Ordained a priest 40 years ago on September 18, 1983, at the Holy Cross Cathedral, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, the Archbishop of Lagos, has spent the past 25 years in a bishopric capacity, discharging his Apostolic duties in characteristic selflessness to God and humanity.
With stewardship defined by spirit-led foresight, planning and action, he has been a shining example of a dutiful servant of God in the Catholic Church and Christendom in general.
His Catholic pedigree included being born into a Catholic family and having a Catholic education at St. Augustine Roman Catholic Mission School, ltesi, St. Theresa Minor Seminary, Oke-Are, Ibadan and St. Peter and Paul Major Seminary, Bodija, Ibadan (1976-1983).
He had a diploma in Religious Studies from the University of Ibadan (1978) and a bachelor’s degree in Theology from Pontifical Urban University, Rome (1983).
Since 1983 when he has ordained a priest, he has been an epitome of apostolic service: Assistant Administrator, Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos (1983-1984); teacher and chaplain, St. Gregory’s College, Obalende, Priest-in-Charge, St. Theresa’s Catholic Church Maroko and chaplain, Holy Child College, Obalende (1984-1986). At SS. Peter and Paul Major Seminary, Bodija, he was a Graduate Assistant in the Department of Philosophy (1986-1988) and lecturer, after his Master of Philosophy from the University of Ibadan (1988).
He combined teaching duties with administrative responsibilities as Bursar (1988-1994), Registrar (1994-1996) and Secretary of the Appointments and Promotions Committee (1994-1996). At the end of his service in the seminary, he earned a Master of Letters in Philosophy, the University of St. Andrews, Scotland (1997).
He moved on to a higher calling when he was appointed the first Bishop of the (new) Abeokuta Diocese by Pope John Paul II on October 24, 1997. Consecrated on January 24, 1998, his subsequent 14 years of service were characterised by fruitful efforts to build a young, local Church. From nine parishes and eight incardinated priests, he built the diocese into a vibrant and dynamic Church of 28 parishes and 60 priests, 44 of them incardinated priests.
During his time, the Diocese established Sacred Heart Catholic College, Abeokuta (1999), St. Patrick’s Catholic College, Imeko (2006), St. Bernadette of Lourdes School, Abeokuta and relocated St. Luke School, lwoye. The Diocese of Abeokuta also regained ownership of St. Peter’s College, Olomore and Catholic Comprehensive High School, Ibara, following Bishop Martins’ leading role in the mediation that culminated in the government’s return of secondary schools to original owners.
Appointed and elevated the new Archbishop of the Lagos See on May 25, 2012, by Pope Benedict XVI and installed at the Holy Cross Cathedral Lagos on August 4, Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins as the Fourth Archbishop of the Catholic See of Lagos, continued his hard work in the Lord’s vineyard, building on his track record of expansion of the Church and entrenching education.
From seven deaneries and 98 parishes in 2012, he created eight new deaneries and 77 new parishes in the year 2016. The Archdiocese of Lagos at present has 20 Deaneries, 196 Parishes and 20 Chaplaincies.
In 10 years, the Archdiocese has over 156 indigenous Priests with over 250 Religious and Fidei Donum Priests working in Lagos. Of the 295 clerical workforces, 110 are indigenous priests, 53 of whom he ordained. Between 2012 and 2022, over 40 parishes (churches) were dedicated to the worship of God in the Archdiocese of Lagos. Where previously there were 15 male religious communities in 2013, now there are 23 working in the Archdiocese of Lagos.
Similarly, there was an increase from 21 to 29 female religious communities in the Archdiocese. He was also the Principal Consecrator of Bishop Peter Kayode Odetoyinbo (2014), and Bishop Francis Obafemi Adesina (2019), respectively as bishops of Abeokuta and Ijebu Ode.
Aside from the expansion of the Church, His Grace also gave an impetus to educational development, leading to the emergence of three new Archdiocesan secondary schools -in Iju-Ishaga, Ikorodu, and Bogije, the completion, take-off and growth of Augustine University, and the advent of St. Albert the Great Major Seminary and St. Joseph the Worker Technical Institute.
The priority he gave to cleric education has led to an increase in the number of priests no less than 12, who have successfully pursued further studies in America, Rome, Spain and France, and at the Catholic Institute of West Africa, CIWA, Port Harcourt, and the University of Lagos.
Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins also prioritised the welfare of elderly priests with the establishment of the St. John Mary Vianney Priests Home, a project that serves the core objective of enhancing the lives of Archdiocesan priests in their retirement. The construction of the home is near completion.
He further expanded the charity of the Catholic Church with the founding of the Caritas Lagos Fund in 2013, to assist dioceses, mission territories, congregations, institutions, parishes and individuals in need within and outside Nigeria, specifically other African countries. In the past years, the fund had benefited victims of insurgency and flood in North East Nigeria, particularly the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Maiduguri and Yola.
As a reformer, he restructured the administrative procedures of the Church to enhance efficiency through the promulgation of the Parish Pastoral, Laity and Finance Councils.
The Archbishop of Lagos also catalysed the Archdiocese’s pastoral expansion of the Church across the emerging landscape of the New Lagos Initiative with the acquisition of landed property at the ultra-modern Eko Atlantic City and Banana Island, and also in developing axes of the state, including Badagry and Ikorodu, where the Catholic Church now has parcels and hectares of lands designated for schools and other future developments.
With his motto, “called to serve in love,” Archbishop Martins, who will be 64 on June 1, 2023, remains driven and focused on the divinely inspired apostolic service to God and man.
Source: Neta Nwosu, Nigeria