Fr. AMBROSE'S FRIENDS REMEMBER HIM
AT THE VESPER SERVICE
From the MEMORIAL BULLETIN BOARD
FELIX ONEMHEGHIE, OP (email@example.com)
- ST. MARTIN DE PORRES COMMUNITY, AGBOR-OBI, NIGERIA....On 10/10/01 at 12:55 AM.
Hey, we are here dealing with a saint.
My first encounter with fr. Amby (as we called him) was before I got into the Dominican Order. I had gone to him to complain that I had not gotten reply to my application. After sitting me down with few questioning he asked me to go back and and write another application. This I did and when I got to him right there and then, he gave me the necessary documents to fill. That started my journey to the Dominican Order.
When I was posted to my first community I met fr. Amby again we lived together for a period of two years. There I had lots and lots of saintly experiences with Amby. In one of such encounters, I went to Amby to ask that he help to dub a cassettee for me. With the understanding that I would later bring the empty I left his room. After serving my siesta, on stepping to the corridor, behold there was brand new cassettee by my door.
I always addressed Amby "VENERABLE." And when I was transfered to my present community, he said hey, "no one would call me Venerable any longer. And that was it. But each time I visited his community at Yaba, he would say, "there goes Felix, call me venerable!"
Now I think it would be very pertinent to know that 'Venerable's remains has to be brought back to Nigeria. Where he lived for over forty years. The Parishioners will not forgive the Dominicans if we fail in this. So pray that we have our brother back. We would like to bury him with all our sentiments about him. And of course he deserves it.
OUR PRAYER IS THAT HIS SOUL AND THE SOUL OF THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED THROUGH THE MERCY OF GOD REST IN PEACE. AMEN.
Fr. Tony Kilbridge, O.P.:
I think it is impossible to tell you how much the people from Nigeria revered Fr. Ambrose. They held him in the highest esteem. They loved him. They would do anything for him. They they tell us ...to say, "Send his body back. We'll pay for what it costs." I don't know what it costs. I know it's expensive. But no matter how much it costs, those people would pay. If it is ten times.., a hundred times....they would gladly pay to have his body back... That was becasue Ambrose was a genuinely good person. And he loved those people with a consistent and sensitive and understanding love. He shared in their joys, their sorrows for over forty years. We grieve now because we've lost a good brother. But those people there grieve even more, because they've lost a good father.
Fr. Greg Moore, O.P.:
I was with Fr. Ambrose in Yaba, Nigeria, from 1957 until '64, and for different times after that, but not for such a long time together. Fr. Ambrose was the most available person to the people. He couldn't say "No." No matter how much or how many times they would come to see him about something or other. He was available, because he was open to everybody, and to their needs as best as he could. But the people had a little difficulty with his name. In Nigeria the people would call...Father became "Fada". And they would call people by their surname. So Windbacher is not an easy name for Nigerians. And it would come out very different. [But] everybody knew who they were looking for. You can imagine some of the words itself it might have come out as. But -- no matter -- we knew who they would be looking for and sometimes they would say, "The tall father..." he was the tallest of those that were there at the moment. But eventually he became the Vocation Director for the Nigerian element long before it became a separate province. And he surely has brought in more young men into the Dominican Order in recent years -- I would say -- than almost any other man probably in the Order alive. For so many of the young men, he was their first contact. He is the one they met. He is the one who began to talk to them about the order, about papers, and eventually a good number of them entered the Order, and today Nigeria is a separate province in the Order, which many of you might not know about. One of the most promising provinces, because vocations are very much alive in Nigerial And surely Fr. Ambrose, who did so much work when he was there, will continue to do much work for the Order when he is in heaven, as he surely is now.
