Louisiana Priest, Educator Brutally Attacked and Killed in Nigeria

rev denisBy Robert Stitt

School violence is not relegated to America alone. Reverend Dennis Osuagwu, serving in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri in Nigeria’s Imo state, worked at the General House of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and was also on staff at Imo Polytechnic School. He was brutally murdered on his way home during an ambush on a deserted road. Assassins shot him at point blank range.

Osuagwu was a strict priest who was not afraid to speak his mind. This sometimes rubbed people the wrong way and may have contributed to his death. He was firm in his faith and guided his parishioners on their spiritual path, but he was not known to bend and this caused a lot of friction in recent times at the Imo Polytechnic School.

Nigerian authorities believe Osuagwu’s murder may be related to internal disputes in the school. The assassins likely monitored his movements and learned his schedule. Knowing that his route would take him through a deserted bush path between the time he left campus and came out on the well-traveled Port Harcourt Road, the killers struck when he was alone and at his most vulnerable.

The local police spokesperson, DSP Andrew Enwerem, said, “It was a gruesome murder. There is the likelihood that the assassins carefully monitored the priest’s movement and lay in ambush for him on his track. I wonder why the Catholic priest chose to use such a lonely bush path, knowing fully, the recent ceaseless bickering and wrangling stemming from Imo Polytechnic.”

Osuagwu had been back in Nigeria since 2011, but prior to that, for 11 years, he served in two parishes in Louisiana, St. Ann Church in Lawtell, Louisiana, and at a Louisiana Holy Family Catholic Church. During his time in St. Landry Parish, he studied at Southern University in Baton Rouge pursuing his doctorate in political science. He returned to Louisiana twice in the last 4 years.

Those who knew him in the United States do not believe that this was a random act of violence. They believe he was specifically targeted because of his beliefs. Norman René, who served on the St. Ann Parish Council while Osuagwu was a priest there, said, “It wasn’t just a random act. He believed in social justice for all and fairness for all people.”

In his former parishes, Osuagwu is remembered as a priest, with a heavy accent, who took great care to study his messages and worked on his thick accent to ensure his messages were understandable. He took his role as spiritual leader seriously and taught his people to pray and worship.

The death of their beloved priest reminded the local parishioners that the world is a much larger place than their little part of the planet. Bishop Michael Jarrell said, “We pray for the repose of his soul and we pray for his family and for all who mourn his passover into eternal life.”