Bernard Jenfa Adedayo was one of the priests ordained by the Bishop of Nnewi, Rev. Hillary Okeke, at the Saint Georges’ Catholic Church, Orifite, Anambra State, after a rigorous training that lasted almost 17 years. That day climaxed his childhood ambition of becoming a servant in God’s vineyard. He was posted to the Catholic Church Assumption, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State shortly after the ordination.
The enthusiasm to carry the gospel beyond the dry lands of Ijebu-Ode pre-occupied his young mind. And so, from village to village, he went like a humble servant, proclaiming the good news.
However, this excitement was short-lived when the young priest got his first baptism of fire as some alleged members of a renowned cult group kidnapped him. This firebrand Catholic priest eventually became a guest to kidnappers in a forest that was home to reptiles and carnivorous animals.
‘How I was abducted’
Sometimes, Adedayo was assigned to conduct mass outside his base. One day, in the course of such assignment, a group of persons walked up to him.
“They said to me: ‘ Father, we would want you to join our group’ . I asked them which group, as I only knew of the Association of Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saint Anthony of Padua, Legion of Mary, and the Charismatic Renewal of Nigeria. But they said theirs was none of these and walked away,” he narrated.
“After some time, another group accosted me. But, this time, they introduced themselves as members of a secret cult. They said: ‘ We want to work with you and, as time progresses, we would make you one of our patrons.’ My response to their request was polite but firm. I asked them what light had got to do with darkness, and told them that we had nothing in common, so we could not work together. That reply marked the beginning of a battle that almost took my life. They threatened to kill me. Though they almost succeeded, God delivered me from their hands. The reason for their failure was obvious because my life is not in the hands of men but in the hands God.”
On the day he was abducted, the reverend father was rounding off a mass in a nearby village when five hefty men, armed with assault rifles, approached him, bundled him into a vehicle and zoomed off.
“All entreaties to allow me install the Blessed Sacrament fell on deaf ears. Again, I made on appeal to them to allow me pack some of my personal effects all to no avail. Perhaps they thought that any attempt to give me a breathing space might lead to my escape. And so, they zoomed off,” the priest stated.
“We eventually got to an uncompleted building in a forest. For one long silent night, I was with them in a place I didn’t know. After a while, one of them gave me a clue as to why I was kidnapped when he said, ‘ Father, you have proved to be very stubborn and I don’t know why.’ All through the night, I was meditating and it was in the middle of this that one of them walked up to me and said, ‘ Father, say your last prayer because you are going to die now.
“Well, I knelt down with my eyes closed and called on the name of the God to let His will be done. Another member of the gang asked: ‘ But what did this man do to warrant his death?’ Yet another gang member responded: ‘ Our business is not to debate his destiny but to kill him and nothing more.’ The argument went on and on. They started showing their might over one another. Walk to freedom
“ When eventually I opened my eyes after my prayers, there was nobody in the house except me. Just then, the Lord ministered unto me: ‘ What are you waiting for? Stand up and go!’ I stood up, left the room and trekked a long distance before I could find my bearing. It was indeed a miraculous experience. The Lord took me from their hands. I was able to locate my way from the forest without molestation from animals or evil-minded human beings.”
After that horrifying experience, the Superior General of the Vincentian Order in Nigeria thought it expedient to re-assign Adedayo to another parish in Enugu Diocese. He was there for almost two years before he was deployed to a parish in Lagos. Adedayo, who recently clocked five years in priesthood, said there is always a challenge in every human endeavour, adding that priesthood is not an exception.
“When Christ gave us his life,” said the priest, “he did not eradicate all the troubles but rather gave us the courage to confront these obstacles.”
An author, he recently launched a book, entitled, “His Love Is Grace’, while working on other projects designed to help propagate the faith.
“We trust God for so many things. We have some projects in mind and I know God will help us to actualize them,” he said. The 160-page book is about man’s salvation based on God’s gratuitous gift of grace. Adedayo expressed optimism that the book will boost the faith of Christians.