INTERVIEW: 89-year-old Bishop Adelakun reveals journey to priesthood, creation of Osogbo diocese, becoming bishop at 38

INTERVIEW: 89-year-old Bishop Adelakun reveals journey to priesthood, creation of Osogbo diocese, becoming bishop at 38
His lordship, Julius Babatunde Adelakun, retired Bishop of Oyo Catholic Diocese, is a very warm, energetic and gregarious personality even at the age of 89. One supernatural gift that the Bishop Emeritus is renowned with is his super memory skill. The ability of His Lordship to remember past dates, time and events correctly is legendary and keeps many wondering. Bishop Adelakun, the first prelate of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo, is not only hard working, he is also a caring leader, father and teacher to all people, including those who practise the Roman Catholic faith and non-Catholics alike.
In June this year when the Catholic Diocese of Oyo rolled out drums to celebrate the 50th Episcopal Ordination Anniversary of Bishop Adelakun, the octogenarian clergyman spoke with TIMOTHY AGBOR, the PUBLISHER/MANAGING DIRECTOR OF NEWS BOOM NIGERIA ONLINE NEWSPAPER on his life history, experiences of more than four decades as a priest, achievements and how the creation of the Catholic Diocese of Osogbo from the old Oyo Diocese has been his greatest joy as a bishop.
Here are the excerpts of the interview held at the Bishop Adelakun Hall, Asogo Oyo:
Timothy Agbor and Bishop Adelakun after the interview
Timothy Agbor and Bishop Adelakun after the interview
Your Lordship, congratulations on your 50th Episcopal Ordination Anniversary. We want to know a little about your life and your journey to priesthood.
I was born to the family of Epiphany Tella Adelakun and Maria Tinuade Adelakun of Nubego Family House, Apini, Oyo Alaafin in November 1st, the year 1934. My father was lucky to have come across Rev Father Thomas Galvin, an SMA Priest in Ijebuland where my father was a forest guard. He was received into the Church by Father Galvin and the news reached his two brothers in Oyo – Mr Lawrence Adedeji Adelakun and Mr Aloysius Idowu Adelakun. They all followed him to the Church and became Catholics, otherwise, we are Oro worshippers in Nubego House. We use to celebrate Oro for 17 days and all the family will gather for it. But, anyway, the main elements became converted into the Catholic Church.
When I was old enough to go to school, that was about the age of 7 or 8, I was sent back to Oyo family house. I was introduced to St Mary’s Church, Asogo, Oyo. As a little boy, I used to serve at Mass. I was excited by the idea of being a Mass server. The priests present at that time we’re all white Fathers – Europeans, English, Irish, French, German, Dutch and later Americans and Canadians. So, I recall after Mass one morning, as a Mass server, I followed the Priest, Rev Fr Goshen, a Canadian; I followed him to the Mission House and he turned around and said, Julius, would you not like to be a Priest. And I starred at him and said nothing and that was the end of the conversation. I went away and met my friend, also a Mass server, Joseph Adeniji Taiwo and I said, Joe, you hear what Father said he asked if I want to be a Priest. Joseph said, yes it is possible, we can go to the minor seminary, Oke-Are, Ibadan where we will begin little training. I got little interested then and we were both in the upper primary of the Primary School, that was about 1951.
Bishop Adelakun at Thanksgiving Mass
Bishop Adelakun at Thanksgiving Mass
When we completed our primary education in 1951, we had both concluded our plans to go to the Seminary together. So, we resumed in Oke-Are in January, 1952. Our junior seminary training lasted for five years. 1952 to 1957. But, in 1956, we sat for the London GCE Examination which was necessary to qualify us for the Major Seminary and thank God we succeeded in the exams, at least five credits. It was time to go to the Major Seminary in September 1957. But, this time, the major Seminary had been moved to Ibadan, Bodija Seminary. Before that, the Major Seminary was Benin-City. All the priests ordained before us had attended Benin-Asaba Major Seminary. But, Bodija was ready to receive us in September 1957. We resumed in Bodija and those in Benin-City came to join us. We were not many. The Peter and Paul Building was the only building that was ready and still the major building in Bodija today and the oldest.
Our Major Seminary training lasted for eight years, from 1957 to 1965. We were ordained Priests in this Church, this place called the Adelakun Hall now. Before that, the old Church was smaller than this. Very old, the foundation stone was laid in 1964. It was an old Church built by the Missionaries. Father Goshen built this one too and I thank God that Monsignor Taiwo and myself were both ordained Priests here in June 27, 1965. After that, I was assigned to Ile-Ife parish, I served sometime in the Parish and went for studies. I attended Obafemi Awolowo University. My class, we were the very first to start the campus in Ife. We were first admitted to Nigerian College or Arts and Science in Ibadan. We spent a semester in Ibadan. But in 1966, some buildings were ready to receive us and Professor Oluwasanmi was the Vice-Chancellor and he said he wanted the Arts students to resume at the new campus. So, we resumed the OAU Ife campus in January, 1967 and I graduated from there in 1969. I read English and Religious Studies. So, when I finished there, I was sent to Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA to study Social Communication and I finished my Masters Degree in 1971 and came back home.
Bishop Adelakun
Bishop Adelakun
Journey to becoming bishop at 38.
