In 2022, the names of five sisters from the Nigerian Region of the Religious Sisters of Charity were made known to begin as pioneers of a new mission – ARRUPE JESUIT COLLEGE in Abbi, Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State, South-South Region of Nigeria.
The word Abbi was coined from the Ukwuani words ‘ka anyi biri ni udo’ which means ‘let us live in peace’. Abbi has a festival celebrated around the month of February. This celebration brings in the sons and daughters of the land from all over the world. During this feast, a big white eagle is brought out being the mascot of the Abbi people. The women of Abbi are very industrious, especially in farming activities and trading. As early as 5:00 am, they are seen with their bicycles, going to the farm, and returning in the evening with bags of cassava, firewood and other farm produce. The people are also known to celebrate life, especially during funerals. It is within this culture and land that Arrupe Jesuit College (AJC) is built.
AJC is a co-educational institution of learning borne out of the generosity of a son of the soil, Mr. Augustine Avuru, and his foundation, with the aim of giving quality education to the people of Abbi and the neighbouring villages. AJC being in Abbi is referred to as, the ‘home of eagles’ where fledglings are prepared to soar high, in Academic excellence guided by the 4Cs of Conscience, Competence, Compassion, and Commitment, with the aim of becoming ‘men and women, for and with others.’
The mission ushered new collaboration with the Jesuit Fathers and Brothers from the North/West African Province of the Society of Jesus (SJ). The pioneers of this new mission are Rev. Fr. Emeka Asogwa (President), Rev. Fr. Michael Oluwadare (Principal), and a Regent, Bro. Festus Edeh (Director of Admissions/Campus Minister). The pioneers from the Religious Sisters of Charity are Sr. Beatrice Opia (Vice Principal Academics), Sr Ugochi Chukwu (Matron), Sr. Elizabeth Onyekigwe (Head Teacher of the Primary School), Sr. Edidiong Etim (Basic Science Teacher), and Sr. Agatha Maurice (Pastoral Counsellor).
On 5th February 2023, the feast day of Pedro Arrupe, some of the pioneer members, arrived at the Land of Eagles (Abbi) in the company of Sr. Micheline O’Donnell, the then Regional Leader, and the sisters in St Mary’s community, Ozoro to open and begin the new community, later named ‘Our Lady Seat of Wisdom’ Convent, Abbi.
We received a very warm welcome from the parish community who within the celebration of Mass, in the Parish Outstation of St Gabriel, presented Kolanut to the sisters as it is traditionally done to receive visitors in Delta.
The period of waiting to begin the new school was filled with hope in the midst of uncertainty because of the national election of Nigeria, school buildings still under construction, and economic inflation. As a team, we were strengthened by the daily prayer offered together and the encouragement we received from our various Congregations. Whenever we visited the building site, we asked ourselves if the mission would begin on the said date as told to the parents since the work progress depended on the generosity of others. We moved on in faith to carry out the entrance examination/interview of students and staff. This was very challenging since we had to convince parents that the college academic year would begin at the stipulated time, and in a conducive learning environment. With the help of Divine Providence, on 16th September 2023, the Catholic Bishop of Warri Diocese, His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. Anthony Ovayero, Ewerhido officiated at the opening of the College. The ceremony was blessed with the presence of the Primary school pupils in their uniform.
The Arrupe Jesuit Primary School is a scholarship programme funded by the college and the generosity of the donor and his foundation, for all the pupils selected from Abbi community as well as the surrounding villages. Arrupe Jesuit College reminds me each day of the saying of Venerable Mary Aikenhead, ‘Give to the poor, what the rich can have for money. Here at AJC, both those from wealthy homes and indigent children live together without distinction. Thus, there is a great bridging of the gap between two extreme classes of people. Those parents from the secondary school who are blessed with the material resources assist in the training of pupils in the Primary school. A good number of the pupils in the secondary school are also on scholarship.
On 16th September, the Primary school started their classes in the dining hall and later moved to the actual classroom. These children are brought to school daily in the school bus wearing beautiful gowns (girls) and trousers (boys) all with ties and carrying the same customized school bags. The staff of AJC were welcomed and given orientation/workshop on the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP) and other aspects of work ethics. A retreat was also organized to lead the staff through the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola. The safeguarding seminar was not left out.
The pioneer students arrived at AJC with their parents on 14th October 2023. The day was filled with great joy for the college community, parents, and students who have lots of expectations from the college. The students had their orientation, a month of mastering their environment and then their induction ceremony which took place on 19th November, during the Mass of the Holy Spirit, which is the official opening of every academic year.
Life in AJC: Living and working in AJC is a great opportunity to be models and guide the young ones who are full of questions and in the process of discovering who they truly are. Collaborating with the Jesuits has given us greater means to deepen our Ignatian Spirituality. This we inculcate in the students through daily meditative prayer and reflection, Mass, Angelus and Examine. The students are prepared to become men and women for and with others.
Looking Forward: As we strive to build a standard in AJC, we look forward with faith, hope and trust that it is God’s own work, thus we daily rely on Divine Providence to perfect His work of bringing forth men and women for and with others, through us as His instruments.