Fr. Ambrose Windbacher
Returns to Yaba -- Reception and Funeral

24th October 2001

This evening at 8 pm we received the body of Ambrose in Nigeria, there were 14 Dominican Brothers and Sisters at the airport with the laity. These were solemn moments. As the coffin was released to us on the airport compound, we gathered around as Cletus Nwabuzo, o.p., our Provincial, prayed in thanksgiving for a safe arrival of Ambrose and Emmanuel Ogu, o.p. who accompanied the body back to Africa. There were spectators on every side, perhaps because we were all there in our habits. After the short prayers Cletus intone the Salve Regina. What a beautiful, first tribute to Ambrose.

A convoy of cars and the hearse drove five km to the Maryland Medical Centre where the body will be kept until the wake and burial on the 20/ 21st November. Again, prayers were said decisions made, the coffin opened, and the O Lumen sung. We love Ambrose and honour his example of 46 momentous years in Yaba.

May he rest in peace.

Stephen Lucas, o.p.

Saturday, 27th October 2001

Many hundreds of our parishioners and friends of Father Windbacher approched the Archbishop of Laogs, Anthony Okogie asking for his permission and to bury Ambrose on our church compound. Yesterday this permission was given.

The Parish is planning on over 50,000 people to present (at least for a time) during the wake keeping and funeral which begins about 3pm on the 20th November 2001. The church will be open throughout the night and the funeral mass will probably begin on the 21st November about 11 am. The burial site on our compound has not yet been finalized.

stephen, o.p.


Tuesday, 20th November 2001

The Funeral of Ambrose Windbacher, o.p.

On the afternoon of November 20th 2001 a delegation of Dominicans, representatives of parish societies and friends of Ambrose drove in a motorcade of 25 cars, buses and vans to the Maryland Medical Centre, nine km north of Yaba, to carry the body of Ambrose back to St. Dominicís.

Father Peter Otillio, o.p. was assigned to receive the body in the Church while hundreds of people had already gathered on the compound in expectation. At 6:30 pm, 32 Dominicans wearing their cappas began the Office of the Dead. Soon after the coffin was opened the laity filed down the main aisle to view the remains. By this time over 2000 people were in the church. At 7:30 pm the Vigil Mass began. Our premises and compound was filled, next to the church eight huge tents were sent up for the overflowing crowds with four televisions for the people to witness the Vigil Mass. It was estimated 9,500 people were present. Bishop Ayo Maria Atoyebi, o.p. celebrated the mass with 42 concelebrants, the Bishop preached for 1 hour 40 minutes. Our liturgy at St. Dominicís is excellent, but it was even better as the choirs and soloists were outstanding.

Masses during the wake keeping were scheduled at 12 midnight, 3 am, 6:15 am and the funeral mass at .11 am. At the 3 am mass the entire congregation of over 1000 people sang and danced, in the pews and out of the pews for 30 minutes before the mass began. It was a joyful celebration for a Dominican who served the people well, the joy was for a 87 year old man who brought families and ordinary people closer to Jesus. The sounds and joy from a sympathetic community made me realize I was in Africa, this was all for our Brother Ambrose who touched the hearts of so many wonderful people.

Before 8:30 in the morning another 40 Dominicans arrived, including the novices from the novitiate. We gathered again to sing the Office of the Dead. During the hours that followed St. Dominicís and the tents near the church began to fill with people from all parts of the country. Our Dominican Community met parishioners and friends who had moved away from Yaba and Lagos years ago only to return for the Mass of the Resurrection in honour of Ambrose. Many of these friends asked how Father Moore was doing, Father Klapperich, Kilbridge and Shea. So many did not know that Fathers Bruno and Ces had died. Several asked if Father Farmer was coming back and others wanted addresses of Fathers Walsh, Jagoe and Ebben. Many people recalled the wonderful memories of Father Dempsey who was pastor of St. Dominicís for 15 years. It was somehow a family reunion of brothers and sisters who have always been a part of the Dominicans in Nigeria.

At 11 am the procession entered the church, 72 Dominicans, 24 Diocesan priests, over 130 religious of many congregations, and three Bishops, Archbishop Anthony Okogie, Bishop Ayo Maria, o,p. .and Bishop Edmund Fitzgibben ,s.p.s., a long time friend. Cletus Nwabuzo, o.p. our new Prior Provincial celebrated the mass while Justus Pokrzewinski, o.p. preached a beautiful homily.

The burial site was only a few meters away, in a raised garden in front of the Church. Because of space, parishioners where asked to remain in their seats as the Dominicans, the Bishops and others processed to the simple crypt. The song Ambrose loved the most, and asked to be sung at his funeral was sung for the third time, Fade, Fade Each Earthly Joy. It was common knowledge that Ambrose loved this song so you can only imagine the 12,000 or more people singing from the church echoing out into congregation beside the gravesite. These were moments to be remembered.

The dust has settled, the people have returned to their homes, towns and villages, but memories remain of a man of faith and love. He will be a part of us and we shall remember his example for a long time.

May he rest is perfect peace!

Stephen Lucas, o.p.

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