Mark Unegbu: Father’s House Boy Consecrated His Master A Bishop

Angelo Chidi Unegbu


In 1945, a year after his priestly ordination, Fr Mark Unegbu was posted as parish priest to Dunukofia to replace Fr Iwene Tansi who later left to England to join the monastic life.

In Dunukofia parish, one of the natives, Francis Arinze was one of Unegbu’s house boys. Having spotted Arinze as good mannered, smart, quiet and intelligent, Unegbu asked him if he would like to be a priest. “Yes Fr”, said Arinze.

Happily, Unegbu then asked him to inform his parents but Arinze’s parents especially his mother stood vehemently against the idea.

At that time, Arinze’s elder brother, Christopher was teaching at the parish school. Unegbu had also gotten admission for Francis Arinze’s second brother, Linus, into St Charles Catholic Training College Onitsha.

Unegbu invited the two brothers. He told them that he “was going to withdraw them from teaching service and from the college respectively, if Francis was not allowed to enter the seminary”.

“The threat worked. They put preasure on their parents,” Unegbu remarked in later years. According to him, it was only an empty threat.

In 1946/47 Francis Arinze joined the minor seminary. Arinze succeeded in becoming not just a priest but also the first indigenous archbishop of Onitsha when his master (as he use to refer to him), Unegbu, was still a priest.

With the expulsion of the missionaries in 1970, after the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war, Rome appointed Unegbu the first indigenous bishop of Owerri.

Exactly 51 years ago, 20 September, 1970, Fr Mark Unegbu was consecrated a bishop at Mount Carmel Catholic Church Emekuku by his former house boy, Archbishop Francis Arinze.

Angelo Chidi Unegbu (

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