Widowhood and the dignity of womanhood in Igboland: A pastoral challenge to the discipleship of the Roman Catholic Church in Igboland

Augustine Okwunna Odimmegwa, Fordham University


This study investigates the psycho-spiritual and cultural rationale behind the widowhood practices in Igboland through the lens of the Gospel of Christ. The study discovers that in Igbo cosmology, community life which embraces the living and the dead, is the greatest rationale for the widowhood practices, a community life that makes it incumbent on the living to respect the wishes of the dead, especially the ancestors, and compels the dead to protect the living. Widowhood practices are an integral part of the funeral rites of the deceased husband. These funeral rites are aimed at guaranteeing the admittance of the dead person into the abode of the ancestors, who ultimately reincarnate into the community of the living. From the Igbo worldview, therefore, these widowhood practices, ab initio, were not intended to punish the widow. However, this study affirms that with the advent of Christianity and civilization, these practices have become obsolete and infringe on the widow's human rights. Chapter one highlights some of the practical experiences of widowhood rituals and practices in the different parts of Igboland. It also discusses some of the concepts, beliefs, and institutions that have nurtured these widowhood rituals and practices. Chapter two discusses inheritance which is one of the most devastating widowhood practices in Igboland. This study affirms the untold hardship that the customary denial of inheritance to the personal property of the deceased husband can cause the widow. This study condemns it as a denial of Igbo social identity to the widow. Chapter three looks at Jewish and Scriptural responses to the problems of widowhood, especially St. Paul's First Letter to Timothy 5:3-16. This study hopes that the Catholic Church in Igboland emulates their positive examples. Chapters four and five examine the Catholic Church's continued response to the problem of widowhood and suggest that the Catholic Church in Africa and Igboland review their missionary priorities and modus operandi .

Subject Area

African Studies|Religion|Womens studies|Religious education|Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

Odimmegwa, Augustine Okwunna, "Widowhood and the dignity of womanhood in Igboland: A pastoral challenge to the discipleship of the Roman Catholic Church in Igboland" (2010). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3411005.