Mission Parish

  St. Joseph's Catholic Parish
St. Joseph's International Nursery/Primary School
Awarra - Ohaji
Imo State - Nigeria
In October of 2011, representatives from various parish ministries and commissions met with pastoral leadership and Fr. James-Michael Okpalaonwuka to discuss the possibility of entering into a twinning arrangement for the construction of a parish school for St. Joseph's Catholic Parish in Imo State, Nigeria.
St. John's parish and school community responded with an outpouring of generosity resulting in the school's dedication and blessing in November of 2012.
The following correspondence details the updates recieved from Fr. James.




PROJECT DIRECTOR:   VERY REV. FR. DR. JAMES- MICHAEL OKPALAONWUKA (Former Superior General Sons of Mary Congregation)


Permit me to introduce to you St. Joseph's International Nursery/Primary school. St. Joseph's International Nursery/Primary school was established in the year 2000. It is one of the most remote Nursery/Primary schools in Owerri Archdiocese. The aim of establishing this Nursery/Primary school was to give qualitative education and sound moral upbringing to children from this remote/rural part of the diocese. Because of the remote nature of the village, teachers posted to Awarra by the state school board, in most cases, decline to take up the appointment.


Although this nursery/primary school was established in the year 2000, due to poverty, Awarra Community has not been able to erect classroom block for these children. The community is made up of poor peasant farmers. The school authority have been making use of the temporary parish church which serves dual purpose of church building on Sunday and school building on week days.

Enclosed in the envelope are pictures of the pupils sitting in their classes inside the church building for learning. It is very sad indeed that, since the inception of the school, these little children have never enjoyed a good accommodation as classrooms and conducive atmosphere for learning.

Children in the nursery section stay under the mango tree, as shown in the pictures, because the church building does not accommodate them during school hours. During rainy season, it is always a sorry sight to see these children being socked with water whenever rain falls.


As a missionary priest, I was posted to Awarra on the 14th of February 2011. On my arrival, I was shocked to discover that Awarra is one of the Oil producing communities of Niger Deiter in Nigeria. There are three functioning Oil0Wells here in Awarra. The money from this Oil-Well is used to develop Abuja, Lagos and other major cities in Nigeria. As of today, there is no electricity in Awarra community, no telephone network (including mobile telephone anterna). I am including a photocopy of an article in the News Letter of the Fountain Magazine written by Chimaraoke Offurum in December 1999 with the title: NEGLIGENCE THAT INVITES VIOLENCE-The
Awarra Oil producing experience (Page 7 & 13).

The situation in Awarrra in 1999 is still the same today. The only thing that helped to stop or minimize this violence in Awarra community today is the Gospel of Christ which we missionaries preach to them. Helping the community build classroom block where their children could be educated is another Gospel which the community needed desperately.


Awarra community is made up of poor peasant farmers. The means through which these poor peasant farmers raise money for any project is by contributing a basin of Garri (farm product from cassava) every first Sunday in the Month. It is usually called Garri Sunday. This Garri is sold and money realized from it is invested in the project at hand.


It has been estimated that the sum of N4,700,000 ($31,333) will be needed to erect this six classroom block. 


From the sale of Garri, the parents of these children will be able to raise the sum of N700,000 ($4,666) as their local contribution.


We are sincerely requesting St. John's Parish, Madison, to help us with the sum of N4,000,000 ($26,670). As the Director of this project and as the former Superior General of Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy
Congregation who handled such project during my 12 years in the office, I promise to use any fund that may be approved for this project judiciously and accurate account rendered as at and when due.

Be assured that the children will always remember St. John's Parish in their prayers. Enclosed is the recommendation of our Local Ordinary. While promising you our prayers,

I remain,
Yours sincerely,
Very Rev. Fr. Dr. James- Mictiael Okpalaonwuka, S.M.M.M.
(Project Director and Former Superior General Sons of Mary)


Dear Fr. Phil,

Greetings from Nigeria. I usually go out to the city to check my mail once every two weeks. I opened my mail this morning and saw your mail informing me that you have transferred the sum of $35,000 for the construction of St. Joseph's Nursery/Primary school. You can not imagine our joy. I will break the news to the Staff and students tomorrow morning during the morning assembly. Thank you very much and may God continue to bless you.

I will get you informed as soon as we receive the fund. I will also give you information about the progress of the construction work as soon as it is started. We can equally plan ahead of time when you and some members of your parish will visit us in Nigeria.

Thanks once more and may God continue to bless you.

Fr. James - Michael Okpalaonwuka, S.M.M.M.


