To further strengthen the spread of the gospel worldwide, the fifth General Chapter of the Missionary Society of St Paul of Nigeria, recently elected Fr. Callistus Isara as its sixth Superior General.
The election was held at the headquarters National Missionary Society of St. Paul, Gwagwalada, Abuja, elected.
Fr. Isara succeeds Fr. Victor Onwukeme who was elected in 2013. Born October 14, 1966 in Ovu Inland, Ethiope East LGA, Delta State where his primary and secondary education took place.
He joined the Spiritual Year of the National Missionary Seminary of St. Paul in November, 1983 and completed his philosophy and theology studies in June, 1991. Fr. Callistus Isara was ordained priest an MSP priest on June, 22, 1991. After his one year pastoral experience in the Archdiocese of Calabar, Monsignor Godwin Akpan, the Superior General at the time sent him to the Catholic University of America, Washington DC, to do graduate studies in Pastoral Theology from where he graduated with a Doctor of Ministry degree in 1996.
He also obtained a Certificate in Advanced Clinical Pastoral Education from Eger Health Care Centre, Staten Island, New York, USA. He joined the formation team of the National Missionary Seminary of St. Paul, Gwagwalada, Abuja on October 1, 1996 where he served till 2004. After a Sabbatical year he was appointed Director of the Gaudium et Spes Institute -the Archdiocesan centre for prayer and renewal for Priests, Religious and Laity.
While he served at Gaudium et Spes he continued to lecture on a part time basis at the Seminary. In April, 2012, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan appointed him Episcopal Vicar for Religious of the Archdiocese. He service at Gaudium et spes lasted till 2017 after which he went on Sabbatical in Ireland. He was still in Ireland when he was elected the sixth Superior General of the Missionary Society of St. Paul of Nigeria.
He has served in a various leadership positions in the MSP which include Local Superior of the Seminary Community, Mission Superior, Nigeria North, and Regional Superior when Nigeria North was upgraded to a Region.
Fr. Callistus Isara assumes this leadership task with a lot of experience in administration, the academia, pastoral counselling, spiritual direction, human formation, ongoing formation for Laity, Priests and Religious and human relations in general which he will bring to bear in his new task. As MSP Superior General he leads 281 members of a dynamic missionary family serving in Nigeria, Botswana, South Sudan, South Africa, Chad, Malawi, Cameroon, Liberia, Gambia, Kenya, the United Kingdom, the United States, Sweden, Italy, Grenada and the Bahamas.
His 12 years as Director of Gaudium et spes stand as testimony to his leadership acumen, innovative thinking and intellectual capability.
He introduced programmes to serve the spiritual needs of lay people, Clergy, Religious, married couples and singles. The Desert Day of Prayer is a case in point. A monthly programme which served as a sort of spiritual battery charger for especially the busy working class, attracted a lot of participants from Abuja and beyond. It dealt with topical issues in the Church and society in General. The Retreat for Singles was another one. Nigerian society sometimes stigmatises unmarried people, especially females.
The Retreat dealt with topics that highlighted the dignity of the single state and created an enabling environment for prayer, faith-sharing and reflection. Though it was not intended, some young singles met during these programmes and eventually got married. He also introduced the Pastoral Counselling Training Programme for Priests, Religious and Laity and the Spiritual Direction Programme for Priests.
He sustained and enhanced the monthly Priests’ Recollection for the Priests of Abuja Archdiocese and Training for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. He introduced the use of bulk SMS to invite and remind people of programmes which proved very effective. Other notable achievements of his tenure at Gaudium et Spes include the emergence and growth of a vibrant Sunday worshipping community, upgrade of the institute’s facilities like upgrading of rooms for accommodation, procurement of back-up generator for steady power supply, internet facilities, improvement in staff welfare among others.
Fr. Isara is also a man endowed with a keen intellect and the ability to transmit his thinking in a coherent and clear manner accessible to a broad spectrum of society. His research and presentations which cover a wide range of topics culminated in the publication of several books like Deepening our Faith Journey, Dignity in Relationship, Imitating Jesus Christ, Fidelity to Jesus Christ and Praying the Holy Rosary and a huge collection of unpublished work.
He serves with a leadership team consisting of Fr. Tony Anike, Fr. Jude Alih, Fr. Robert Kajoh and Fr. Solomon Bulus.
–––Egede, who wrote in from Abuja, served as General Secretary of Gaudium Et Spes Institute 2005-2010, as Editor of AFRICA (West African Edition).