… …Blesses Octogenarians, Our Lady Queen of Immaculate Conception Grotto, Confirms 88 Candidates
By Alexander Johnson Adejoh
Five years after his last pastoral visit to the parish, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, last Saturday, August 26, made another pastoral visit to St. Joseph’s Parish, Agulu, during which he blessed some octogenarians in the parish; Our Lady Queen of Immaculate Conception Grotto, donated by Chief Dr. Mrs Stella Mmaduka; and administered the Sacrament of Confirmation on eighty-eight parishioners.
Speaking at the 2023 Pastoral Visit, Bishop Ezeokafor said he was delighted over the growth of the parish. He urged all against giving in to the ills of greed and selfishness, which, he said, had eaten deep into the lives of many. He enjoined the faithful, who received the Sacrament of Confirmation, and their counterparts, who received the First Holy Communion, to live out the fruits of the Holy Spirit which they received as ideal witnesses of Jesus Christ.
The Bishop, who encouraged parents not to relent in the proper formation of the children, charged all on a life of obedience, righteousness and goodness, as against the vices of the devil.
While addressing the octogenarians, Bishop Ezeokafor admonished them to continue to emulate the virtues of Jesus Christ whom, he said, was a shepherd to every man on earth, adding that caring for the elderly attracted blessings from God.
He urged the younger ones to learn and draw inspiration from the older ones so that they could teach them the secret of growing older.
He urged Christians to strengthen their relationship with God through prayers, explaining that the only way to live well in old age was to live within God and abstain from sins.
He said the celebration was a pointer to the fact that the old people were important aspect of their lives in the parish and stressed the need for people to encourage the participation of the older persons in society and in the Church.
While describing old age as a very critical point of life of individuals, the prelate stated that celebrating them would give them more reasons to be stronger.
The Pastoral Visit Organising Committee Chairman, Hon. Lady Margaret Ejike, told Fides that the event was designed to reposition and equip the Christians to profess and partake in the evangelization of the gospel of the Church in society as lay faithful. She commended and acknowledged the doggedness of the parish priest, Rev. Fr. Dr. Hilary Ekwenibe, who she described as an indefatigable priest. According to her, Fr Ekwenibe’s fatherly care and immense sacrifices contributed to the growth of the parish and the success of the programme.
For his part, the chairman of the occasion, Chief Charles Abuchi Okeke, appreciated all for their efforts and sacrifices, which, he said, made the event a success.
In an interview with Fides, the parish priest, Fr. Ekwenibe, congratulated those who received the First Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation for what he described as yet another feather they added to their spiritual growth.
He thanked God for the soldiers in prayer and faith which St Benedict’s Parish had in the first holy communicants and those who received the Sacrament of Confirmation. He expressed his delight that they were nurtured in basic Catholic prayers and teachings before they received the sacraments.
Fr Ekwenibe specially thanked God for the gift of the Octogenarians in their parish. He noted that it was necessary to celebrate long life. Reacting on the newly blessed Grotto, the Parish Priest of St. Joseph’s Parish, Agulu, who thanked the donor of the Grotto, Dr. Mrs Mmaduka, noted that the development would welcome the ever consoling presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary to their parish. He added that with the presence of the Holy Mother Mary, in their parish, things would only get better.
Earlier, some of the octogenarian awardees, including Very Msgr Simon Amateze and Chief Elias Anyaeche (Onyeagwalukwe), said that they were overwhelmed by the gesture and lauded the Church for deeming it fit to celebrate them.
Msgr Amateze, who enjoined the younger ones to do things moderately, respect their elders and do things that would please God, prayed for members of the church to attain their age to be celebrated too.
Chief Anyaeche specifically recalled how he was baptized in the Catholic faith over 70 years ago, adding that Christians should embrace the doctrines of Jesus Christ at all times.