Claretian Family Day Celebration and Parish Feast Day of St. Anthony Mary Claret Parish, New Owerri
It was a day of joyful celebrations at St Anthony Mary Claret Parish, New Owerri, as Claretian Missionaries, associates and parishioners of St. Anthony Mary Claret gathered to celebrate the annual family day and the parish feast day as well. Rather than anticipate the feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret which was celebrated by the universal church on 24th October, 2016 (which was a Monday), for a familial celebration, it was merged with the annual Claretian Family Day Celebration which is usually celebrated on the 24th of October when it is on a Sunday otherwise, it is celebrated on the following Sunday.
The celebrations began with a nine day novena in honour of St. Anthony Mary Claret from 15th — 23rd of October, 2016. The novena prayers commenced each day with collective praying of the Holy Rosary, Eucharistic Exposition, followed by Holy Mass in which selected themes on the life and vocation of Anthony Mary Claret featured. Having concluded the novena prayers, the parishioners marked the days that followed in style, giving room for fraternal interactions among the parishioners. On 25th of October was a roundtable discussion on the theme: “Compassion, Forgiveness and Reconciliation in the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy”. The discussion which was moderated by one of the priests working at the parish featured representatives from CMO, CWO and CYON who made meaningful and down to earth contributions on how we can show mercy to ourselves, our neighbours, the world and creation. The next day featured a Bible Quiz in which representatives of the different sodalities locked horns on knowledge of the selected scriptural books. The children and youths took to the stage the following day with the singing competition and talent exhibition. On the 28th of October, the entire parish undertook a pilgrimage to Assumpta Cathedral where alongside other parishes from Zone 6, they participated in the rosary procession, sacrament of reconciliation, Holy Mass and passed through the door of mercy as directed by the Holy Father. The eve of the celebration was designated for sports. It was entertaining watching the 100m race by the Children and Youths as well as the football match that followed.
The feast was celebrated on 30th October, 2016 with a thanksgiving Mass presided over by the Provincial Superior of the Claretian Missionaries, East Nigeria Province, Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Nwobi, CMF. Other priests in attendance included, Fr. Christian Ihedoro, Fr. Kenneth Oguejiofor, Fr. Nathaniel Eke, Fr. George Ekwuru, Fr. Anseim Amandikwa, Fr. Stan Ekwujuru, Fr. Marcel Obilo, Fr. Stanley Ogaraku and a host of other Claretian priests. Among those who participated in the family celebration were seminarians from Claretian Institute of Philosophy, Rev. Sisters, parishioners of St Anthony Mary Claret Parish, New Owerri, members of the Lay Claretian Movement, pupils from the Claretian Schools and numerous friends and associates of the Claretian Missionaries.
In his homily, the chief celebrant underscored the fact of God’s love for all his creatures. The goodness of God’s creation formed an integral part of his reflections. Drawing from the words of the Holy Father in his timely Laudato Si (On Care for our Common Home), the homilist called on the faithful to cherish the order in creation, love creation and seek to preserve creation. He called on the congregation to see creation through the eyes of God who loves all that He made. Extending his reflections to the Gospel, the encounter between Zacchaeus and Jesus in the Gospel remains a clear indication of God’s love that locates sinners. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, he urged the faithful to strive to develop a burning zeal to encounter Jesus who himself would meet us in his own way and at his own time. While stressing the love and forgiveness manifested by Jesus towards Zacchaeus as expected of every Christian, he likewise underlined the place of contrition, remorse, amendment and restitution in the process of reconciliation. Within the Eucharistic Celebration, the presiding priest also blessed a big sanctuary crucifix and Stations of the Cross portraits donated for use in the church by some parishioners.
The final blessing ushered in the second phase of the celebration which took place at the garden at the priest’s rectory. It was indeed a family celebration as both speeches and actions demonstrated a familial gathering and fraternal sharing and reunion. In his opening remarks, the Provincial Superior exhorted all present to emulate the fraternal love, humility and self-sacrifice of St Anthony Mary Claret. He welcomed all present and called for joyful family celebration. The highpoint of the joint celebration was the unveiling of the proposed design of the parish Marian grotto. The design by a parishioner was welcomed with resounding applauds and sense of approval. Those present at the celebration immediately took to the floor as donations were spontaneously made for the actualization of the project. Among those who entertained the parishioners and guests were the members of the CYON, the students of CIP and the pupils from the Claretian schools who displayed several acts including: cultural dance, ballet, drama, comedy and so on. Those who took part in the competitive events prior to the feast proper, were all rewarded in turns as the co-ordinator of the pastoral team, Fr. Nathaniel Eke, congratulated and gave them their different prizes. In his closing remarks, the chairman of the parish Feast Day organizing committee Sir Hippolyte Ndukwu, thanked all the parishioners for their support, encouragement and presence at the celebration. He prayed for a sustenance of the “one big family” spirit in the parish community. The closing prayer by Fr. Christian Ihedoro, CMF marked the end of the 2016, Claretian Family Day! Parish Feast Day celebration.
A parishioner, Prof. Kevin Osondu, KSM who spoke to our reporter expressed delight over this year’s celebration while commending the organizing committee for work well done. He applauded the Pastoral Team in their giant strides at the parish most especially in the area of well thought out and articulated homilies at every Mass and noted that parishioners are privileged to worship at the parish. He however called on the parishioners to continue to see themselves as lay Claretians and Claretian associates.