Msgr. Celestine Nwokocha marks priestly Golden Jubilee
…Humane, simple, inspiring priest – Bishop L.I. Ugorji
It was a moment for recounting the blessings and goodness of the Lord in the life and vocation of Very Rev. Msgr. Dr. Celestine Chiwuike Amaraegbu Nwokocha as the world literally converged on the satellite parish of St. Paul’s Umuezealama Ehime Mbano on Saturday 17th December, 2016 to herald fifty years of his priestly ordination. He was ordained on 16th December 1966 at St. Peter’s Basilica Rome.
Declaring open the jubilee Mass, graced by two Bishops – S.A. Amatu of Okigwe and L.I. Ugorji of Umuahia, Msgr. Nwokocha who was the principal celebrant said “Among many ordained priests with me same day, I thank God for allowing me persevere, though unworthy servant, in his vineyard for these fifty years. Join me in this sacrifice of thanksgiving. You are all welcome to this occasion”.
Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Clement Uche in his homily observed that the jubilee being celebrated was unique, since it was not that of any other laurels won, but the jubilee of a man taken from among men to mediate between man and God. He dwelt extensively on the modus Vivendi of priesthood. Fr. Uche recalled that Msgr. Nwokocha has in the course of his pastoral voyage touched the lives of many positively, especially younger priests who see him as a loving father having tutored in Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu many years. A renowned composer and singer of liturgical music, the preacher noted that Msgr. Nwokocha is a perpetual student, given his conviction that “Piety without knowledge makes one useless, and knowledge without piety begets arrogance”. He described the senior priest as a man detached from vanity and very loyal to the authority, pointing out that Msgr. Nwokocha is so detached from material things that he does not worry that he has no personal car. He called on all to join in the joy of the jubilee and wished the golden priest many more years of fruitful apostolate.
Most Rev. Lucius I. Ugorji, Bishop of Umuahia Diocese in his testimony recalled that the golden jubilarian was ordained for Umuahia Diocese in far away Rome in 1966, during the episcopate of Bishop Gogo Nwedo of blessed memory, and was inherited by Okigwe Diocese in 1981. He described Msgr. Nwokocha as humane, simple and inspiring and wished him long life.
Similarly, Most Rev. S.A. Amatu, Bishop of Okigwe Diocese extolled the sterling qualities of Msgr. Nwokocha as a teacher and formator of priests whom he acknowledged was his teacher in the 1970s. He saluted Bishop Ugorji for his solidarity and Very Rev. Msgr. Theophilus Okere for his brotherly love. The host prelate appealed for support from all and sundry to make the golden jubilarian comfortable in his old age and thanked the faithful for supporting the priest so far.
Msgr. Okere rendered a sonorous master piece of a jubilee song in honour of Msgr. Nwokocha whom he said is a legend in liturgical music. He expressed joy to witness the “continuity of his trail” as he was mentor to Msgr. Nwokocha, Bishops Amatu and Ugorji all present on the occasion.
The highlight of the civic reception that followed in the church compound was cutting of the golden cake. Mr. Philip Chukwu (KSM) was at the helm of affairs.
The president of Okigwe priests and chairman, Golden Jubilee Planning Committee, Rev. Fr. Dr. Mark Okoro read the citation of the jubilarian. Toasts were proposed for the celebrant and the church by Mr. Chika Chukwu, Sir Okoro and Fr. Donatus Ekenachi, as Hon. Patrick Ndubueze on behalf of the native Umualunwoke home community of the jubilarian acknowledge that he was their second priest and pledged continued support for him even on retirement.
The planning committee chairman, Fr. Dr. Mark Okoro in his vote of thanks lauded the untiring efforts of Rev. Frs. Adolphus Ofokpara and Anthony Omegara in planning and executing the ceremony and the entire committee members for their dexterity, as the golden jubilarian expressed appreciation to all who came.
Gifts and souvenirs exchanged hands, as cultural dance groups, masquerades, entertained the audience.