Lagos Business School joins members of Opus dei, all over the world, to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Bishop Álvaro del Portillo (Don Álvaro), whose influence and support was instrumental to the founding of LBS. Don Álvaro was the Prelate of Opus dei at the time the LBS initiative began. He gave his fatherly support to the effort of his children, the members of Opus dei, and their friends, who were involved with starting the School.
With a deep understanding of Nigeria’s social needs, Don Álvaro visited Nigeria in November 1989 as Prelate of Opus dei. While respecting the freedom of initiative of the Nigerians he met, as he travelled to different parts of the country, he spoke about apostolic initiatives run in other parts of the world, some of which could be replicated for the benefit of Nigerians. They were initiatives with a Christian identity begun in different parts of the world by members of Opus dei and friends, some of whom were non-Catholics.
During his stay in Lagos, then the capital of the Federation, Don Álvaro visualised Nigeria as a country where the formation of business people ought to be given priority, both in the professional and moral spheres. Given the entrepreneurial spirit and competence of Nigerians, they would then be able to contribute to a better national economy. Existing projects that had acquired a lot of experience over time, also inspired by the spirit of the Founder of Opus dei, included the IESE Business School in Barcelona of the University of Navarra. The IESE Business School became a major initial strategic partner of LBS.
The Centre for Professional Communication (CPC), now LBS, started in 1990. Bishop del Portillo encouraged those first Nigerian faithful of Opus dei and their colleagues to put in their best efforts in the Lagos project while seeing the task as a means of personal holiness and of service to society. He asked them to set for themselves ambitious targets of influencing the country positively in all spheres. He was particularly concerned about preserving the Christian identity of the School and insisted that this identity be clearly understood, articulated and communicated always. More than anything however, he accompanied the efforts of his children with a lot of prayers until the day God called him to heaven on March 23, 1994.
Bishop Álvaro del Portillo’s role in LBS is well captured in the text of a plaque placed inside the chapel of the Victoria Island campus where LBS started. The Chapel was solemnly blessed by his successor in 1999. It reads as follows:
“His Excellency, Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus dei, blessed this Chapel and dedicated its altar on the 11th of April 1999. The Lagos Business School is inspired by the spirit of Blessed Josemaría Escriva, Founder of Opus dei, and was ardently supported during its early years by his first successor, Bishop Álvaro del Portillo”
Born in Madrid on March 11, 1914, Don Álvaro joined Opus dei in 1935, which had been founded by St. Josemaría Escrivá seven years before, and was ordained as one of the first 3 priests of Opus dei in 1944. He was elected as St. Josemaría’s first successor in1975.
Don Álvaro was a very warm man, with a lovely smile; he simply radiated serenity. He was so intensely aware of God’s presence all the time, that he just referred everything to God instead of getting upset or worried. He cared passionately about people, starting with those closest to him, his sons and daughters in Opus dei.
Wherever he went, he was always conscious of the needs of the people there. He inspired the setting up of lots of projects around the world to help people who were disadvantaged or had nothing at all: hospitals, training schools, of all sorts, one of which was Lagos Business School. During his nineteen years as Prelate of Opus dei, the work of the prelature started in twenty new countries.
He would always be remembered for the spiritual portrait of his soul – his humility, prudence, fortitude, simplicity and selflessness. His zeal to win souls for Christ was reflected in his episcopal motto: Regnare Christum volumus! We want Christ to reign!