The first Nigeria Dominican Priest Returns to his Maker

Brother John Nwanze, O.P., was born in Lagos in 1946 and grew up under the tutelage of Dominicans. He was among the early altar servers the first American Dominicans that arrived Nigeria groomed in the 1950s. He started his seminary studies in St. John Vianney Seminary, Jos, in Northern Nigeria, however, the outbreak of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war forced him to move back to the Southern part of the country in 1967. As the Dominican Vicariate of Nigeria began to accept vocations to the Order in the late 1960s, he joined the Dominican Order and was received into the novitiate on February 2nd 1968. He made simple vows on Feb. 3 1969 and Solemn vows on Feb. 2 1972. Following his ordination to the priesthood on Easter Monday, 1975, he was assigned to St. Dominic, Yaba, Lagos. He left for studies in 1977 and received a Master’s Degree in Communication from the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, in 1981, specializing in radio, television and film production. On his return to the country in 1981, he served both the Catholic Church and some national media organizations in Nigeria

He was transferred to Sokoto Diocese 1982; there, he founded the Catholic Communications Sokoto. He became the president of the Association of Communication Directors of the Kaduna Ecclesiastical Province. He was the producer of the radio program, “Christian Question Time” for several years. He also lectured at the Media Service Center, Kaduna. In 1989, he was reassigned to St. Martin de Porres House, Agbor-Obi, Delta State, as parochial vicar of St. Patrick Parish.

I lived with Brother John during the first five years of my priestly life, 1989-1994. He became the pastor of St. Patrick from 1991-1995. He was a jovial, hard-working priest, always on the move. I remember one spectacular Easter Vigil experience in 1994 when he scheduled the Christian Initiation of Adults on Easter Vigil with over 530 candidates for Baptism, Confirmation and first Holy Communion. The Vigil Mass lasted 7 and half hours from 8pm to 3.30am with only the two of us officiating. At the end, we got so tired and slept very deeply that we were two hours late for the 6am Masses of Easter Sunday in the outstations. The people they sent to check on us woke us up from our deep slumber.

Brother John had a special interest in the education of young women. He believed that education would emancipate them and empower them to a more productive life. Consequently, he founded and directed the Dominican Center for Women’s Education, Agbor-Obi.

In 1995, he was sent on mission to the Archdiocese of Seattle, USA. He worked at Immaculate Conception Church, Seattle. In 1996, he was transferred to St. John Bosco Church in Tacoma where he organized the African-Americans of his parish to form the Catholic Community Gospel Choir. In 1997, he was transferred to the SE cluster of parishes, Saints Edward, George and Paul as parochial vicar. There he started the Charismatic Prayer Group. In 1999, he was again transferred to the SE Tacoma Cluster of parishes, St Ann, Sacred Heart and St. John of the Woods as parochial vicar where he developed an interest in Hispanic ministry.

Towards the last few years of his life, he served the Church in Anchorage, Alaska, he was Chaplain to some Nigerian religious sisters while helping out in some parishes. As his sickness intensified, the Nigerian Vicar Provincial and another brother visited and anointed him. They stayed with him for some days. On March 15, 2021, three days after their departure, he slept in the Lord.

May the soul of Brother John Nwanze and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

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