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Full text of Bishop Okpaleke’s Post-ordination speech (1)

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Your Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan. The Cardinal Archbishop Of Abuja
Your Grace, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Jos and President, CBCN
Your Grace, Archbishop Anthony J.V Obinna, the Archbishop of Owerri and Metropolitan of the Owerri Ecclesiastical Province
Your Grace, Archbishop Augustine Kasujja, the Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria
Your Excellencies, the Archbishops and Bishops
Superiors Generals and Provincial Superiors
The Secretary General and Staff of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria
Rt. Rev, and Very Rev. Msgri, Rev. Frs.,
Consecrated men and women of the various orders, Seminarians
His Excellency, the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas
Okorocha
Other Governors, Commissioners and Government Officials
Nde ulo anyi, ndeAhiara Diocese
Knights of the Church and their ladies,
C.M.O; C.W.O; CYON; HCA

I would have stood before you with mixed feelings, if anyone were to have asked me why, that person would have been the only person in the whole wide world who did not know the things that had been happening these last months, The venue of this ordination also confirms that the dust has pot completely settled. I am well aware of the volatility of the situation and the enormity of the work ahead in terms of healing of memory and reconciliation. These notwithstanding, I am at peace. I am confident and hopeful. I put my faith in God who knows how to make all things, including our hearts, new (Rev.21:5).

Providentially, this ordination is taking place two days after Pentecost and at the Seat of Wisdom Seminary. I believe that God wants us to begin our Episcopal ministry at a time when we. as individual Christians and as Church, are experiencing a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As my Episcopal motto “Veni Sancte Spiritus!” shows. I want to carry out this ministry under the continuous prompting of the Holy Spirit and see my ministry in terms of helping my fellow Christians become more available to the Holy Spirit.

The Seat of Wisdom connection also reminds us of two things: First, the centrality of our Mother. Mary in the Church and in our ministry. Providentially still, ours is Maria Mater Ecclesiae Cathedral. Mary is the Mother of the Church and I entrust myself and ndi ulo anyi, ndi Ahiara Diocese niile, to the maternal intercession of Mary, the Mother of the Church. The second aspect of the Seat of Wisdom connection is that it is only when we say Yes to God: when with Mary, we say “let it be done to me according to your will!” (Lk I:35-38) that we will be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and that Wisdom. who is present with God and who understands what is pleasing in God’s sight (Wis 9:9) will take flesh in our hearts and lives. It is only then that we can also become seats of wisdom. Here at the Seat of Wisdom Seminary, my prayer is for the gift of Wisdom for myself and for ndi ebe anyi, ndi Ahiara Diocese. Wisdom is not just native intelligence. Wisdom is also not got from books. Wisdom is a gift from God and as Our Mother Mary shows us, we obtain this gift by saying ‘Yes!’ unreservedly to God.

Saying ‘Yes’ to God ordinarily is difficult. Sometimes, God asks things of us that upturn our expectations. At other times, it is not the difficulty of what God demands from us that constitutes the problem but the fact that God has chosen to speak to us, not directly but through His Church, which is holy and at the same time clasping sinners in her bosom. The human element even in the Church makes people tend to protect themselves from manipulation by asking the question: how am I sure that it is God who is asking this or that of me. This is the challenge of discernment of the Spirit. As St. Paul tells us, we should test and not stifle the spirit (I Thess 5:19). There are canons of discernment that have been worked out by our fathers and mothers in the faith. At the centre of these is obedience of faith. Obedience, Samuel told Saul, is better than sacrifice and to heed than the fat of rams (1 Sam I 15:5-22). This does not make obedience any easier. It involves trust that God is leading the Church and giving up one’s will and preferences after exercising responsibility by joining in the discernment process. Obedience invites us to learn to say with Jesus Christ, “not my will but yours be done” Lk 22:42).

On a personal note, saying ‘Yes!’ to God as regards my Episcopal appointment was agonizing. When the Nuncio informed me some time in December of the Holy Fathers intention to appoint me Bishop of Ahiara, my immediate impulse was to say ‘thanks but.

