When Mr & Mrs Thomas Orgah, a couple from Adim-Akpa, welcomed a baby boy into their family on 29th March 1953, their joy knew no bounds. A few weeks after birth, the baby was baptised in the Catholic Church and given the name Fidelis, which means faithful, a clear statement from the Orgahs emphasising their belief that the good Lord had been answered their prayers.
With the family living in Ugbokolo where Thomas Orgah was a headmaster, Fidelis attended Holy Name Primary School, Odessassa -Ugbokolo between 1961 and 1967. While in primary school, Fidelis began attending catechism classes and at the age of 11, he received his First Holy Communion in 1964. In 1968, he gained admission into Mount Saint Michael’s Secondary School, Aliade where he received his Confirmation (the last of the 3 sacraments of initiation into the Catholic Church after Baptism & First Holy Communion) in the same year.
By the time he completed his secondary education in 1972, Fidelis was already known as someone who was going to dedicate his life to God, having become an altar boy at the earliest opportunity and was always seen reading the bible. His character and behaviour were also testaments to his pious way of life. As expected, Fidelis was accepted into St Augustine’s Major Seminary, Jos in 1973 where he was trained and prepared for a life of service to God. He graduated from the seminary in early with a Bachelor of Divinity (BD) in Philosophy & Theology.
Fidelis was ordained a priest on 16th March 1979 by the then Bishop of Diocese of Makurdi, Right Rev Bishop Donal Joseph Murray, C.S.Sp. at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Adim-Akpa. The celebratory event after the ordination was full of pomp and ceremony as Akweya sons and daughters from all around Nigeria gathered in Adim-Akpa for the historic occasion of the first priest from Akpa.
In June 1979, Rev Fr. Orgah took up his first priestly appointment as Director of Orientation for Major Seminarians within the Diocese of Makurdi and would later become the Director of Spiritual Year Programme and at same time taught mathematics on a part-time basis to students of St James’ Minor Seminary, Makurdi (now St James’ Minor Seminary, Yandev-Gboko).
In less than 18 months after his ordination, Rev Fr Orgah was appointed the Assistant Parish Priest of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church Okpoga in September 1980, a post he held until June 1981 when he became the substantial Parish Priest. During his time in Okpoga, he was also the secretary of the Diocesan Priests Association, Diocese of Makurdi branch.
In his quest for deeper understanding of the bible and Christianity, in June 1984 Rev Fr Orgah went overseas for postgraduate students at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, graduating in 1985 with a Licentiate (Masters) in Spiritual Theology. Instead of heading back to Nigeria, Rev Fr Orgah remained in Rome to study for another Licentiate (Masters), this time in Social Development at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (PUST), Rome - aka the Angelicum and graduated in June 1986 before travelling to the then West Germany for a short training course on Co-operative before returning to Nigeria. His interest in social development and co-operatives was borne out of the recognition that the church had an important role to play in the socioeconomic lives of Christians in addition to tending to their spiritual needs.
In September 1986, Rev Fr Orgah was appointed the parish priest of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Otukpo which back then was the parish with the highest number of parishioners in Idoma Land. As parish priest, he was also the Dean of Otukpo Deanery and the chaplain to the Laity Council.
At St Mary’s, Rev Fr Orgah provided tremendous support to the Vocational Training Centre located within the parish and this saw the centre grown to become the go-to place of knitwear such as sweaters and pullovers in Otukpo. He also encouraged parishioners to play active roles within the different societies and groups in the parish, and his guidance helped make St Anthony’s Society become a very influential developmental group in the parish.
The Chosen One
After more than 9 years at the helm at St Mary’s Parish, he was appointed Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Otukpo on 10th July 1995 by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. Monsignor Orgah was ordained Bishop on 28th October 1995 at the newly designated St Francis Cathedral by Bishop Athanasius Atule Usuh, then Bishop of Makurdi and Bishop Ephraim Silas Obot, then Bishop of Idah.
Following his ordination, Bishop Orgah set about growing the new Diocese of Otukpo and this began with the renovation of St Francis Cathedral Otukpo. He also actively encouraged the congregation to be good ambassadors of Christ so that they could become an embodiment of Christ’s message and agents of good in the society. Another area that was close to Bishop Orgah’s heart was education as he was determined to restore the Diocesan Catholic schools to their past glories.
While the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Aokpe began 1992, Bishop Orgah is credited with bringing the apparitions to prominence and he would provide enormous support to the catholic community of Aokpe as well being one of those instrumental to the development Our Lady’s Pilgrimage Centre at Aokpe. In 1999, he travelled to the Our Lady of all Nations Congress in Amsterdam where he spoke to congress about the Aokpe apparitions. And it is widely believed that the Bishop got premonition of his death from the Virgin Mary during a visit to Aokpe in in early 2000 when he translated into English from Idoma, the prayer that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave to Christiana of Aokpe.
Bishop Orgah’s love for people was evident in his willingness to learn different languages so that there was no barrier to preaching the word of God, spoke English, Idoma, Hausa, Italian and French in addition to his mother tongue, Akweya (Akpa dialect). Though he had grand aspirations for the Diocese, God had other plans for him and sadly Bishop Orgah died on 7th December 2000.
- The Bishop Fidelis Orgah Memorial Nursery and Primary School, Ojapo
- Author Unknown, (unpublished) Bishop Orgah Ordination Booklet. Otukpo, October 1995
- Bishop Fidelis Uga Orgah, The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Available from http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/borgah.html [Accessed 09 July 2020]
- Roman Catholic Diocese of Otukpo, Wikipedia. Available from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholic_Diocese_of_Otukpo [Accessed 09 July 2020]
- Marian Apparitions: Aokpe, Nigeria (1992), The Miracle Hunter. Available from http://www.miraclehunter.com/marian_apparitions/approved_apparitions/aokpe/index.html [Accessed 09 July 2020]
- The 20th Anniversary of Our Lady of Aokpe ‘The Mediatrix of all Graces’ Special Day of Grace, 2014 Celebration, Visitation of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces. Available from http://www.aokpe.co.uk/Reports/August%202014.pdf [Accessed 09 July 2020]
- Beirne, J, From Fr. John Beirne C.S.Sp. Director Aokpe Shrine Project, Benue State Nigeria November December 2000. Available from https://issuu.com/oriolserrapujol/docs/apparitions_our_lady_nigeria_aokp [Accessed 28 July 2020]