BIRTH & EARLY CHILDHOOD:
His Lordship, Most Rev. (Dr.) Jonas Benson Okoye, was born to the family of Mr. Patrick and Mrs. Theresa Anazoba Okoye of Amata clan in Adazi- Nnukwu, Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State. He was born in the city of kaduna on the 25th day of January 1963- the second son and the fifth child of eight children. His lordship enjoyed the warmth and privilege of prudent parenting. Hard-work, hunger for pious life and service to humanity underscored the lessons of his early tutelage.
His lordship started primary school education at Ojiako Primary School, Adazi-Nnukwu in 1971. In 1972, he moved back to Kaduna and continued his primary education at the Prestigious St. Gregory Primary School, Muri Road, Kaduna. He was, beyond doubts, a brilliant and likeable pupil. His inspiration to the vocation of priesthood was aroused in early years by his encounter with Rev. Fr. Miniham at St. Joseph's Catholic Cathedral Kaduna, where His Lordship was a dedicated young altar server. Young Jonas Benson however returned to Ojiako Primary School education to enable him secure admission into secondary school in the south eastern part of Nigeria - in obedience to his parents' considered think-home counsel. He did secure admission into the conventional secondary school and the seminary. His passion for priesthood however took the greater part of him, hence his primary priesthood formation between 1976 and 1977 at St. Paul's Seminary Ukpor.
JOURNEY TO THE PRIESTHOOD:
By 1978, the young seminarian moved on to All Hallows' Seminary, Onitsha, where he sat for the West African School Certificate Examination in 1981. His outstanding academic performance and conduct made his alma mater to engage him to teach younger seminarian Geography, English literature and Special Mathematics. He was also appointed the school bursar.
In 1983, His Lordship's Bishop, Most Rev. (Dr.) A.K Obiefuna, who was then the Bishop of Awka, sent him to Bigard Memorial Seminary, Ikot Ekpene (now St. Joseph's Major Seminary) for his Philosophy study. At the end of the four-year philosophy course he obtained a Bachelor's Degree with honors in philosophy certified by the Pontifical Urban University, Rome to which the institution was affiliated. Thereafter, he was sent on one-year apostolic work charged with the formation of seminarians at St. John Bosco's Minor Seminary, Isuaniocha. There, he taught Religion, Liturgy, Latin and English Literature. After a meritorious one-year service in 1988, the purposeful young Jonas Benson was sent to Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, to study theological disciplines as the last phase of his academic and conduct formation to priesthood. He sat for his Bachelor's Degree in the study in 1992 and obtained a first class grade with honors.
PRIESTLY LIFE AND MINISTRY:
His Lordship, Most Rev. (Dr.) Jonas Benson Okoye, was ordained a priest on August 29, 1992 by his Bishop, Most Rev. A.K Obiefuna, at St. Andrew's Catholic Church, Adazi- Nnukwu. His ordination in his hometown was phenomenal, as it was the first time such event would take place in the town.
After his priestly ordination, His Lordship was posted to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Ezinifite (Aguata Local Government Area) as parochial Vicar. A year after (1993), he was appointed Parish Priest of St. Peter's Catholic Church, Oko (Orumba North Local Government Area), where he deployed youthful energies in two years of impactful pastoral service. The same 1993, he was appointed Defender of the Bond in Awka Diocesan Ecclesiastical Tribunal; which position he held until 1995 when he was sent to the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA, in Port Harcourt for post-graduate studies in Canon law (1995-1997). On his return from CIWA, he was appointed the Parish Priest of St. John's Catholic Church, Neni, Anaocha Local Government Area (1997-2002). He was also the Chaplain, Knights of St. Mulumba, Anaocha Sub-Council (1997-2002); Dean, Neni Deanery (2000-2002); and vice Officials, Awka Diocesan Ecclesiastical from Tribunal (1997-2002).
In 2002, His Lordship, Most Rev. (Dr.) Jonas Benson Okoye, was asked to continue his canonical studies at the famous St. Paul University, Ottawa in Canada where he obtained Licentiate Degree in Canon Law Summa Cum Laude Probatus in Canon Law (JCD). He also did courses in Canonical Jurisprudence in the Roman Rota (2004-2005).
On his return studies in 2006, His Lordship was appointed the Parish Priest of Immaculate Heart Parish, Ekwulobia, Aguata Local Government Area (2006-2007); Parish Priest, St. Matthew's Catholic Church, Amawbia, Awka South Local Government Area (2007-2013) as well as the Dean, Amawbia Deanery (2007-2013). He was moved from Amawbia to serve as Parish Priest of St. Mary's Catholic Church, Awka, Awka South Local Government Area (2013-2014), and the Dean Awka Deanery II (2013-2014).
Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye was the Judicial Vicar, Catholic Diocese of Awka and a Judge in the Onitsha inter-Diocesan Ecclesiastical Tribunal from 2007 to 2014. He also served in various Commissions, both at the National and Diocesan level. He was a member, CBCN Committee on Seminary Formation (2008-2012). He was a member. CBCN Committee on Canon Law (2011-2014); Secretary, Awka Diocese Finance Council (2007-2014); member, Awka Diocesan Presbyterium Council (2007-2014); member, Diocesan College of Consultors (2009-2014); and member, Diocesan Examination Board (2007-2014) was elected the President of Canon Society of Nigerian in 2009 and was re-elected for a second tenure in 2012.