No!’ Since that would have been very impulsive and impolite, I requested to be given time to pray and think about it. These were some of the things going on in my mind. First, I have spent approximately fifteen of the twenty one years of my priestly life working in the chancery and within this period I have worked with four bishops. I have experienced first-hand the agonies and travails of bishops in spite of the seeming glory. I wanted something different for myself— the quiet life of a priest. Second, before my conversation with the Nuncio, I had asked myself why it was taking so long to appoint a bishop to the See of Ahiara. News were flying around and I had heard many stories, founded or unfounded, about what was going on. My instinct of self-preservation spontaneously inclined me towards saying ‘No!’ The third consideration is what I call inertia the tendency for objects to remain. in a state of rest or uniform motion unless an external force is made to act on them. I was happy where I was and with what I was doing. As these were going through my mind; it also became clear to me that without any other reasons to give to the Holy Father, except these self-serving ones, saying ‘No!’ would amount to reneging on my understanding of the core of my priestly existence as total self-gift to God in the service of the Church. At my priestly ordination, the Church confirmed that it was, indeed, the voice of the Lord that I had been hearing since my childhood, saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” It was the same Church that authenticated my response, “here I am, Lord, send me” (Is 6:8—9) and commissioned me to minister in the name of Jesus Christ and of the Church. It is in and through the Church that God speaks to our consciences. Therefore, without any other reasons except the ones above, I knew that I could not, not say ‘Yes!’ to the Holy Father’s request. We are all witnesses to the torrent unleashed by that response.

As the storm raged, what came to my mind was the interaction between the Prophet Amos and Amaziah, the priest of Bethel. Amaziah challenged Amos to take himself off to Judah, his home country, to earn his living there and prophesy there. Like Amos, I kept telling myself that it is the Lord who through the Church. the Body of Christ, took me and sent me on a mission (Amos 7:10-15). And I am resolved to give my very best to make this mission a success and to the glory of God and building up of God’s Kingdom.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Onyeze Vitus

    May 26, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    To God be the glory. I believe this is setting the pace of his episcopacy in Ahiara diocese. For Christ sake, the Church is universal and must be seen to remain so differences apart. How else can the church display its universality if not by sending on Mission priests and religious to different parts of the world to witness to the gospel? If I may suggest, let there be no more local clergy but missionaries. “Come Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of the faithful”.

  2. boniface mbahaotu

    May 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

    I thank GOD that the HOLY SEA did not suçcumb to these priestpoliticians , let the BISHOP start with the obidient ones GOD will take control of Ahiara, I pray non of them dies in this state of life

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Covid-19 robs 2020 Owerri Archdiocesan Day/Odenigbo lecture of usual festivities

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2020 Odenigbo with Archbishop Obinna

…Half a loaf better than no bread at all – Archbishop Obinna

By Emeka Ani

The usual pomp and pageantry that characterize the Owerri Archdiocesan Day/Odenigbo lecture did not feature this year due to Covid-19 pandemic, thus leading to a low-key celebration.

Not only that the usual lecture did not hold, the “Odenigbo Eve,” which usually involves a variety of cultural entertainment, including dances, drama, singing and wrestling contests did not feature at all; Covid-19 emebiela ihe!

But according to Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Catholic Archbishop of Owerri and founder, Odenigbo lecture series, who filled the gap created by the absence of this year’s lecture, “kama ehi mmadu ga-agbafucha, o ka mma igbubiri ya odu”. (It is better to accept less than one wants or expects than to have nothing at all.)

The Owerri Archdiocesan Day is an annual celebration to commemorate the 1994 elevation of the Catholic Diocese of Owerri to an Archdiocese. The celebration began in 1996.
According to Archbishop Obinna, the “arch-ness bestowed on the diocese was an invitation challenge to root the gospel of salvation deep into our lives and culture, to purify, rectify and sanctify every part of our culture, to reject what is evil, harmful and inhuman therein.”

