THE TASK BEFORE HIM WAS CONSIDERED HEAVY, and Mr Adedoyin Adekoya sought to know what makes Fr Macarius Olatunji tick in spite of the challenges...



                I am Macarius Olatunji, a Catholic priest incardinated into the Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan. I was ordained in the year 2000. I was appointed Assistant Vocations Director in the year 2006. I took over that same year from Msgr Theophilus Fadeyi who went on studies and I became the Vocations Director fully that year and ever since I have been in charge of vocations in the Archdiocese of Ibadan.

How has it been?

                It has been graceful. Without the grace of God, it would have been a very difficult job but the grace of God made it interesting and I am happy doing this dirty job, as it were, for the Church. I call it a dirty job because it is not easy moulding young men to become great priests.

How was your childhood like?

My childhood, I had every experience normal people had. I was born by Mr Edmund Ayokunu Olatunji who hailed from Ibadan and Mrs Helen Funmilayo Olatunji (nee Ogini) who hails from Akure. I did not really grow to know my dad well because he died when I was five years old. I got to know my mum to an extent; she died when I was 11 years old. My maternal uncle, who happened to be a soldier, brought me up. A courageous man, he brought us together as a family. My uncle was Folorunso Oginni. I have other siblings, we were three. My uncle was a warrant officer 1 when he died in 1978. I have two sisters; I am the first and the only boy. We were brought up by this man, a soldier and a disciplinarian, who made us to be focused and really determined in life. When I gained admission into the University of Ibadan, I had to shift to my paternal aunty, Mrs Mary Subuola Akindayonmi; she

took over my university education. It was tough going

 through the university.  I served in Ilorin, where I received the call to the priesthood.

When I got back to Ibadan, through the late Msgr (I can’t remember the name) I got into the archdiocese of Ibadan.

When did the idea of priesthood come?

When I was finishing from the university, I think I had an inclination towards it. I remember in the Seat of Wisdom, in the Pen’s Club, I was there with Sister Falola, who worked in the Catholic Secretariat for a while before I left for service. I told her: “Look, I have this feeling that I may want to become a priest.” She wanted to introduce me to the Jesuit but I was not particularly keen of going to the Jesuit and I did not even understand what it meant anyway. I think I wanted to be in the diocese. I gave myself an option: If after serving, the feeling still comes up, I will give it a serious thought. I did not give it the push required.

I thought a potential priest had to be a virgin because in the university, regrettably,  I had a chain of girl friends, how was it with you?

I had my own experience in the positive sense: I was much younger than my mates in the university and I was studying a course that was tough, veterinary medicine. I was very young and would not allow myself to be distracted. So that kept me disciplined to a great extent; then I was not particularly...

(Cutting in) But not without girl friend?

Not with girl friend, I could not manage it.

You must be one in a million

Because the experience I had too was that I was not particularly Catholic when I entered the university in 1983. I went to many churches because of the experience I had with my uncle who was a soldier. He had a large family and he could not afford so much money; so, the nearest church to the house was where we attended. When we were in Kano, it was the Church of the Lord, Aladura; when we were in Lagos, we went to Baptist and Anglican. I went to Anglican Grammar School, Igbaraoke, Akure. At Akure, we went to CAC, Baba Omojuwe’s church. We went to Kaduna and we were much older, getting ready to go to the university, we knew his tricks that we should go to the nearest church, so we went to survey the church that was nearby and it was Celestial church. I said, “I am not going to Cele o.” That made us to put a lot of efforts into our studies to gain admission, my cousins and I. The junior ones went to Celestial church. At U.I., I had this longing for the right church, then I saw the Seat of Wisdom. I was at Independence Hall and my faculty was Vet Medicine, so every morning I had to pass in front of the Seat of Wisdom and I would see people coming out from Mass looking happy, smiling and greeting themselves. Who are these ones? I ventured into the Seat of Wisdom one day, not knowing that there were some young men hanging around after Mass who were members of the “Opus Dei.” Because I was looking strangely, they knew I was a J.J.C (Johnny just come) so they accosted me. Afterwards, we became friends so I spent some good time in the university with the Opus Dei, U.I. With the formation, you could not easily just go out anyhow. That kept me safe through university. When I was approaching the final year and I was no longer with that group, my classmates (about seven girls in the class of maybe 35) became my friends. We were fond of ourselves; having a relationship outside the group was not just there. That helped me a great deal; it kept me going. So, coming into the priesthood was not a big deal.

