The Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish Orji, Owerri was in festive mood Sunday October 30, following the visit of Most. Rev. Anthony Obinna, Catholic Archbishop of Owerri.
Indications that the parish was agog for the pastoral visit were evident in the large turnout of parishioners, who dressed in their various group uniforms, the cleanliness of the premises and excitement in the faces of the 400 confirmation candidates adorned in immaculate white dresses.
There was spontaneous shouts of joy as gun salute heralded the arrival of the Archbishop and his pastoral team.
Introducing the Mass, the Archbishop expressed satisfaction not only with the large turnout of the Catholic community but also with the impressive number of confirmation candidates, who he described as the hope of the church, as they were expected to transmit the faith to the next generation. He praised their parents who encouraged them to go further in their spiritual journey.
The Archbishop drew the attention of the youths to the evils in society, some promoted through internet and social media where pornography has become a choice site for many. He therefore expressed the need to equip the youth, with spiritual and moral weapon to be able to withstand the temptations in society and internet.
Later in his sermon after examining the confirmation candidates, Archbishop Obinna reiterated his condemnation of the Diala/Osu/Ume divide in Igboland. Reflecting on the readings, Archbishop Obinna said that apart from Njo Ekeluwa, which was the sin committed by Adam and Eve and which we all inherited, we also have Njo Ekeligbo, which is the sin of our forefathers, which is rooted on idolatrous practices including Osu/Diala/Ume segregations.
He wondered why the segregation rears its ugly head during Ezeship tussle and marriage, yet nobody raises eyebrow during boyfriend/girlfriend relationship or during blood transfusion.
“No patient who needs blood transfusion says, “Please I’m diala, I don’t need osu blood or I’m osu, I don’t want diala blood”.
He appealed to the congregation to join the crusade against the obnoxious practice.
The prelate also condemned membership of secret cults, describing members of such clandestine groups as cowards, who are afraid to operate in the open and who also don’t trust God for protection. He said those who are courageous carry their activities in the open because they put their trust in God, believing strongly in His protection.
He thanked the parishioners for the reception accorded him, and commended the Parish Priest, Msgr. John Azu, for his achievement, describing him as a silent achiever.
Archbishop Obinna was assisted at the Mass by the Parish Priest, Msgr. Azu, the Secretary/Chancellor of Owerri Archdiocese, Rev. Fr. Dr. Alphonsus Oha, Rev. Fr. Betrand Nnajiemere, Rev. Fr. Nnaemeka Njezi, Fr. George Ike, Fr. Richmond Duru.
Present at the Mass included the traditional ruler of Orji, HRH Eze Innocent Opara (Eze Udo II of Orji).
In his remarks during the Mass, Msgr. Azu, who was a former Vicar-General of Owerri Archdiocese, expressed satisfaction with the performance of the confirmation candidates during the examination by the Archbishop and commended all those who helped to prepare them.
In their address of welcome, the parish briefed the Archbishop on their progress since his last visit in 2011. They said the large number of confirmation candidates was a demonstration of increase in population and spiritual growth. Apart from eradication of flood in the church premises which was a big menace in the past, the parish has re-roofed completely the parish church, completed the ceiling and embarked on landscaping.
The two stations namely, St. Mark’s and St. Vincent’s, are growing in population too and are looking for wider space to relocate “but this has not been easy because of the cost of land these days”.
The parish also thanked Archbishop Obinna for recommending their Parish Priest to His Holiness for the Honour of Monsignor, which His Holiness graciously granted.
The address was signed by the Parish Priest, Very Rev. Msgr. John Azu, the Chairman Parish Council, Joseph C. Asoh and the Secretary Desmond Nwadiri.
The Chairman Pastoral Visit Committee, Dr. O.A. Ewulonu and the Chairman Publicity Sub-Committee, Bro. JohnBosco Uhie KSM thanked in a special way the Parish Council for finding them worthy to organize the occasion and the entire Catholic community for their co-operation. Various dancing groups entertained the Archbishop and his pastoral team led by Mr. Paschal Ihemedu, Chairman Owerri Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.
The Parish Catechist/Catechizer, Sir Tony Williams, Hon. Paul Nwanyanwu (Catechist, St. Mark’s Station) and Onuoha Anselm Chibuike (Catechist, St. Vincent Station) showed active participation at the ceremony. So were Elder Chief Francis Ohale, President Parish CMO and his CWO counterpart, Worthy Mother Geraldine Nwosu Njoku.