Monk Bede-Gabriel Chika Mary Anabidom (OCSO) owns a story that spins the head. It is well-nigh impossible seeing a first son abandoning all his inheritance to devote his life entirely to the service of God through solitude, silence and prayer.
When I got the invitation that St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Isuofia, in the Diocese of Awka, Anambra State would on Sunday, September 2, undertake the triple celebration of a priestly ordination, a silver jubilee anniversary of a priest, and the final religious profession of Monk Anabidom I knew instantly I had to put all other works aside to do due honour to the celebration. One had to go to celebrate the monk.
I have been friends with the quiet lad known as Gabriel Anabidom since our secondary school days. He hails from my mother’s hometown of Isuofia in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. Born on March 13, 1960 at Utonkon in Benue State as the first of the seven children of the late Mr. Basil and Mrs. Juliana Anabidom of Ozala village, Isuofia, young Gabriel was educated at St. Patrick’s Primary School in his hometown and St. Peter’s Secondary School in the nearby Achina town.
After earning his school certificate, Gabriel became an apprentice trader attached to the Aba-based businessman, Sir Emmanuel Okoli, now deceased, from 1979 to 1984. He needed to raise enough funds to help train his younger ones in a family facing some financial difficulties.
Upon establishing his own business after the apprenticeship he then relocated to Lagos in 1986. He was quite successful as the CEO/MD of Glack Accord Resources Ltd.
In no time it became obvious that material acquisition would not give Gabriel the spiritual satisfaction that he yearned. He earnestly wanted the cowl of the monk!
According to Saint Augustine, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.”
It was difficult for the family to accept the reality when Gabriel made his entry into the Cistercian Monastery at Awhum in Enugu State. His father took it all with philosophical calmness as he too appeared monkish in demeanor.
In 2002 Gabriel left the monastery and proceeded to Saint Paul’s International Institute of Evangelisation, Emene in the selfsame Enugu State.
The quest for higher education took Gabriel to Madonna University, Okija, Anambra State where he earned a Bachelors’ degree in philosophy in 2006.
His study for a Master’s degree in Nigeria was cut short after seven months when he left for the University of Nottingham in England to study for a Master of Arts in international relations. He regularly wrote to me from England on his studies, and we exchanged useful ideas on global sports.
With the University of Nottingham degree in his kitty, he moved on to the Vatican City from 2009 to 2012 to earn a Bachelors’ degree at the Pontifical Beda College, Rome. He gained a lot from his association with students from the well over 15 countries in the college such that he took the name Bede, to wit, after Saint Bede the Venerable, the Patron Saint of the college.
Now bearing the name Bede-Gabriel, he returned to the Cistercian Monastery, Awhum in 2012 to continue the monastic life in the hallowed tradition of Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi. His Solemn Profession took place on December 9, 2017 at the Cistercian Abbey of Awhum Cistercian Monastery.
The Sunday, September 2 celebration started with the holy mass at the jet-like St. Patrick’s with the large congregation singing “Isuofia nwere goodluck” (The town has good luck). The troika of celebrants got hosted together after the mass in the church compound with HRH Igwe (Col.) C.A.O. Muoghalu, Isu II of Isuofia, in dignified attendance.
Then I followed an assemblage of children bearing a bier of the Virgin Mary as they sang all the way to the Anabidom compound with Monk Bede-Gabriel leading the charge. In the compound of a storey building and a bungalow, a canopy had been set up for the monks who surrounded the celebrant.
The family donated a Toyota Camry salon to the monk who went into the car to blast at the horn to the cheers of the gathered throng.
Monk Bede-Gabriel was surprised but very happy to see me. He embraced me warmly and gave me four devotional books.
When I eventually left in the evening I felt like I was floating on air in holiness!