By Michael Nnebife, Ifeanyi Ndukwe, CP Uzaganaobi
It was a moment of praises and jubilation galore like no other at St Anthony’s Parish, Amansea, on Sunday, 7th May, 2023, as the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, dedicated the church’s new temple.
The dedication rites were heralded by a symbolic handing over of the keys of the magnificent church edifice to the Catholic Bishop by the parishioners who joyfully marched to the altar accompanied by the altar boys’ traditional music, in a Holy Mass presided over by the Bishop.
Speaking in a homily during the Mass, Most Rev Ezeokafor reminded Christians that a church was a holy building where the faithful gathered only for communion with God; not for any social gatherings as meetings, newspaper reading, business transactions, among others; even as he exhorted them to accord it due respect.
The Bishop described the new St Anthony’s Church edifice as God’s palace in Amansea through which the Amansea Catholic faithful could get to the heavenly palace.
He extolled the solid quality of work on the building and thanked the contributors, praying God to reward them.
While stressing that God deserved the best as seen in the quality of work on the building, the Chief Shepherd of Awka Diocese noted that the benefactors, through their contributions, had invested worthy treasures in heaven.
Reminding St Anthony’s parishioners of the strategic location of their church, the prelate admonished them to live out the inward grace and beauty of the new church in their daily lives.
He enjoined the parishioners to always draw closer to God through regular active participation and identification with the church.
Most Rev Ezeokafor, who recalled that the day also marked the 2023 Fathers’ Sunday, pointed out that fatherhood was a call to dignity that involved a lot of joy, sacrifices and responsibilities.
Congratulating the fathers, the Bishop advised them to emulate St Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus Christ.
In his remarks, the visibly joyous Parish Priest, Rev Fr Cornelius Anene, thanked God for making the ceremony a reality. He also thanked the Bishop whom, he said, God used to bring the dream of the day to fruition. This was even as he equally thanked the priests, other religious, as well as the guests, for coming to rejoice with the parish; the entire Amansea Catholic Community for what he described as their unflinching yearning for the things of God; and the friends and well-wishers of the parish for their contributions and presence.
The occasion, which attracted top dignitaries in Amansea Community, among whom were the traditional ruler, Igwe Peter Chuma Anigbogu and his cabinet; and the President General of Amansea Development Union, Chief Christian Ughanze, was capped with a reception ceremony to honour and entertain the Bishop and the guests.
In an address of welcome presented on behalf of the entire parishioners, the Secretary, Parish Pastoral Council, PPC, Mrs Favour Mbakwe, said the foundation stone laying of the building took place on 11 May 2014 by Most Rev Ezeokafor, who, she noted, took the project as his personal work.
She thanked him and also recognized the contributions of many other individuals, particularly a former Parish Priest, Rev Fr Sebastian Ejie, who, he observed, through a friend of his, Arch Ifeanyi Oraka, conceived the structural design of the edifice.
He thanked the Ogbunie family for donating a family land and Igwe Anigbogu for his special contributions.
In an interview with the press, the President General of the community, Chief Ughanze, described the occasion as Historic as well as God’s promise fulfilled. He expressed the belief that as the new church had been dedicated, it had become a sanctuary where God answered the prayers of His people.
In separate interactions with the press, some of the parishioners, including the Vice Chairman, PPC, Chief Benjamin Anagor; and Chief Romanus Mmadukaife, expressed joy that the long awaited day had come to reality.
In a vote of thanks, the Chairman of the Dedication committee, Chief Anthony Nwankwo, expressed the belief that the building, upon the dedication, had become a source of spiritual power. He urged his fellow parishioners to seek power and God’s blessings.
Some of the highlights of the solemn dedication were anointing, incensing, and lighting of the altar and the walls; as well as planting of a dedication tree.
Others included presentation of gifts to the Bishop; dance by the parish’s Catholic Women’s Organization; the Little Angels of the Holy Childhood Association, and the Altar Boys.