other African countries and countries of the global south. And these peculiarities are not just limited to these nations, it is everywhere. Having the opportunity to travel around the world has given me the understanding that life seems greener on the other side of the globe until you move there. However, humanity shares the same reality except for some basic things that good leadership and accountability have to offer. I think, being able to travel and live in some parts of Africa, I will say that what is lacking is good leadership and accountability. If these two  realities are addressed and attended to, countries in Africa, like the rest of the world will be a place to be and make a home.


Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional interview that will have many of us learn more about Catholicism in Africa.

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