By Adejumoke A. Alebiosu, Anthony A. Akinomolafe, Marcellinus C.Uzuawu and lfeanyi Ndukwe
In celebration of his 70th birthday, the Catholic Bishop of Awka, Most Rev Paulinus Chukwuemeka Ezeokafor, has admonished citizens to live a life worth emulating. The Bishop who clocked 70 on the 13th of September, made the call as he marked the week with visitations to various institutions and inspiring activities to celebrate life and God’s mercies to him.
At the visit to Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Amaku, Bishop Ezeokafor, in the company of the Vicar General of the Diocese, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Peter Chudi Akaenyi; the Chancellor of the Diocese, Rev. Fr. Dr. Charles Ndubisi; the Bishop’s Secretary, Rev. Fr. Dr. Evaristus lfeanacho; the chairman of the birthday organising committee; Rev. Fr. Benjamin Odika; the Director of Fides Media, Rev. Fr. Dr. Robert Anagboso; among other priests and religious.
The delegation also included the president of Catholic Men’s Organisation (CMO), Mr. Joseph Chukwujekwu Onuegbu, and Director of Catholic Women’s Organisation (CWO), Lady Sabina Ngozi Ndigwe, both of Awka Diocese, donated gift items to patients at the different wards of the medical facility.
The emotional moments in the emergency wards came as he offset the outstanding bills of patients, namely, Ramatu Ahmed from Adamawa State and Ubahi Dennis who hails from Benue state. The former is billed to undergo a surgery to remove an ectopic pregnancy and was discharged on 31st October, 2022. The latter suffered a fall leading to spinal cord injury. MRI results showed a surgery would have helped if it was done immediately after the fall. However, he is on palliative treatments while awaiting divine healing. He cannot stand or walk at the moment and has been in the hospital for about 5 months.
In his response, the Chief Medical Director, Dr. Joe Akabuike, expressed delight and thanked the Bishop for what he described as his immense contributions to society.
The bishop also seized the opportunity to call on the state government and good spirited Nigerians to support the weak and sick by donations and prayers for health.
In another courtesy visit to the Faith Community Children’s Home, Unizik Temp Site, Awka, Bishop Ezeokafor was warmly received by the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Awka, who doubles as the Archbishop, Province on the Niger, His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Alexander Chibuzor lbezim.
Archbishop Ibezim prayed that God would grant him long life and prosperity and that he continually enjoy the mercies of God.
In his vote of thanks, Bishop Ezeokafor expressed his joy for the gift of life and good health.
He said celebrating with children was one of the endearing virtues as instructed by Jesus Christ.
‘We have to show the brethren the need to express love for one another, walking in faith and caring for each other because heaven is the ultimate goal,’ Bishop Ezeokafor said.
He lauded what he described as the legacy-driven leadership of the Anglican bishop and eulogised his resilience in the spread of the gospel.
His words, ‘I thank God that the Anglican Diocese of Awka is growing and expanding in all horizons under your care (referring to Bishop Ibezim). My prayer is for more grace and glory to our dear Lord Jesus.’
He also called on the government to pay the lecturers their salaries, noting with disgust that the government had failed in its power to maintain standards in education.
‘You cannot use the funds for payment of civil servants and lecturers to distribute among the senators. I call on the FG to pay the lecturers so that students will receive quality education and avoid engaging in social vices,’ the Catholic Bishop said.
The items donated to the orphanage home included, 5 bags of rice, 20 tubers of yam, 5 cartons of tissue paper, 10 cartons of noodles, 5 cartons of biscuits and soft drinks for the children.
In her address, the administrator of the orphanage, Mrs. Ifeyinwa Onuorah, thanked Bishop Ezeokafor for his gesture. She described the love as overwhelming and prayed for greater heights and many years of graceful celebrations.
At a visit to the Nigeria Correctional Centre, Awka, Bishop Ezeokafor was received by the Controller in charge, Mr. Patrick Chukwuemeka. At the correctional centre, there was a celebration of the Holy Mass in which the Bishop administered the Sacrament of Confirmation on 17 inmates.
He also admonished the prison wardens to uphold discipline in the discharge of their duties and pleaded with them to apply what he called humane attitude while dealing with the inmates.
In his homily, the servant-leader advised the inmates to decide to be worthy ambassadors of the society.
‘In the past it used to be called prison. But today it’s called correctional centre. The intention is to confine you and make you a better person. A place to reform you for a better life,’ Bishop Ezeokafor said.
Making reference to criminals of the past, the Bishop of Awka Catholic Diocese said his job as a father was to look out for the wellbeing of the children God had brought under his care.
In his welcome speech, the Asst Controller of Corrections, A.C. Nwanna, thanked the Bishop for his continual fatherly love and support towards the facility. He cited two major challenges facing them which included logistics and rehabilitation of inmates through adequate skill acquisition programmes. He lamented the lack of equipment to ensure maximum training of inmates to equip them for life after their prison terms.
Highlights of the event included the cutting of the birthday cake by the celebrant in the company of the host and other guests, the presentation of birthday gifts by the management and staff of the facility, welcome song by the inmates and confirmation of 17 inmates.
Other activities in the Bishop’s birthday programme included a novelty match in honour of the celebrant at the St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Enugwu Ukwu Sports Centre, Youth Empowerment and Thanksgiving Mass on Thursday, among others.