Fr. Kevin O'Rourke, O.P:
In 1947 fourteen young men, among whom were myself, Bob Bordenkircher and Pete Windbacher came into the Dominican Order. And Pete always used to like to say that he had gone to the largest Catholic boys high school in the country....Lane Tech. At that time there were about 5,000 boys there and more than half of them were Catholic. The thing that I recall about all of us, many of whom have had wonderful careers and life in the Dominican Order, ...the thing that I recall about all of us is that we were very ordinary people. There were none of us who was outstanding at that time for any particular trait or quality.
Now we're going to hear many traits and qualities about Ambrose that do resemble traits and qualities of a saint. And personally I believe that these are accurate and I believe that this is well justified. But the thing that comes home to me is that what made Ambrose "Pete" Windbacher what he became is the Dominican life. He was faithful to the ideals and the practices, and especially we found ... shortly after ordination he was very faithful to his vow of obedience because we were thunderstruck, when without any experience in the priesthood he was sent to Africa. This is something we should all keep in mind. That we are very ordinary people but we are called to greatness. Indeed we are called to holiness and sanctity. But as we remember Ambrose, and the holy and wonderful work that he did, we realize that he did this because he was a faithful Dominican.
I would just like to say that I was always struck by Fr. Ambrose's devotion to his sister, Sister Cephas. She waited for him to come, and he came. She thought she was going to die before he got here, but he died, and she is still waiting for the Lord. But to see them together, to see his tenderness with her, his appreciation of all that she did before he entered...to help him enter the Order, was a beautiful thing. I don't know now if she realizes that he died. But she's still waiting.
Fr. John Nwanze, O.P.:
I don't know exactly where to begin, because this morning some of the brothers met us on the veranda ...... and they asked why we were here. Without hesitation I said we're here because our Daddy is gone. This is me,...Dominican from Nigeria, and as I told others, he has been my mentor for a long time. Particularly as an altar server..that's where I studied... Fr. Greg Moore got us going when he [Fr. Ambrose] was on vacation ...but when he came back from vacation he took over and I remember him teaching us to hold our hands straight....We didn't know the difference so he said, "OK you take turns hold your hands the way you are supposed to hold them and make the bow and move to your place," and some boys would come holding their hands like this[holding his hands pointed down]. "What did you do wrong? He made the move quite all right, but what did he do wrong?" We were wondering what he did wrong? He said, "How did he hold his hands? .......Oh he held it this way. Amby told us, "As an altar server if you hold your hands straight it guides you...you are going to heaven. But if you hold your hands down this way, you are going to hell."
That impression remained in me and ... since he handed me the job of drawing up the altar-boy's list, altar servers list, and training them, it has never gone back to a priest. He handed it to me in '63 and 'til tomorrow, all the young men are training altar servers. He was my mentor in that sense. And fortunately, Fr. Greg Moore has said, he did not know how to say "No." That's one thing....I watched him closely, I worked with him in the sacristy......I watched him train altar servers, I watched him do other things and, I think it's a common saying in Nigeria that, "Fr. John does not know how to say 'No'." Where did I get it from? From a mentor. So, I think, with God calling him away, calling him from us, he has his reason, and for me, and for those of us who grew up in Yaba, a star has fallen, and the impression he has made is going to be a lasting one. And ...whatever it takes to bring him back to Nigeria, I agree with that. May his soul, his sweet soul, his gentle soul, rest in perfect peace. Amen.
A Second Cousin:
My father was Fr. Ambrose's cousin. I have two images of Fr. Ambrose. One I was aware of the fact that he was not a young man when he was ordained Though I have an image mostly through my lifetime, of Fr. Ambrose in his white Dominican robes. I attended Young Dominican day here at the House of Studies at Fr. Ambrose's invitation, at his ordination, and first mass and his 25th anniversary as a priest... I have pictures of him and my fathers house of him and his sisters and mother and father and other members of the family, as well as home movies of him prior to his entering the Dominicans, of a young adult man, tall, slender, handsome, eligible for marriage or anything else, but having chosen obviously a career that has brought him and others much happiness and joy. And we miss him.