Fr Clement Alekwe was born on 7th March 1960, in Enugwu-Agidi, Diocese of Awka in Nigeria. He was the fourth child of a family of eight children. He took his Missionary Oath on the 7th of December 1991 in Totteridge, England and was ordained priest on the 22nd August 1992 in his home diocese of Awka, in Nigeria.
As a missionary, Fr Clement first worked as Assistant Parish Priest in Bukoli Parish, Diocese of Geita in Tanzania from 1992 to 1995. He was then appointed, in the same capacity, to Manzese Parish, Archdiocese of Dar-es-Salaam but just for four months. In view of returning on home-service to his country Nigeria, he was sent for further studies in Pastoral Counselling in Dublin, Ireland. On 27th September 1997 he returned to Nigeria as bursar of the Missionaries of Africa formation house in Ibadan. On the 1st of August 2003, he arrived in Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in South B as Assistant Parish Priest. Two years later, on 25th of January, he was appointed Parish Priest of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in South B, Nairobi. On 1st of September 2007 he was sent to Great Britain for further studies and on the 1st of June 2010 he was appointed to Kasama Spiritual Year, in Zambia, where he remained for a couple of years before being appointed once again to another Missionaries of Africa Spiritual Formation Centre in Arusha where he arrived on 24th August 2012.
The confreres who witnessed the beginnings of his sickness have drawn the following account: When Clement arrived in Arusha in August 2012 to join the Staff of the new Spiritual Formation Centre he was limping a little bit. He said that he had twisted his ankle while on holidays in Nigeria. A couple of months later while he was participating in a penitential service in the Canossa Spirituality Centre he fell over when he went to genuflect. It was then that we realised that there was a more serious problem.
In March 2013, after he returned from the community retreat in Maua he went to get an x-ray at a medical centre in town. There they detected a serious problem and he was referred to the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi. There they quickly detected cancer of the bones. After the different forms of analysis he started a treatment of chemotherapy in May. This treatment meant that he could stay in Arusha and go up to Nairobi every two or three months. He never allowed the treatment to prevent him from doing his work at the Spiritual Year. In September 2014 he went to Nairobi for a check-up and the doctors realised that his cancer had stopped responding to the chemotherapy and that there was nothing more that they could do. So he was referred to India in order to undergo a bone-marrow transplant. It was arranged that he go to a hospital in Bangalore near to our community.
While he was in Dar es Salaam waiting to get his visa for India his physical condition began to deteriorate. On one of the last days he went to the Indian High Commission to get his visa. As there was a serious traffic jam he had to go by “boda-boda” so as not to be late for his appointment. While he was getting off, he twisted his leg – and at that moment it broke. (Because of the cancer his bones were very fragile.) He was aware of the pain but he was not aware that the bone was broken. A few days later he boarded the plane for Bangalore but when he arrived in Bangalore he was unable to walk: the broken leg was so painful. He had to be carried off the plane.
When he was brought to the hospital in Bangalore the first thing they had to do was to repair the broken leg. Then they realised that his kidneys were not functioning well – so he had to have dialysis. They also detected hepatitis C. All of these issues had to be dealt with before considering the bone marrow transplant. It was then that the doctors realised that the cancer was so far advanced that the transplant was not possible. During all the time that he was in Bangalore the confreres were visiting him regularly and doing all that they could to help him. He also spent some time in the community.
In March 2015, together with Fr. Binu, he returned to Arusha to collect his things. When he had left us in November he was still in good physical condition but when he came back three months later his condition had seriously deteriorated. He spent five days in the community during which time the novices, the confreres and Sr Cynthia of the Canossian Sisters took great care of him. The day before he left Arusha was his 55th birthday. In the evening the novices organised a birthday party in his honour. At the end of it Clement spoke to us; he was aware of his condition and of his approaching end. He asked us to pray “that God’s will may be done”. He spoke with great faith and peace in his heart. We were all very moved.
The next day after receiving the anointing of the sick surrounded by the entire community we brought him to the Kenyan border where the confreres from Nairobi were waiting for him.
Upon arrival in Nairobi, Clement spent two weeks without seeing his doctors and he showed a strong will to fight the disease. He tried as much as possible to participate in community life and to remain as autonomous as he could under the circumstances. He often surprised his visitors by being so alert and proactive in conversation. Inevitably he had to start therapy at the Coptic Hospital, next to our Provincial House. In spite of all the medical attention put at his disposal, his condition was irreversible. As soon as he felt a bit better, he asked to come home in our community next to the Coptic Hospital. Two care-takers were assigned to him 24/7, given his deteriorating condition. After a relapse, he was taken back into the Coptic Hospital where he finally passed on during the early hours of 16th May 2015.
Being fully aware of his critical health condition, Clement chose to spend his last days – as it were – among the people he loved and served, even if it was only for brief moment. The visits he received since he came back to Nairobi and the support the Missionaries of Africa have been receiving from all those who knew Clement are a true testimony of what impact he had on the Christian faithful whilst in South B Parish. The Lavigerie Family – Missionaries of Africa, Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa and Friends of Lavigerie – are deeply grateful to all those who have in one or way or the other supported them in accompanying Clement during his illness and finally in celebrating his life. After a Funeral Mass celebrated at Our Lady, Queen of Peace parish where Clement had been the Parish priest, he was buried in St. Austin’s cemetery alongside 8 other Missionaries of Africa who died in Nairobi. May God bless him abundantly.
Innocent Maganya, M.Afr.
Petit Echo n° 1078