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Dear Fr. Phil,

I wish to acknowledge officially the receipt of the total sum of $35,000.00 for the construction of six classroom block for our Nursery/Primary school. May God continue to bless you and your parishioners for this act of love towards the children of St. Joseph's Nursery/Primary school Awarra.

There is no way of describing the joy expressed by these children, teachers as well as the entire parishioners of St. Joseph's Parish- Awarra- when this good news was given to them. Thanks once more and may God bless you and your parishioners.

I am very sorry I could not write you Email as soon as the fund arrived. It was only today that I am able to read or send mails. Kindly bear with me.

The total amount which was sent is $35,000.00. It was paid into our Euro account instead of dollar account. The conversion into Euro was Euro26,699.21. It was in turn converted into Nigerian local currency which came to N5,553,150.00.

We have already bought hundred bags of cement and seven trips of sharp sand for molding of blocks. We shall start digging the foundation in two weeks time. I will always give you information of any stage we reach.
I would like you to give me a hint of the period of the year you and some members of your parishioners will be visiting us here in Nigeria - most probably before the end of this year or some time next year. My younger brother Jude will help you people to organize the trip.

Thanks once more and may God continue to bless you.
I remain,
Fraternally your in Christ,
Fr. James - Michael Okpalaonwuka, S.M.M.M.

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Dear Fr. Phil,

Greetings from Nigeria. I wish to give you a hint of the extent we have gone with the classroom construction. We finished molding hundred and one bags of cement. and got 3,245 six inches blocks. We estimated that this will be enough for the six class room block. The school children helped in packing the molded blocks. There is no way I can describe their joy. Even those in Nursery section joined in packing broken pieces of blocks. I will post you the pictures soon. We have also stated digging the foundation. If the workers continue with this speed, the building will be completed in a record time. Our target is to finish every thing before the end of July this year. I will keep you informed of any progress.

My fraternal greetings to the members of your parish. I wish you the blessings of Holy Week and Easter.
I remain,
Yours in the Lord,
Fr. James - Michael Okpalaonwuka, S.M.M.M.

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Dear Fr. Phil,

Greetings from Nigeria. It has taken time since I wrote you last. The construction of the six class room is going faster than I anticipated. My initial plan was to see that we finish every thing before the end of July 2012. We have already finished block work last week. The Carpenters have already began roofing the six class rooms this week. We anticipate to finish work on the building towards the end of June 2012. I will send you the photograph of the building in due time.

There is no way I can describe the joy of students and teachers as well as their parents to you. They are pouring out their prayers to God every day so that He may bless the parishioners of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church Madison. May God continue to bless you and your parishioners.

Yes, I forgot to inform you that we received the additional money you sent to us. The fund usually arrive to us in Euro. The total amount this time was Euro 1,498.80. After changing it in local currency, it came to N310,250.
As I have already indicated in my previous mails, we can never thank you enough for coming to our aid when we most needed it. May God reward you for us. We are still looking forward to receiving you and your parishioners in our parish one day. Thanks once more and may God bless you.

I remain,
Your fraternally in the Lord,
Fr. James - Michael Okpalaonwuka, S.M.M.M.


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Dear Fr. Phil,

It has taken time since I wrote you last. I am glad to inform you that we have six classrooms with a roof on top of it where our students can do their studies. There is no way I can describe the joy of both the students, teachers and parents of these children. May God continue to bless you and your parishioners.

Dear Fr. Phil., I presumed your permission and that of your parish Council. Yes, if you can recall what I told the members of your Parish Council during my meeting with them that what we needed most is a ROOF where these children can do their studies.
In constructing this six classrooms, I did not compromise quality. It is a solid building. However, I did not go into flooring,plastering and painting. I only fixed iron doors and burglary proof at the windows for security.

I used the remaining money to start the construction of a laboratory block of three classrooms which is now at the roofing stage. We needed this laboratory block very urgently so as to secure Government approval of our school next year. If we do not have laboratory block and some laboratory equipments, our school will not be allowed to register for school certificate examination at the end of their six year secondary school education. That was my reason for presuming your permission. I hope you will pardon me.

I have scheduled a meeting of Parents/Teachers association to take place on the 21st of July 2012. After that meeting, I will forward you the account and pictures of the two buildings.

We are still anxious to hear when some of you will visit Nigeria to see this project yourself. We shall be responsible for your accommodation and security during the period of your stay in Nigeria. My younger Brother Jude will help to arrange for your traveling visa.

I had hoped to visit U.S.A. this year during the first week of September 2012. However, when I applied for U.S. visa early May, I was given appointment to come for an interview at the American Embassy in Abuja on the 29th of October 2012. So my hope of visiting U.S. again will be some time next year.

