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Fr Angus – a saintly legend

by Fr Pax Jey Sharwan VC

As a Tiv and native of Benue State, Nigeria, it was to my homeland that the Lord Jesus sent his missionary son, Fr Angus Fraser CSSp, to bring the Gospel of Christ through education.

Hearing of him while in primary school, was like hearing of a fairytale character, whom many children knew of but never met. A line of poetry “Father Fraser fried fried fish for five friendly Fathers,” was used to teach the difference between rhymes and assonance in schools.

When my elder brother Sigmund, went to Mt St Gabriel’s Secondary School, Makurdi, Benue State, it surprised me that he would have the real Fr Fraser as his principal. Eventually I joined him as a student (late 1989) to live in the boarding school with the saintly legend of a man.

Every experience of Fr Fraser was lofty, inspiring, uplifting, educating and I dare say, sanctifying. Over 40 students who went through Mt St Gabriel’s, under Fr Fraser became priests of different religious orders and dioceses.

Presently, the number of priests who belong to the Via Christi Society, a Society of apostolic life, number up to 65, and there are 71 seminarians. As for professionals, businessmen and statesmen Fr Fraser produced out of Mt St Gabriel’s, this would require an elaborate research of the past 50 years.

Many in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain know the great works of local priests and bishops such as Fr Michel de Verteuil and Archbishop Anthony Pantin. This gives an idea of the works of this son who was made distant by his missions.

A timeline drawn from an article ‘I Met Him in Others’ by Terver Adom, sourced from The History of the Nigerian North East Province of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans) 1979-2014 by Fr Kuha Indyer CSSp tells more:

Fr Angus Fraser CSSp in Brief

* 1959—Ordained a Catholic priest by His Grace John Charles McQuails CSSp of Dublin, Ireland, after studies at St Benedict’s and St Mary’s Colleges.

* 1961—Appointed with Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSp to the Diocese of Owerri, Southeastern Nigeria, March 11

* 1961—Met Bishop Whelan CSSp, who appointed him to Port Harcourt and specifically to Regina Caeli Teacher’s Training College, Ibori, Ogoni Land. There he replaced Fr Thomas Selvin CSSp. He served as Secretary to Bishop Okoye and Diocesan Liturgist.

* 1969—Sent by Bishop Okoye to Sao Tome at the height of the Nigerian Civil War, December 8

* 1970—Appointed Bursar of the Scholasticate at Aldenham Radlett, March, where Bishop Donald Murray of Makurdi Diocese invited him to return to Nigeria.

* 1971—Assumed as Principal of Mt St Gabriel’s Secondary School (on arrival at Makurdi) where he replaced Fr Eugene O’Connor and became the third principal. At the Bishop’s appointment, he protested the job to which the Bishop said “don’t tell me anything”. Nevertheless, as he desired, Fr Fraser got the opportunity to work at Udei Parish for some months before returning to St Gabriel’s.

Fr Fraser mentored many young boys and brought education to the rich and poor. Of the many lives he touched, a story is told of Bishop William Avenya, then one of his students and who was dubbed the “millionaire debtor”.

At the beginning of a term, when William Avenya did not resume school, Fr Fraser drove miles to William’s village. On inquiry, he discovered William had no school fees and he said “kobo (cent) or no kobo, books or no books, uniform or no uniform, William come back to school!”. From this action, today the Church has a bishop.

This venerable Father, Founder of The Via Christi Society rested in the Lord, October 7, 2018, aged 87 in England. At his request, he will be buried in Nigeria on December 10. On that day, Mass will be celebrated in his honour at Our Lady of Assumption Parish, South Oropouche.

Through Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris CSSp, who was taught by Fr Fraser during his prefecting at St Mary’s College, the Via Christi came to the Archdiocese of Port of Spain. Presently, there are two of VC priests in Trinidad, Fr Kizito Ameloko VC and myself, Fr Pax.