Why were you so scared of Celestial church?

Because we have heard so much about the green-water stuff and I did not really want to try a thing like that. As a child, you can just accept whatever, but as you start growing up, you ask questions; you start thinking. Luckily, we were not part of the bandwagon that went there.

During your time of trying churches, did you see different gods in the churches?

I do not know; I just saw different attitudes, not  different gods. When you go to the Aladura church, they clap and clap and clap, but then it is not just the clapping but the mentality, putting fear in the minds of people, making men to see witchcraft everywhere and witches, too; you are even afraid of your neighbour. It affects your thinking and your way of life when that is almost all the message you are getting. These different groups of churches, the preaching, the vision and the theology, really form the mindset of the people. That was my experience with the different churches I went to.

Did you attend the seminary? How was it like?

I did after the university. After my university education, I worked for two years trying to run away from God.  At that point in time, I had realised that the will of God for me was to go into priesthood but I tried to dodge as much as I could. I gave excuses, but God overpowered me. By the time I said yes Msgr Adeyingbo introduced me to Msgr Fadeyi. The message was clear and I went for the Spiritual year at St John of the Cross at Ekpoma. Later, I came to SS Peter and Paul, Bodija. Instead of the four years for philosophy I was given an exception to do two years; instead of doing the degree, I did diploma, and that gave me two years ahead of my classmates. I did the normal four years of theology and then ordination came. So, I entered in 1993 and I was ordained in 2000.

Ever thought of quitting the priesthood?

No, it never crossed my mind. It is a way of life

What were the challenges you faced in the seminary?

The first challenge I faced in the seminary was my age. In the university, I was one of the youngest but oldest in

 the seminary; that was the flip. It was good because the seminary opened our minds to four areas of formation that we must examine regularly.

What are these formations?

The first is human formation: knowing the basic things, having the basic knowledge of people. With the university experience, all those things were good, one had acquired a lot in that regard, then you talk of intellectual formation. With the university experience, I have developed skills from studying, and we talk of spiritual formation: my spirituality also from the Seat of Wisdom, a very good climate for meditation and devotion, and I come from that climate into the seminary; it helped my spiritual formation greatly. We talk of pastoral formation, with that, too, on two grounds, I was able to excel in the seminary. Pastorally, I will go to places that are difficult, even prison Apostolate, with my Redemptorist brothers every Wednesday. We just went when others engaged themselves in their outings; we opted to go to the prisons. On the other side, I was using my profession as a veterinarian for the seminary. I got into developing the livestock system of the seminary – keeping poultry, piggery – so we have variety of foodstuffs to eat. It was a good time but it was tasking. I had to share my time so that nothing suffered in the midst of all. The seminary helped me to grow greatly I really appreciate that.

What is vocation?

Vocation is a call and a gift. There is a superior being that calls you and gives you the gift. God calls us to work for Him. He calls us in love, in deeper love, to be His servant. For you to answer that call, He has to grace it. He has to help you with some special favour. So it is a gift, too, in that regard. If you answer, it becomes a reality and then He will use you on the way but if you deny it and say no, He will not kill you for it, but that means you reject the gift.

With the worldly attractions, with the new technology and things like that, do you see more people harkening to the call?

That is the challenge with the call. Because God calls, you have to listen to God’s voice. It is more like the experience of Samuel. He did not understand God’s voice, he did not know God, even when God called him, he could not relate it to God; he ran to Eli, who then tutored him. It is more like that with every person and the situation, the environment that the person is. God continues to call and our environment continues to change. And sometimes some difficult environments stiffen God’s voice. And so many people are not hearing His call because of phones, all kinds of gadgets, technology, attitudes and many other things that we cannot exhaust.

How can you help open blocked ears?

It is like every other call. Even when you have answered

the call, you still have to say yes every day, otherwise you

still can derail.                                               -  To be continued


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