This year, the Archdiocesan Day, which was held on Saturday September 5, began with a thanksgiving Mass as usual at Maria Assumpta Cathedral Owerri. It was presided over by Most Rev. Anthony Obinna assisted by the Catholic Bishop of Aba, Most Rev. Augustine Echema and the Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri, Most Rev. Moses Chikwe, Episcopal Vicars and several priests.

The Cathedral, unlike in the past was half-filled following directives by the Archdiocese that only those invited would be admitted to ensure compliance with the Covid-19 protocols, especially physical distancing.

In his homily at the Mass, Bishop Echema described Owerri as a special Archdiocese that produced two bishops in one year; a reference to the appointment of Bishop Chikwe and himself in 2019.

Commending Archbishop Obinna for establishing Odenigbo lecture series, Bishop Echema highlighted the importance of native language, saying there is correlation between language and culture.

Bishop Echema emphasized the importance of native language in evangelization and advised ndigbo to take Igbo Language seriously, speak Igbo, write Igbo and dream in Igbo, because “when one dreams in a language, it shows that one understands not only the language but also the culture of the people.”

The thanksgiving Mass was followed by fund-raising for archdiocesan projects especially the building of a new Archdiocesan Secretariat, a minor seminary and a monastery, after which the faithful relocated to the Obiri-Odenigbo for refreshment and a talk in place of the 2020 Odenigbo lecture which was to be delivered by Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, Papal Nuncio to Trinidad and Tobago. Because of the coronavirus and the total lockdown, the lecturer could not arrive Nigeria for the lecture, titled: Otu Chukwu: Otu Obara, Mbikozi Umu Mmadu. The lecture has now been differed to 2021.

However, in its place and to ensure this year’s Odenigbo is not totally a failure, Archbishop Obinna delivered what he called a “Talk” but eventually became a lecture. He titled it: ODENIGBO: ENYEMAKA PURUICHE N’IJI ASUSU IGBO EZISAZI – ANABATACHA OZIOMA KRISTI.

In the 57-page lecture, which he delivered with the same vigor and vitality as he did in 2000 when he delivered that year’s Odenigbo lecture – “UJUNWA: Anuri Uwa Niile,” Archbishop Obinna, explained that the need to intensify and expand the saving work of Christ among ndigbo and within the Igbo religio-cultural context through Igbo Language gave rise to Odenigbo.

He commended the white missionaries for bringing the Goodnews of salvation to Igboland and elsewhere even though they did not give much attention to the use of Igbo Language in evangelization, apart from the Catechism and other publications like Ndu Dinwenu Anyi.

Archbishop Obinna recalled with nostalgia, a historical event which took place on September 20, 1970 during the Episcopal ordination of Bishop Mark Unegbu at Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, Emekuku.

“That day was unforgettable in the use of Igbo Language and Igbo music and instrument to celebrate Mass. For the first time, since 1885 Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Otito Diri Chineke n’elu kacha elu) was sung in Igbo (instead of Latin) with Igbo instrument amid jubilation.

Describing Christ as Odenigbo, Odenuwa, Amarachi Obinna said, he (Christ) has freed ndigbo from ancient and modern fears, occasioned by traditions and customs that terrorize and hold ndigbo captive.

Concluding the lecture, he observed that the modern darkness we see today is based on stupidity and pride, when some people want to recreate themselves, do whatever they like, without fear of God or man because of greed, modernity, science and technology.

“We had thought that the end of Nigeria-Biafra war will bring peace to the country but unfortunately there is still fear and anxiety in Igboland and Nigeria, people are living in fear, the world is living in fear.”

For man to have peace of mind and live in peace, in a world full of fear, the lecturer said there was need for us to receive the light of Christ and gift of the spirit; take the word of God seriously and live a life of humility, devoid of pride based on academic qualifications, scientific and technological discoveries and material acquisitions.

“These will give way to a life of humility, love and mercy and the beauty of the world created by God will manifest in you and in the society.”

“It is only in the gospel message of Christ – who is Odenuwa and Odenigbo that one can proudly say; “The world is beautiful (Uwa Amaka), he said.

