Stories of My Mother- Saint Benedette…

Left behind?! Oh no!

My Mum had kept to her word and actually drove off to Church without us. Lol.

Mum & my brother Ifeanyi at Church

I can’t count the number of times this happened but as we got older, she stopped allowing us delay her and would drive off on Sunday mornings if we weren’t ready, leaving us to find our way to Church.

We grew up seeing our mother participate actively in Church.

Cleaning the Church was something the women did and it was allocated according to groups, my Mum rarely missed hers, except she was maybe under the weather.

She was an active part of the dance group and also sang in the choir for a long while before she finally stopped. She led in different capacities and mentored several younger Christian women.

She solemnly observed all the “no work” days and would make sure that we don’t cook with meat on the days the Church forbade eating of meat, telling us “Uka mabii anu taa”.

Like most Catholic Mothers, she ensured we were up to date on our sacraments and that we regularly attended the block rosary crusades. We never quite got around to attending the early morning masses but that was something she tried not to miss.

The Catholic Church was a big deal to her, she loved the ceremonial way the Mass was performed and actively contributed to Church administration as a lay member and they formed part of her community. After Mass, she would take time to greet her friends, exchanging short stories with some while smiling and waving at others, “ka anyi na nu”, she would say again and again, a kind of parting greeting indicating that she was heading home.

She couldn’t understand why we would leave the Catholic Church for “Uka warehouse” and “Uka Okpulu decking” (an unpopular way of referring to the Pentecostal Churches back in the 90s, when they didn’t have fancy Cathedrals or Church Venues like the Orthodox Churches).

She would lead us in praying the Rosary, something she did religiously, and also in reciting the prayers relevant for the time period. She had some songs that she would sing during such prayers;

Chukwu oma ka I bu,

Ife oma ka e ji malu gi.

Chukwu oma ka I bu,

Ife oma ka e ji malu gi, Chukwu o!

And we would sing after her, extolling the goodness of God and declaring that he was known for good things. Another one was like a chant;

Omelu ife nyilu mmadu omume,

Omelu ife nyilu mmadu omume…

Declaring that God did that which was impossible for man to do. I think it’s a song from the adoration ground in our village Uke, run by the popular Holy Ghost Priest; Ebube Muo Nso.

I remember it was during one of such prayer sessions that she found out I wasn’t a Catholic anymore. Her brilliant mind put two and two together when I didn’t say the “Hail Mary” after her or the other Catholic prayers.

I had just come back from University the previous day and she called for prayers that morning. She simply asked me after the prayers if I still attended the Catholic Church and I said “no”, not knowing what to expect. She was really disappointed as I had been a very devout Catholic and she blamed my elder sisters who had left before me.

I remember when she joined the Faith Alive prayer group, a group of women intercessors at the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity. It was something she was excited about and we would often chorus their greetings; Faith Alive, I’m alive in the Lord! They referred to her as Sis. Bene.

My Mum is a huge reason my siblings and I are committed to the body of Christ, her unwavering devotion, which mirrored that of her father, was an outstanding example we just had to follow.

I remember coming back home on a Sunday morning and seeing her seated in her nightie, I immediately figured something was wrong because she always went to Church. When I asked her how come she didn’t go that morning, she waved aside my question, smiling and saying she would attend evening Mass. I would find out some moments later that her Mum, my grandma had gone to be with the Lord in the early hours of that Sunday morning.

It was a beauty to behold how the Church honored her after she passed. Her burial was beautiful with the array of Priests that celebrated the burial mass. Her beloved nephew, also a Revered Father, was one of them. We all talked about how happy she would have been and I could imagine her smiling and looking on proudly.

Cross section of Catholic Priests at my Mum’s burial

In Ever Loving Memory of my Mother,
Lady Benedette Ugwunwa Ezeanya
April 4,1959 – June 29,2019

The Storytela

Against All Odds: A Story of Tenacity, Hard Work, and Higher Education

jbheKenya Hicks, Tashea Stanley-Dixon, Khadija Darr, and Kenji Kuykendall grew up in Waukegan, Illinois, about 40 miles north of Chicago. They have all been close friends since they were 12 years old. All four girls became pregnant while in high school and all four gave birth to sons. All four fathers abandoned the teenagers before they gave birth. All four girls were obliged to go on welfare temporarily so that they could provide for their children. Kenya and Khadija dropped out of high school. One might have bet these four teenagers were doomed to a life of poverty in single-parent homes. If you took that bet, you would have lost.

The four teenagers made a pact to support each other and succeed despite the fact that the odds were against them. Through education and hard work, they were determined to give their children a better life. All four went back to school, worked when they were not in school, and received help and support from friends, family, and each other.

Today all four women are in their 30s. They all have graduated from college. By the end of next year, all four will have MBA degrees.

Kenya Hicks was supported by her parents, grandmother, sister, and friends as she completed an associate’s degree at Robert Morris University and a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in Missouri. It took her 12 years to complete college. She is currently pursuing an MBA at the Keller Graduate School of Management. She is in the process of starting up a home service agency. Hicks states, “We inspired and supported each other relentlessly to finish college no matter what challenges we faced so we could change the direction of our journey and rewrite our destiny.”

Tashea Stanley-Dixon enrolled in a community college and worked at night calling homeowners who were delinquent in their mortgage payments. It took her eight years but she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Columbia College. She too, is enrolled in the MBA program at the Keller Graduate School of Management. She is now a certified paralegal.

Khadija Darr earned an associate’s degree at Robert Morris University and a bachelor’s degree at Columbia College. Almost 90 percent of her course work was completed online. She is currently enrolled in the MBA program with a concentration in accounting at Concordia University in Chicago. She currently operates her own T-shirt company and has a tax preparation business. She plans to become a certified public accountant.

While working various jobs and taking care of her son, Kenji Kuykendall attended a community college part time over an eight year period and earned her associate’s degree with honors from the College of Lake County. She then went on to complete her bachelor’s degree in 2008 with a specialization in workforce education development from Southern Illinois University. She graduated magna cum laude. Currently Kenji attends Lake Forest Graduate School of Management and will earn a MBA with a specialization in organizational behavior in January. It was a 14-year journey to complete her education. She now is works in human resources for a major pharmaceutical company in Chicago with aspirations of becoming a human resources executive officer. She lives by the motto, “Hard work does pay off.” She could not have achieved her goals without the support of her family and friends.

Excerpt from http://www.jbhe.com/ (The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education)