John Marcus “Tomi” Asenuga, the president of Serra International, speaking at the Ordinandi Dinner in Toronto last month. Photo by Emanuel Pires

Serra president makes a point of giving back

  • April 21, 2013

TORONTO - John Marcus “Tomi” Asenuga believes the talents we have should be used to spread goodwill amongst our neighbours — and help the Church.

The president of Serra International has not just paid lip service to this notion, but has used his skills as an architect to design churches, seminaries and rectories.

“I’ve made contributions using my profession to give glory to God,” said Asenuga, who was in Toronto for the Ordinandi Dinner in March.

Serra International is formally recognized by the Holy See as the global lay apostolate for vocations in the Catholic Church. It is active in Canada with chapters throughout the land.

Born in Nigeria, Asenuga moved to the U.K. to study architecture. For his graduate studies, he earned a masters’ degree in city planning and urban design from Harvard University, returning home to Nigeria in 1970 to work as an architect.

Along the way, he married his wife with whom he has five children and — now in his early 70s — 10 grandchildren.

The only president in the history of Serra International to serve two terms, Asenuga has put a lot of work into promoting the creation of new Serra Clubs in different countries within Africa.

“I have visited Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia… Sooner or later, by the grace of God, we expect the visits we made will materialize into the formation of Serra Clubs.”

Nigeria and Ghana are currently the only two African nations with Serra Clubs.

Since the first club was created in Nigeria in 1989, the numbers have been growing, with 12 clubs in his home archdiocese of Lagos and three clubs in other parts of the country, he said.

“When I was president, I decided to address the Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria to impress upon them the necessity of having Serra existing in all the dioceses in Nigeria.”

To raise awareness on a greater scale, he also attended the Symposium of the Episcopal Conference of Catholic Bishops in Africa — a conference for all African bishops — and ensured that about 350 letters were distributed to all the bishops inviting them to consider setting up a Serra Club in their various dioceses.

“I love what I’m doing,” said Asenuga. “I’m committed to it. And I think I would like to be a Serran all my life.

“Life is such that we will sleep and wake every day. Days, weeks, months, years will pass. As living human beings who have been blessed one way or another… we must make this world a better place.”

(Santilli is a freelance writer in Toronto)

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