We shall be most grateful if you can give us a hint of the time and period of the year that will be convenience for you to visit us in Nigeria. I hope to forward you the pictures of the two buildings and the account towards the end of this July or early August. Thanks once more for your brotherliness and generosity,

I remain,
Your brother in Christ,

Fr. James - Michael Okpalaonwuka, S.M.M.M.

Dear Fr. Phil,

In my last Email, I indicated that I will send you the summary account of income and expenditure of the six classroom project before the end of July 2012. I have included in this letter the summary account of the six classrooms as well as the three classrooms for science laboratory in addition to some photographs of the project.

I did apologize for diverting the fund to build science laboratory block. We needed it badly and without it, the State School Management Board will not approve our school for School certificate examination. I hope you have pardoned me for acting without your permission.

As of today, the six classrooms has been roofed and ceiled. Six Iron doors have been fixed in each classroom as well as window frame with iron protector. It has not been plastered nor floored.

Coming to the three classrooms for science laboratory, we have completed the roofing without ceiling. Three Iron doors have been fixed in each room as well as window frames with iron protector. We have not plastered nor floored it.

Two days ago, our Superior General rang and informed me that the sum of Euro 16,549.44 has been wired into our account by your Parish for the school project. Our joy and gratitude can not be described with human language. May God reward you and your parishioners most abundantly.

Although you have not indicated your intention for this last wired fund, however, if we are allowed, could we use it to plaster, floor and paint the two buildings? I would like to get your directives before using the fund.

I am sending you this letter through my younger brother's address. He will bring you this letter in person.

As I have always said in the past, it is only God who will reward you adequately for what you have done for us. Be always assured of our prayers,
I remain,
Your brother in the Lord, 
Rev. Fr. James- Michael Okpalaonwuka, S.M.M.M.
(Project Director)

Dear Fr. Phil,

Greetings from Nigeria. It has taken some time since I wrote you last. I am glad to inform you that the six class room project has been completed.

We celebrated the official opening of the six class rooms last Sunday (4th November 2012). We started the ceremony with Mass and at the end of Mass, an official blessing of the class rooms. Not only the six class rooms, the money was used also to reconstruct and renovate the nursery section as well as the three class room laboratory block. We videoed the whole ceremony. We shall send you the video tap as well as the final account through one of the Mercy Sisters who will visit home during Christmas.

As I have always said, we can never never thank you and your parishioners enough. It is only God who will reward you people for what you did for us. We are looking forward for the day some members of your parish will visit Nigeria, most probably some time next year.

Once more thanks a lot. May God continue to bless you.

Yours sincerely, 
Fr. James Michael Okpalaonwuka, S.M.M.M.

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Dear Fr. Phil,

Greetings from Nigeria and happy New Year. In my last mail to you, I promised to send you the summary account of the school project.

The new six classroom block as well as the renovated Nursery classroom block was officially opened on Sunday, 4th November 2012. It was a memorable day in the life of the Parishioners as well as the students. We started with Holy Mass, blessing of the renovated Nursery classrooms and the new six classrooms for primary section and ended with other social events performed by the students. It was videoed. I am sending you the recorded video as well as some photograph of the buildings.

The summary account of income and expenditure is hereby included in the other.sheet. The money you sent to us was in three installments. All three were deposited in our bank account in Euro and not in U.S. Dollar and then changed into local currency which is Naira.  

The total income sent to us is Euro 44,747.45 ( N9,190,019.00).  

On the expenditure section, we used this fund to execute four projects as you can see from the enclosed photographs and the video. The total amount spent on each of them is indicated in the account sheet. All the four projects were very important to us that we could not do one without the other. For example, the State Ministry of Education will be coming to our school for Senior Secondary school inspection on the 24th January 2013. We have every hope to pass the up-grading inspection because we now have Science laboratory block. Although we have not finished the science laboratory block but the fact that we have started it is what is important. We shall finish it gradually in future.

Kindly pardon me for presuming your permission before informing you. We will always be indebted to you and your parishioners for coming to our aid when we most needed it. May God reword all of you most abundantly.

Well, on a sad note for the students and my parishioners, I have been posted to Lagos to start a new Nursery/Primary and a Secondary school for our Religious Congregation. The new posting will take effect from 15th February 2013. My prayer is for them to work well with one of our brother priest who will replace me. As a missionary, I am always ready to go where ever I am sent. Do remember me in your prayers.
Once more, we are grateful to you and your parishioners for your assistance.

Be always assured of our prayers. May God bless you.
I remain,

Yours sincerely, 
Very Rev. Fr. Dr. James-Michael Okpalaonwuka, S.M.M.M.


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