As Bishops and Priests Pray for God ‘s mercy and peace
It was a day of reunion and spiritual encounter as the bishops and priests of the Owerri Ecclesiastical province comprising of The Catholic Arch diocese of Owerri, Umuahia, Okigwe, Orlu, Ahiara and Aba dioceses all gathered on Monday 8th February 2016, at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Okigwe.
The recollection was necessitated because of the need of upholding the dignity of the Catholic priesthood and also in line with the year of mercy declared by Pope Francis. The recollection started at about 9.30 am with penitential rites and supplication where the bishops and priests prayed for God’s mercy and pardon for the so many acts of injustice perpetuated by some of the faithful within the province, they equally prayed that God may heal the land. This prayer session was concluded with a benediction.
Another edifying part of the recollection was the papers presented by Rev Fr. Dr. Cajethan Ehiem, the vicar general of Okigwe Diocese and Rev Fr. Professor Philip Ogbonna. Rev Fr. Dr. Cajethan Ehiem described the ideal priest as one who is part of the society, charged with the task of representing Christ and through the Holy Eucharist offers the prayers of the church to God. The Cleric also encouraged the priest to improve the content of their homilies as no other person is expected to preach in the mass expect the priests and deacons. The priest also remarked that spiritual direction is not restricted to the seminaries, priest should equally act as spiritual counselors to parishioners in need of spiritual direction.
Rev Fr. Dr. Cajethan also emphasized on the relevance of the Eucharistic Adoration and celebration of the sacraments; they must be celebrated with utmost reverence. Although it is necessary for the faithful to remit their stole fees to support the church, the priest however, advised all not to deny the less privileged any of the sacraments as they too deserve them. Finally he encouraged the priests to avoid monopoly and domineering attitude, rather they should be approachable, available and also stick to the traditions of the church.
Rev Fr. Professor Philip Ogbonna who was the second speaker of the day described the life of the Catholic priest as a life where Christ is allowed to lead and to direct and therefore demands obedience to God and to the church. He however encouraged priests to pursue Christ’s agenda and not theirs, for a priest is a man configured to Christ and should therefore act in the name of Christ.
The erudite priest finally reminded them that the priest is a shepherd and, therefore, should assist and help improve the condition of the poor, in a society where the poor and needy are deprived of justice.
The recollection ended with the celebration of the Holy Mass which was presided over by the Metropolitan of Owerri Ecclesiastical province, His Most Rev Dr. A.J.V Obinna. After the mass the priests who came from various dioceses had time to interact and share pastoral experiences.
Good life and successful life are not measured by the amount of good things and wealth acquired on earth but by an honest and faithful service to God and humanity. Again, the author of the book of wisdom rightly points out an eternal truth, “Length of days is not what makes age honourable, nor number of years the true measure of life; understanding, this is grey hairs, untarnished life, this is ripe old age” (Wisdom 4:8-9).
It was this understanding that moved a great multitude of priests, religious and the faithful gather at Holy Trinity Cathedral Orlu to pay last respect and pray for Rev. Fr. Joel Chijioke Mbaoje who slept in the Lord on the early hours of Thursday January 21, 2016. Not withstanding that Fr. Joel died at the noontide of his life, the homilist at the funeral mass, Rev. Fr. Bartholomew Ifeanyi Agodi, asks all to accept his departure as the will of God because “Unless a grain falls down and die it will remain a single grain”. The requiem mass was presided over by His Lordship Most Rev. Augustine Tochukwu Ukwuoma with the Bishop Emeritus Most Rev. G.O. Ochiagha and priests from within and outside the diocese concelebrating.
Rev. Fr. Joel Chijioke Mbaoje was born in October 28, 1975 into the family of Sir and Lady Dennis Mbaoje of Umukegwu, Akokwa in Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo State.
He attended Central School Ekezeala Umukegwu for his primary education. His journey to the priesthood started in Bonus Pastor Seminary Osina in 1989 through St. Mary’s Seminary Umuowa. Having completed his secondary education, he did his one year apostolic work as a junior seminarian at St. Mary’s parish Umuowa. After being examined, he was found qualified to attend Spiritual Year Seminary at Customs Ecclesiae Uzii. Having completed this stage of formation, he was sent to Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary Owerri in October 1996 where he obtained his degrees in philosophy and theology respectively after 8 years of academic pursuit. He was ordained a Catholic priest for Orlu Diocese on August 2006. His pastoral assignments since ordination are as follows. 2006-2008: St. Michael’s Urualla. 2008-2009: St. Gregory’s Amaigbo as the chaplain of School of Health Amaigbo. From 2009 till death he was the parish priest of St. Ignatius Uli.
Fr. Joel was a sincere priest whose zeal in the ministry was great. His places of assignments as a priest and people who encountered him bear eloquent testimonies to his humility and kindness. As a jovial man, he makes people happy with his jokes and humorous words. Till death, he was the chaplain of Divine Mercy Devotion in the diocese. He never missed his three o’clock Divine Mercy prayer. May God whose mercy he trusted and preached grant him eternal rest in his kingdom. Amen.
Written by Fr. Johnbosco Obika
Door of Mercy opens in Orlu Diocese.
The Jubilee Year of Mercy, the 27th holy year in the history of the Catholic Church, was first announced by Pope Francis on March 13, 2015. Later it was declared officially in his papal bull of indiction “Misericordiae Vultus” (The Face of Mercy) on April 2015. He has opened some Holy Doors in Rome to usher in “the time of Mercy”.
In our local church, “the time of Mercy” begins as the whole Catholic faithful of Orlu Diocese gathered today in an overwhelming number to mark the beginning of the year of Mercy officially in the Diocese. The event marked with Holy Mass at Holy Trinity Cathedral Orlu officiated by His Lordship, Most Rev. Augustine Tochukwu Ukwuoma, the local ordinary of the Diocese. In attendance were also the priests, religious and laity of the Diocese together with the bishop emeritus of the Diocese most Rev. Gregory Obinna Ochiagha.
After the symbolic opening of the Cathedral door by the bishop, the event continued with a holy mass in the Cathedral. In his homily during the mass, his lordship most Rev. Augustine Ukwuoma explained that declaring the year of Mercy does not imply that God has not been merciful but to emphasize his mercy. It avails us the opportunity to go into the scriptures and dig out the passages that highlight the Mercy of God. He encouraged the faithful to seek the mercy of God whose door is also open for all. He also admonished all to be merciful to others as the Father is merciful to us His children. The bishop buttressed the import and significance of the Holy Door which was opened and passed through by all into the Cathedral as a sign of cleansing which God grants. He charged every Christian to go out into the world and show mercy even to those “who do not deserve our mercy” like our enemies; to extend our mercy to “those in the outskirts of life” in the words of Pope Francis. He reminded all to practice the corporal and spiritual works of Mercy.
The climax of the celebration was the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation. The priests present heard the confessions of teaming crowds that attended the occasion after which all went away joyfully.
(Written by Fr. Johnbosco Obika)
Gold is rare, precious and costly. Monsignor Justin Onyenemegam has turned golden. He has celebrated the rare golden jubilee as a priest April 30, 2016. Born in October 7, 1937 as the first child of late Mr. Joseph Duru Onwuaso and Mrs. Isianudiya Christiana Onyenemegam Duru Onwuaso Umuokpo Abajah in Nwangele LGA IMO STATE. He was ordained a priest on April 17, 1966 by Bishop J.B WHELAN at Our Lady of Mount Caramel Church Emekuku. As we celebrate him we also pray for God’s protection on him. Ad multos Annos.