2019-08-07 NIGERIA

Richard Ilo Ajaelu


The Brother whose funeral rites we are celebrating today was born in 1935 into a large polygamous family of Chief Ajaelu Onyeneho of Ekwereocha- Amakohia, Ihitte in Imo State of Nigeria.

The little baby named Ilo did not really experience the joy and happiness of knowing his mother, Ihuoma Ajaelu who died in 1938 when he was scarcely three years old. Some members of the family certainly rallied round to assist their father in nurturing him. Prominent among those who nurtured him was his big brother, Mr Livinus Ajaelu of blessed memory.

Ilo Ajaelu began his primary education in 1944 at St Joseph’s Primary School, Ihitte and successfully completed it in 1950. While in Primary School, he received the Sacrament of Baptism and was christened Richard in 1946. The following year he received the Sacrament of Confirmation from the hands of the Most Rev Dr Joseph Brendan Whelan, CSSp, pioneer Bishop of current Owerri Archdiocese.

On completing his primary school education, the boy Richard gained admission into the then famous St Patrick’s College, Calabar where he studied for the West African School Certificate in 1951-1955. In 1957 he proceeded to Bishop Shanahan Teachers’ Training College, Orlu, now defunct and passed out in 1958 as a pivotal teacher.

 Richard Ajaelu spent  few years in teaching when the Lord of the vineyard knocked at his door. The handsome, vibrant young man opened wide his door and sincerely asked “Lord what would you want me to do for you?” After a period of discernment which lasted the greater part of 1959, he opted to join the Marist Brothers of the Schools, a vocation that suited the profession he had undertaken. In January, 1960 he was admitted into the Marist Postulate in Uturu. His postulancy and novitiate formation each lasted a year paving the way for his first religious profession in 1962. It is pertinent to mention here that in those days when religious life especially brotherhood was opposed by parents and relatives of aspirants, Br Richard’s sponsor or guardian, Sir Livinus Ajaelu afore mentioned gave him every necessary support and backing. Indeed Sir Ajaelu loved and supported Brother in his choice of vocation till death in 2000.

Few weeks after his first profession, Br Ajaelu was posted to Holy Cross Primary School, Uturu as a classroom teacher. He taught here until he gained admission into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1965. In January, 1967 he made his perpetual vows. The outbreak of the Nigerian Civil war in the same year interrupted his University studies. He resumed studies after the cessation of civil hostilities in 1970 and graduated in B.Sc. (honours, Botany) in June 1974. Barely three months after graduation he was appointed the Director of Marist Brothers’ Juniorate, Uturu. It was a post he held for five years before he was asked to serve in the Public Schools System. The Imo State Schools Board posted him to teach at Teachers’ Training College, Uturu (Sept 1979 – August 1982) He used this period to obtain the post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) in 1980 from his alma Mater.

When the need arose to consolidate the Marist presence in one of our missions outside the East of the Niger, Br Ajaelu was an automatic choice. In his characteristic way he did not hesitate to accept going on mission ad intra.

Accordingly he was posted to St Paul’s Community, Anyigba, then part of Benue State. His senior brother, Sir Livinus Ajaelu in a spectacular manner demonstrated great interest in his small brother’s latest appointment, a gesture that endeared him more to the Brothers. In September, 1982 Br Richard, empowered by his congregation and encouraged by his biological brother joyfully left Uturu for Anyigba and behold he landed on a much bigger institution, Our lady of Schools, Teachers’ Training College, Anyigba where he spent ten  very fruitful years  as teacher and Vice Principal. Incidentally, it must be recalled at juncture that Br Ajaelu, to show his unwavering love for his vocation and the institute made the vow of Stability in 1988 while serving in Anyigba.

On retiring from public service in 1992, he was recalled to Uturu. Being still strong, he was posted at Marist Comprehensive Academy, Uturu, a post he effectively discharged until ill health intervened in 2002. While a regular patient at Annunciation Hospital, Enugu, he was located to the Marist Formation Centre, Orlu where generations of postulants lavished attention and care on him. Unwittingly he paid back as it were to the youngsters with life of regularity, dedication, transparency, joviality and wise sayings. Br Richard certainly was an icon worthy of emulation.

As Br Ajaelu’s health deteriorated he was moved from Orlu back to Uturu at St Joseph’s Community where a full time nurse, Chika Amalu had been attending to him. On 12th September, 2012, and he will be buried on 3rd October 2012 at Marist Brothers Cemetery Uturu, Abia State. Br Ajaelu surrounded by the Brothers praying for him, took flight to .his eternal glory.  I am sure his own prayer must be “I praise you Lord, you have rescued me. You have changed my mourning into gladness.”


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