CALL TO THE EPISCOPACY:
Most Rev. (Dr.) Jonas Benson Okoye was appointed Titular Bishop of Masclianae and Auxiliary Bishop of Awka on Friday, May 30, 2014 by His Holiness, Pope Francis. He was consecrated Bishop on the 29th of August 2014 at St Patrick's Catholic Cathedral, Awka, by the papal Nuncio, Archbishop Augustine Kasujja.
It is notable that aside from his numerous pastoral engagements/concerns as the Auxiliary Bishop of Awka. His Lordship was fully dedicated to the establishment of Peter University, Achina/Onneh jointly owned by Diocese of Awka and Ekwulobia. He personally oversaw the physical construction of the university. His overflowing joy over the progress the church has so far made towards establishing the university derives from his love for education which he sees as the ultimate requirement for the emancipation of our people from the vagaries of uncivilized acts.
Bishop Okoye was appointed Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi on the 9th of November, 2021. This was met with emotional impulses from both the clergy and the lay faithful of the Diocese whose expectations of his bishopric stewardship are most challenging. (MAY GOD HELP HIS LORDSHIP). His installation as Bishop of Nnewi holds on the 10th of February, 2022.
His Lordship is a recipient of many merit awards towards exemplified in: Henry Dunant Gold Merit Award from Red Cross Society of Nigeria (2009); Clergy Merit Award by St. Jude Igbo Speaking Catholic, Archdiocese of Kaduna (2009); Vocational Excellence Award by Rotary Club of Nigeria, Njikoka, Anambra State (2012), etc.
His Lordship is passionately committed to the encapsulation of his thoughts, knowledge and queries in publication like pamphlets and books that provoke questions, inform knowledge and soothe inquires that often perturb the hearts and minds of many. Some of his published works are:
- Abortion and Euthanasia - The crime of our Day 1987
- Equality of Spouses in Can. 1135 1997
- A Colloquium of Service 2002
- Can. 1341: Judicial and Pastoral Discretion in the Application of canonical Penalties 2006
- The Suicide: A Patient or a sinner? (In the light of Canonico-Ecclesiastical Penalty) 2011
- Youth and morality (Magazine, Bigard Memorial Seminary, Ikot-Ekpene, 1986).
- The business Priest in a Busy Ministry: in the light of Canon 286 (Bigard '92 Set at Enugu 1998).
- The Liturgical Season of Lent including the Easter Triduum (Seminar Organized by Awka Diocesan Liturgy and Inculturation Commission (ADLIC), April 2000).
- Expectations and Challenges of a Good Leader (Seminar Paper for Neni Deanery Catholic Women Organization, July 2001).
- Purgatory: What the church teachers (Knights of St. Mulumba, Regina Caeli Sub-Council, April 2001)
- Indissolubility of catholic Marriage and Making a Happy Home: Our Lady as a model (National Convention of confraterni9ty of Christian Mother's Association of Cana House, Awka, May 2000).
- Judicial and Pastoral Discretion in Relation to Offences, persons and penalties in the Light of Canon 1341 (2010 Annual conference of Canon Law Society of Nigeria).
- Indulgence-Benefiting from the Treasury of the church (Youth Magazine, 2010).
- Pastoral ministry of the Parish Priest and Parochial Vicar in the Code of Canon Law (At Annual Seminar of Uromi Diocesan Priests, Feb 2011).
- What God has joined together, No man should put Asunder (Matt 19:6): Why Annulment Now? (A paper presented at the 2013 Inaguration of the Judicial Year of Abuja Archdiocesan Ecclesiastical tribunal on the 26th January, 2013, at the Cathedral of Twelve Apostle, Wuse).
- The decision of the Pope Benedict XVI to Resign: Canonico-Ecclesiastical Perpective (feb 2013).
- "Peace and Recoincilation in Marriage and the family" Being a paper Presented at the second discesan Synod of the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi on Tuseday 10th November,205 by Most Rev. Jonas Beson Okoye at St. Gabriel's Pastoral Center, Ozubulu.
Bishop Jonas Benson is driven by a consummate passion to serve humanity and God. The primary enablers to this passion of service are his dogged commitment to the principals of being truthful to self, being fair to others, recognizing the essence of constructive association with/and bold interrogation of governmental authorities and other institutions whose inaction or actions affect the lives of people. His Lordship's overt readiness to make sacrifices to improve the well-being of people in a sane polity characterizes his innate passion for wholesome response to demands of the body and soul of the faithful. His conviction captured in advocacy that it shall be well for the faithful her and hereafter emboldens him to teach decency and enhanced living as collateral instead of limitation on the course to eternity with our Creator.
In the midst of challenges, Bishop Jonas Benson encourages unfailing hope and hard-work as panacea for life sustenance. In all these, His Excellency merely sees himself as a humble servant of God from whom all good things flow. His Lordship enjoys work and more work as he blends the growth of spirituality with expanding and entrenching the frontiers of Catholicism in our land. His hobbies include reading and writing, engaging discourses on the path to eternity; playing table tennis and sports administration.