I was appointed to Major Seminary, Ibadan to teach and I thought Communication and Philosophy. But, to my surprise, I received my letter of appointment to become Bishop of Oyo in December, 1972. So, after that, in February 11, 1973, I was consecrated Bishop of Oyo, but my predecessor, the man who ordained me was Bishop Mccoy. He was first of all a Monsignor, he was ordained a Bishop in order to make it possible for him to ordain us. So, he was ordained in 1963.  Exactly 10 years after that, I was ordained by him. It happened so fast because the Biafran War ended around 1970/71 and the environment was getting difficult for the expatriate bishops. They want to make their return easy after they went home on leave. So, many expartriate bishops at home could not come back. So, those who were at home decided to hand over the Church to the local clergy. They know Nigerian government cannot discriminate against their men, so, they did. That’s why some of us because bishops very young. It was na emergency situation that brought about that. Anyway, Bishop Mccoy retired in June, 1973 and I took over and moved from Oyo to Osogbo. Osogbo was the headquarters of the old diocese of Oyo. Osogbo was more attractive to the expatriates. Osogbo had electricity and it had a railway. So, I lived in Osogbo as Bishop of Oyo for 22 years. All the time I lived in Osogbo, I saw that the Oyo area was not well attended to because the diocese was more in size. The whole of Osun State plus this area called Oyo Diocese now is 22 local governments out of 33 local governments in Oyo State. So, it used to take me over six hours to drive from Osogbo to Ijio on untarred road. Anyway, I consulted with some of the priests and I put a request t the Holy Father for the division of the diocese. I recommended that this area (Oyo) be made into a diocese and Osogbo to be a diocese on its own as it is today. Rome saw the reason and justification for it and they responded positively. So, the old Oyo Diocese was divided from May, 1995 and Osogbo became a diocese on its own. Rome consulted some of the expatriates if they would like to be bishop of this present Oyo and they said no, our time is past, it belongs to the native clergy.
So, they consulted me and I accepted, after all, I am a native of Oyo and I saw the difficulties on this side. I realized that none of those consulted who want to accept the responsibility. I gladly accepted to move from Osogbo to Oyo. That’s the story of the diocese of Oyo. It began without ordination in 1963. That year, there was not a single native clergy in the diocese. No black priest and when I went to the junior seminary, I never saw a black priest before. That’s why I couldn’t answer the priest’s question – do you want to be a Priest?. But today, Oyo diocese has about 60 native clergy from zero. The diocese is entirely local church now no longer a missionary church.
We access a local church by three standards. One, is it self evangelizing, two, is it self administering and three, is it self financing. Under the three categories when we began, we didn’t qualify for any. But, today, we are very far and we are now completely self evangelisation. In other words, all are native clergy. We are now self administering and our bishop is Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo. When I retired, Bishop Badejo took over form 2007, his dynamic and methods have helped the diocese alot and we have grown very rapidly under his administration. Under him, the diocese has been self financing, we have gone a long way in that regard.
What came to your mind when you were asked if you would become a priest?
All glory and honor, adoration and thanksgiving to Almighty God for his wonderful grace and abiding presence. I discovered that at the moment I became a Priest, my mother was still a Moslem. So, I can see the hands of God around everything. I cannot explain everything even the way the vocation came about through that Missionary Priest. I believe God sent him to speak to me and assistance of friend, Father Taiwo, helped me to make a conclusion. More over , in my young days, I also went to outstations visiting stations outside Oyo with priests and in those begining, priests had no car, no motorcycle, they were riding bicycles. So, imagine, a priest will ride a bicycle from Oyo to Ijio when he comes back to Ijio, he can hardly come down from the bicycle because he is so tired and exhausted. That’s a distance of nearly 80 kilometres. It was many years after that they graduated to motorcycles. So, Oyo in those days, whenever you heard sounds of motorcycles, it must be a Priest because they were so few then in town. So, it was long after the car came and three or four priests shared the use of one car. It’s not today that every priest got his own car. I can recall Bishop Fagun telling his won story. He said once he wanted to go back to the Seminary and his mother sees his travel box, she said you are not going until you tell me which Akure man is doing what you wanted to do now. Fagun could not tell his mother because there was none before Fagun to become a Priest. So, it was a lot of persuasion before she finally released his box and allowed him to go back to the Seminary. So, my experience was like that.
How do you see the Church now?
The church has gone a long way. The presence of church in Nigeria has been influenced by teaching of the African synod. A decade of new evangelisation. I was one of the four delegates sent from Nigeria and I was the. The Chairman of Justice Development and Peace of the Bishop Conference. So, I was one of the bishops who went to Rome. Ecclesial in Africa. The Church in Africa. In the document, the African bishops said for evangelisation to be rooted in Africa, there must be evangelisation, inculturation, three, ecumenism/interface dialogue, four, Justice, Development and Peace, and five, the Church must make use of modern communication.
How did you overcome your major challenges?
For me, I cannot believe it that I am still with you today. I have gone through many challenges and situations of danger when I would have lost my life very early and nobody would have heard about me. I thank God everyday for that. Even now, I am in my 89th year and the Lord is still keeping me going. And this event of my golden anniversary of Bishop is outstanding example of God’s faithfulness and mercy.
Bishop Emmanuel Badejo and Bishop Julius Adelakun
Bishop Emmanuel Badejo and Bishop Julius Adelakun
What’s your greatest joy?
My greatest joy, I can say, officially, is the division of the old Oyo Diocese into two. It gives me great joy. The division of the diocese brought new possibilities that Oyo would not have realised. We thank God for that. That’s one event which has given me great joy as a bishop. The fact that we are able to stand on our own and Osogbo has gone far too. Osogbo diocese is making strides. Osogbo has more than 80 clergy now. So, division has paid off in both sides and it is a thing of joy for all of us for which we are grateful to God for his inspiration. Whatever good that has been done, nobody claims the credit, it’s the Lord himself who is doing the work through us as St Paul tells us. That’s the thing that I celebrate secretly. When I see what is going on and that we are not facing situation of shame, I thank God for that. And we are still running together as twin-brothers. Osogbo has invited me for example, to come and celebrate this event with them the golden anniversary of my episcopacy.


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