MONROVIA: Hundreds of mourners turned out yesterday, Wednesday, September 13, 2023 to bid farewell to a renowned cleric, Rev. Father Monsignor Dr. Robert Gbataia Tikpor, whom many admirers described invariably a social and peace crusader, fearless priest and a dedicated servant of God.
During the solemn ceremony held at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on Broad Street, several Liberians and foreign friends poured out moving eulogies and praises, singing, dancing as well as wailing.
Fr. Tikpor affectionately called “Grand Pa” by his followers and admirers, died on August 31, 2023 after a brief illness at the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Monrovia.
He was the oldest Catholic Priest in the country, having passed away at almost 97 years old and also the second indigenous ordained Catholic priest after the late Fr. Patrick Juwle.
As early as 7:00 am, hundreds of mourners, most of the catholic faith, family members, relatives, sympathizers and well- wishers had started besieging the Sacred Heart Catholic on Broad and surrounding area. Some who wanted to stay outside of the church due to limited capacity, did so.
Sorrow was written all over the faces of the mourners when the hearse bearing the remains of the late dedicated servant of God made its way at the entrance of the church while some did burst in tears upon sighting the casket being led into the church and others looked on silently.
The funeral service was held strictly under the catholic rites with melodious songs and scriptural readings taken from the Book of Wisdom (4:1-7) and Gospel of Matthew (5:1-9) which dwelled on the rewards of man according to the deeds.
Delivering his funeral discourse or homily, the Diocesan Administrator Rev. Monsignor Dr. Gabriel Blamo Jubwe expressed his condolences to the bereaved family, including his only surviving brother Dr. Tarr and members of the Catholic Church of Liberia.
Rev. Jubwe said he was not at the program to deliver a sermon or homily for the deceased because his deeds of the Father on Earth and himself have preached his sermon.
“He has already preached his own sermon, so I am not here to preach his sermon or his homily, but to just share a few thoughts of this faithful servant of God, Monsignor Tikpor,” he said of him.
“But before then I would like to express on behalf of the archdiocese of Monrovia, the Catholic Church of Liberia our sincere sympathy and condolences to his family especially his only surviving brother Dr. Augustus Tarr. Your loss is a great loss to us as well. May his soul rest in peace.”
Monsignor Jubwe who had announced the death of the late cleric spoke passionately and with utmost respect to the legacy late Rev. Tikpor left behind when he and the late Patrick Juwle were ordained as the two forerunners who came from the indigenous stock to begin the era of where local priests started to take leadership roles in the catholic church.
The prelate continued: “Father Tikpor’s death is the end of an era which began when he was ordained as a Priest in 1961. He and the late Father Patrick Juwle were the forerunners as local priests to begin the journey of Liberians being ordained to take more leadership roles in the church. We can see that over the years a generation has followed them and today we have more local priests.”
He said the country was blessed by God through the Tikpor family to have the late Father Tikpor who served God and humanity to the fullest and was indeed a role model and pacesetter for a generation of people who are now impacting society.
“He served God and did not disappoint God, Liberia and the world. He impacted the world and humanity in general, he lived his life well, he was uncompromising in the things of God. Rev. Dr. Robert Gbatiae Tikpor stood for social justice in the country, religious tolerance and had no boundary when it came to the social status of people”, he said.
Speaking further of the virtue of the late religious leader, Rev. Jubwe described him as a Faithful priest, fearless preacher and dedicated servant of God.
“He was faithful to his promise to God to be a priest, he never departed from it and died in the service of God. He was a priest in life and in death and will continue to be a priest beyond. He was a great example who we will all follow”, he said
He said one of the many legacies he left behind is the establishment of the Catholic Seminary in Gbarnga along with the late Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis in 1974.
Several other tributes were paid at the funeral service among which was a befitting tribute from the Catholic Church of Liberia, an institution he devoted all his life and time to where he was ordained as a priest in 1961 and remained faithful to the church until his death on August 31, 2023.
The official gazette from the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was read at the service highlighting his achievements and contribution to the society, country and humanity, interceding for the nation and restoring hope to the hopeless as well as being a worthy Christian leader who stood for justice, religious tolerance and reconciliation.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Dee Maxwell Saah Kemayah who spoke on behalf of President George Manneh Weah, the government and people of Liberia eulogized the demise cleric as a man of truth, love for humanity, man of peace and a voice in the wilderness of those who sought Christ. He said it was sad day for the country that such an important personality will be “leaving us when he was needed most as a father and guardian”
He extended profound condolences to the bereaved family and the Catholic Church “for the irreparable loss and we ask God to grant him eternal rest”
After final prayers for the repose of his soul, the casket bearing the remains of Rev. Tikpor was escorted outside to the waiting hearse that took him to the cemetery for burial.