Our Bishop, Most Rev.William Amove Avenya was born on 21st June 1955 to Mr. Avenya Sanker Agbum and Mrs. Sarah Avenya in Uganmbe, Shangev-Tiev, Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue State, Nigeria.
In 1966, he was admitted into class two, instead of one, at Sember, Center for Religious Instruction (CRI), Ijov-kyundan, Mbaosu in Konshisha Local Government Area. William spent two years at Sember before proceeding to St. Michael’s Primary School, Bature also in Konshisha Local Government Area. From Bature, the young man was transferred to St. Patrick’s Primary School, Taraku in Gwer Local Government Area, where he completed primary education. Thereafter, William was admitted into Mt. St. Gabriel’s Secondary School, Makurdi in 1971.
Priestly Vocation and Engagements
At Jos Seminary, William was appointed the first Auxiliary (Students’ Head), 1980 to 1981. He was ordained a deacon in 1980 and graduated with a diploma in Religious Studies from University of Ibadan (1979) and a Bachelor of Divinity from Urbanian University, Rome (1981).
Rev. William was ordained a priest on the 30th of May 1981 at St. Lucy’s Parish, Awajir in Konshisha Local Government Area. After ordination, he worked briefly at St. Charles’ Parish, Adoka as Acting Parish Priest, before proceeding to St. William’s Parish, Lafia as Assistant Parish Priest.
Barely a year after his assignment in Lafia, Fr. Avenya was appointed Lecturer and Dean of Students, St. Paul’s Major Seminary, Gbarnga, Liberia in 1982. The seminary was jointly owned by the local Churches of Liberia, Sierra-Leone, The Gambia and some dioceses in Ghana. The region is known as Inter-Territorial Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ITCABIC).
MISEREOR, a German Catholic Church’s foundation, granted the diocese of Makurdi the tuition for Fr. Avenya’s course at Manchester University. In England, Fr. Avenya studied education. While pursuing his academic work with keen interest, he was also deeply involved in several extra-curricular activities, which he gladly and efficiently carried out. He was President of the Nigerian Students’ Community, Manchester University, Salford University and Institute of Science and Technology, Manchester from 1985 to 1987. During this period he tirelessly worked for vulnerable students. From 1986 to 1989, he was temporary Resident Consul, Nigerian Community, Manchester. In 1988 and 1990, he participated in Pontifical Mission Appeals in Melbourne, Australia. His research work took him to Rome and Ireland. Fr. William completed his studies, with a Doctor of Philosophy in Education. His research focused on issues of education policy formulation, planning, evaluation and participatory provision.
On return from England in September 1989, Fr. Avenya was appointed Acting Medical Administrator of Makurdi diocese and worked in that capacity for a year. In 1990, he was appointed Director of Catholic Education Services, holding the position from 1990 to 1995. During this period, he was Chaplain of three institutions: School of Nursing and Midwifery, Government Girls’ College and Federal University of Agriculture, all in Makurdi. At the same time, he was a Secretary General of two organizations: Association of Proprietors of Private Schools and Catholic Central Parents-Teachers’ Association, both in Makurdi. He was also member of the Presbyteral Council, Makurdi diocese and later its Chairperson; President, Nigerian Diocesan Priests’ Association, Kaduna Ecclesiastical Province and First P.R.O, Nigerian Diocesan Priests’ Association.
Fr. Avenya’s dedicated services in the Education Office were deeply appreciated by people within and outside the Catholic Church. Focusing his administrative policy on effective supervision of personnel and facilities of Makurdi diocesan educational institutions, he ensured that the diocese effectively took responsibility for her education programme within a very short time.
In 1995, Bishop Athanasius Usuh generously responded to the call of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West Africa (AECAWA) to provide a Secretary General of the Association. He forwarded Fr. W. Avenya’s name to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and the Conference in turn, presented him for interview for the post. He was appointed and sent to Monrovia, Liberia where the Secretariat of the Organization was then located with full diplomatic status.
As a result of the unrest that eventually grounded activities in Liberia, Fr. Avenya, at the resolution of AECAWA Bishops, moved the Secretariat temporarily to Kumasi, Ghana. But surprisingly enough, the Secretariat was in Kumasi for nearly nine years before its final re-location to Abuja, Nigeria in 2004. At AECAWA Secretariat, Fr. Avenya had to; see to the implementation of the pastoral activities of AECAWA Bishops; liaise with the Secretariats of the constituent Episcopal Conferences in English speaking countries of West Africa in their pastoral and related activities; and animate such activities at the direction of the Bishops.
During his period at AECAWA Secretariat, Fr. Avenya served as Secretary of AECAWA Standing Committee and was a member of five different Committees and Commissions of AECAWA (CIWA, CAMAWA, AWACC, Seminaries’ and Laity Commissions). He was also Chaplain of University of Education, Winneba, Kumasi Campus; the FST Sisters, Archdiocese of Kumasi and Catholic Daughters of Mary, Archdiocese of Abuja as well as President, Nigerian Catholic Missionaries in Ghana etc. His work at AECAWA made it necessary to travel to different parts of Africa and indeed, the world.
When the Catholic Bishops of Anglophone and Francophone West Africa initiated a discussion for closer collaboration, Fr. William had to see to the realization of the noble initiative. It will be remembered that within a short time, the merger of the two sister Episcopal Conferences took place in Abuja at a Constituent Plenary Assembly of the two bodies. Fr. Avenya was appointed Deputy Secretary General of the newly formed Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA), with a mandate to run its Secretariat in Abuja, which he did proficiently from December 2007 to December 2008.
At the end of twelve years of faithful service to the Church of West Africa, the Bishops of RECOWA asked for a two-year extension of his tenure. Nevertheless, Fr. Avenya was recalled by his Bishop, Most Rev. A. Usuh. He was to proceed on sabbatical leave to the United States of America in December 2008, when the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Makurdi and titular Bishop of Thucca in Mauritania on 28th November 2008. Monsignor William Avenya returned to Makurdi on 2nd December 2008 and was consecrated Auxiliary Bishop on the 24th of January 2009.
Shortly after his consecration as Auxiliary Bishop of Makurdi, he was elected Assistant Secretary, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria on 6th April 2009. He also served as Vicar General, diocese of Makurdi until his appointment by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, as the first Bishop of the newly created diocese of Gboko on 29th December 2012. On the 24th of February, 2013, he was installed, the first Catholic Bishop of Gboko.
In recognition of his wealth of experience and capabilities, the Nigerian Bishop’s Conference at the Plenary from 15th to 20th February, 2013 unanimously elected him as the Secretary General of the Conference.
The family of Gboko Diocese rejoices with the world for the gift of their chief shepherd. Your Lordship, we love you and we pray that the Lord of the good work bless you and fill you with goodness, health, and wisdom. Amen