In a vote of thanks, the Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri, Most Rev. Moses Chikwe said the standing ovation that greeted the Archbishop’s special lecture was a proof that the talk was well delivered and well received, adding that the Archbishop is always at home with Igbo Language.

The takeaway of the lecture, according to Bishop Chikwe, was that Igbo Language is beautiful and its beauty was rooted in Christ, the Odenigbo, who is neither white nor black.
Though Mbem Odenigbo (Odenigbo Anthem) and Ekwe Odenigbo did not feature at the lecture, the cultural dance by the CWO of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Egbeada entertained the audience, thus giving the occasion a semblance of Odenigbo celebration.

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HRH Eze Peter Opara inaugurates cabinet

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HRH Eze Peter Opara  inaugurates cabinet

…As traditional leadership gets boost at Umunumo Ancient Kingdom

By Magnus Ibe

The Traditional leadership of Umunumo Autonomous Community, Ehime Mbano LGA of Imo State received a resounding boost on Sunday August 23, as the cabinet members were formally inaugurated by HRH, Eze Peter Chima Opara (Eze Udo II).

The assemblage of top brass personalities into the cabinet is indicative of robust prospects for the growth and development of the Ancient Autonomous Community.

Inaugurating the members of the Eze-in-Council, the Royal Father charged the inductees to shun personal interest and put the community in the front burner for a rapid transformation and development. He enjoined the cabinet members to be proactive, articulative and dogged about the welfare of the community, employment and empowerment of the youths so that a new chapter is enacted.

According to him, many are called, but few are chosen. He charged them to move the community to the next level by articulating right attitude and formulate policies that will accelerate the development of the community. He cautioned against indolence and insubordination that can retard the unity and development of the community.

HRH Eze & Ugoeze Peter Chima Opara with Monsignor Jerry Ofoegbu and other priests

HRH Eze & Ugoeze Peter Chima Opara with Monsignor Jerry Ofoegbu and other priests

In his remarks, the President-General of the Town, Chief Godwin Uwah working in synergy with the royal father advised that the various Town Unions leadership should synergize and work in one page with the cabinet members. Chief Godwin Uwah observed that membership of cabinet is subject to review every four years.

Among the cabinet members comprise Chief Godwin Uwah PG, Sir MCN Asawalam (KSM), Chief Chidi Ogueri, Chief Sir Emmanuel Ibe, Chief Aloka Alexander, Nze H.D. Eze, Mr. Emeto K. Michael, Nze Godwin Amaku, Mr. Columba Ohazurike, Chief Mel Daimeon Osuji (Omereoha), Hon Ononamadu Emeka Joseph, Chief Peter Crown Duru, Chief Romanus Ogueri, Comrade Godwin Ihekwoaba, Nze Romanus Chukwu, Nze Vincent Ukah, Chief E. Evaristus Okafor, Chief S. Okele, Nze Clement Iwueze, Hon Felix Iwuji, Chief S. Obikaonu, Hon Kelechi Iwueze, Mr. Joseph Obi Onyema (Deputy PG), ACP H. Agbiogwu, Chief M.C. Okoro, Nze Nneji Boniface, Nze Charles Nwokoro, Nze Edmund Nwokeke, Chief Joseph Anosike, Chief M. Dingwo, Chief Columbia Isikuma, Chief Oliver Agbaso, Ichie Bernard Nwohiri, Nze Titus Iwunze, Chief Romanus Ijejiobi and all village chairmen constitute members of the enlarged cabinet. HRH Eze P. Alozie, Abunumo I graced the event.

In a vote of thanks, Chief Mel-Daimeon Osuji, promised on behalf of the members of the Eze’s cabinet to live above board like Caesar’s wife. He observed that he was humbled to speak on behalf of the top brass personalities who constitute the Eze-in-Council and also made a personal donation of one million naira.

