By Chioma Ndife
In celebration of 29 priestly anniversary and 7 years of Episcopacy, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, His Lordship Most Rev. Jonas Benson Okoye, has disclosed his intention to devote more attention and time to youth apostolate, saying that the area remains a critical force for Church growth.
Speaking to Fides in an exclusive interview during his Pastoral Visit to St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Ifite Awka, Last Sunday, August 29, Bishop Okoye described youth apostolate as a dynamic way of drawing the attention of the youths to the purpose of their creation, saying that such realization would enable them to utilize their inherent potentials in redecorating the face of the earth to become a better place for all.
He said that his anniversary drove him into total reflection and recollection of his past years as a priest, saying that he was full of thanksgiving to God for the enabling grace and strength which he had enjoyed for the past 29 years he answered God’s call as a pastor of souls; as well as seven years of assuming responsibility as the Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Awka.
The Catholic prelate said he would devote more time and attention in assisting the poorest of the poor and doing all within his means to alleviate the burdens of the people in any means which was open and accessible to him and expressed conviction that God who called him into the sacred ministry would enable him to work more diligently in executing the fathers’ will.
‘I thank God for the past 29 years which I have served him as a priest and whatever I feel that I have done. I know that I have not done enough as there were numerous problems facing the people of God and I must work tirelessly to assist in lifting the burden’ he noted.
He tasked parents on the need to empower their children and wards with requisite skills even while in secondary school, saying that such skills would assist them in years to come, especially in providing funds for their university education.
He noted that he would not stop instructing the youths and directing them on the right path for the actualization of their dreams and aspiration. He acknowledged that some youth’s were already doing well in their chosen fields and noted that more effort was required in orientation and reorientation.
‘In the coming years of my priesthood, I’m looking at devoting more attention to youth training for them to be better informed concerning the things of life, their religion and every other area that would assist them excel. The north is so backward because a man that married chains of women with about 30 to 40 children cannot effectively take care of the children and this is breeding the Almajiris who end up becoming the problems of Nigeria.
‘Refashioning is really important, I must state categorically that a good number of them are doing well but I believe greater work is needed in the area.
Bishop Okoye disclosed that he would also focus more attention in underscoring the dangers associated with numerous prayer houses currently on the increase by creating awareness and sensitizing people, terming the habit as bad. He advocated that people, especially Catholics, must stop visiting such prayer houses as most of them tended to create more problems and at the end of the day, compound the issues of such persons.
He argued that most people who went about different prayer houses abandoned their family responsibilities especially the effective upbringing of their children, thereby creating a gap in society that must be filled.
He maintained that usage of Chapels and other prayer grounds which the Church had provided for such purpose was ideal, saying that people must learn about dutifulness and hard work, rather than relying on prophecies.
‘The area I will also like to emphasize more attention on is getting our people aware about the dangers of patronizing prayer ministries, leading to the flourishing of prayer ministries in all corners, people predicting their success as a result of the power of men of God and more recently women of God.
This will never help our people as they are gifted to industry but unfortunately this trend of neo paganism is reducing the industriousness of people. A sound mind works in a sound body and because people are not well oriented, most youths are now disoriented, losing directing and purpose of their creation.