Centre: HRH Eze & Ugoeze Peter Chima Opara (Ezeudo II) with the cabinet  members, Monsignor Jerry Ofoegbu & Eze & Ugoeze P.O. Alozie (Ebunumo I)

Centre: HRH Eze & Ugoeze Peter Chima Opara (Ezeudo II) with the cabinet
members, Monsignor Jerry Ofoegbu & Eze & Ugoeze P.O. Alozie (Ebunumo I)

In his contribution, Hon. Emeka Joseph Ononammadu, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Enugu State, who is also a member of the cabinet made a mouthwatering financial support and others including Sir. M.C.N. Asawalam donated handsomely.

Inducting the new cabinet members, Msgr. Jerry Ofoegbu prayed for God’s guidance and wisdom for the Royal Father and the cabinet members.

He eulogized the royal father for putting God first in his nascent leadership. He admonished the PG and the members of the Eze-in-Council to ensure peace and unity in their various domain. He spoke against injustice, insubordination and manipulative divisive tendencies that will sow seed of discord in the community. He prayed God to bless the royal father with the Wisdom of Solomon.

Msgr. Ofoegbu prayed for longitivity, peace and development of Umunumo Ama-Iri community. He cautioned against sectionalism and maltreatment of widows, orphans and the less privileged in the society.

Traditional cuisine of palm wine, Ugba with stockfish and other local delicacies were served to all and sundry. Eze & Ugoeze Ekwunno, Eze Umuezeala Oguara graced the event amid pomp and pageantry.

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St. Michael’s Choir Umuaro wins singing competition

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St. Michael's Choir Umuaro wins singing competition
By Magnus Ibe

Monsignor Jerry Ofoegbu presided over the activities heralding the Silver Jubilee anniversary celebration of Rev. Sr. Mary Ifechukwudere Emeribe which kicked-off at St. Charles Parish Umunumo, Ehime Mbano LGA Saturday August 29, with worship and praises to the glory of God with a singing competition among four parishes.

Msgr. Ofoegbu, the Dean of Ehime Deanery expressed profound gratitude to God for His mercies and goodness culminating in the silver jubilee anniversary celebration of Rev. Sr. Emeribe of Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy congregation (DMMM) who is billed to mark the 25th year anniversary celebration of her profession in December.

The event was graced by Rev. Frs. Paschal Nwaobasi, Boniface Edomobi, Nnamdi Anyanwu, Andrew Agbiogwu who extolled the Silver Jubilarian for keeping faith and for being involved in the spread of evangelism. He appreciated her niece for commencing her celebration with the singing competition among the parishes in her home Umunumo community.

The competing parish choirs included: St. Charles Parish Choir Umunumo led by David Ohaeri, St. Ignatius Parish Choir Ibeafor Umunumo led by Okorie Damian, St. Michael’s Parish Choir Umuaro-Umunumo headed by Jim Nnorom and St. Theresa’s Parish Choir Umuoma Nzerem led by Fidelis Osuji.

In her remarks prior to the commencement of the competition, Rev. Sr. Emeribe observed that the event marks the beginning of the celebration heralding her profession and consecration in the Lord’s vineyard. According to her, she was motivated by St. Augustine who said that “whoever sings well, prays twice.”

According to her, she started the induction of the four competing parish choirs on March 23, 2020. She posited that she was motivated to help upgrade the choir because most times, “external” choirs were hired to animate Eucharist worship at burials and weddings due to the poor and inferior choir at the locality.

She disclosed that she included St. Theresa’s choir Umuoma Nkerem because she served there for over ten years. She observed that even participating choirs will have a token of appreciation and a certificate of participation. She said the star prize of one hundred thousand naira (N100,000) goes to the eventual winner of the competition in addition to the customized trophy.

According to her, her intentions to help groom a central choir from the whole Umunumo Ama-Iri community and she hopes that the competition will become an annual event.

The team of judges from Abia State led by Nath Nwoko (Rochobath) included, Amarachi Udochika and Obinna Osisiogu.

At the end of the competition, the choir from St. Michael’s Parish Umuaro won the first prize and were given the their prize money after each choir rendered five Christian renditions each.

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