By Gloria Ibesi and Vivian Ononiwu
Eight years after his previous Pastoral visit, the Chief Shepherd of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, His Lordship, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, on Sunday 1, October 2023, made a pastoral visit to Our Lady of Assumption Parish, Awka, Anambra State. It was an event which attracted both members and friends of the parish and evoked moments of joy and merriment.
The pastoral visit availed the parishioners the opportunity to interact with the Local Ordinary one on one, making known to him their various concerns as individuals and as a parish. On his part, the bishop used the occasion to address the material and spiritual needs of the parish.
Speaking to the congregation during the Eucharistic Celebration, the bishop pointed out that as the Church celebrated the Solemnity of Our Lady Queen and Patroness of Nigeria, she was the central point of the day’s message. God brought salvation to the world through her as the Mother of Jesus Christ, the saviour of mankind.
During his homily, Bishop Ezeokafor emphasized the role which the Blessed Virgin Mary’s faith and her acceptance of the will of God played for the salvation of the world and further encouraged the faithful not to lose hope owing to the current state of affairs in the country, but to continue looking up to God in steadfastness and through devotion to the Blessed Virgin for the betterment of the country.
‘We are hopeful that God, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary, will come to our aid. We must not get tired of praying for our country, just as many are already lamenting, that we have been praying for so long for the country but nothing has happened.
‘We must not lose hope for God’s time is the best. God’s ways are not the ways of man,’ the bishop said.
After the homily, the bishop administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 237 young faithful, admonishing them to remain steadfast to the gift of the Holy Spirit that they have recieved.. Towards the end of the Mass, Bishop Ezeokafor enrolled some children into the Holy Childhood Association, HCA, exhorting their parents and guardians to help them keep faith with God and the Church bearing in mind the Church’s approach of “catch them young”. This, he said will help the children follow the way of God and the Church in order to be productive members of society .
A warm reception of the bishop by the parish, which climaxed the event, was later held after the Mass, accompanied by presentation of gifts to the bishop by the parish, groups and individuals, in support of his apostolate in the Diocese.
There were also presentation of award of appreciation to the parish land donor and benefactress, Dame Ann Okafor (Odibeze); cutting of Goodwill Cake, in addition to different entertainment displays.
In his speech, the Parish Priest, Rev Fr Simon Peter Obiakor, said the event fixed on the first of October, the day of Our Lady, as well as the country’s Independence anniversary, came through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Fr Obiakor expressed his gratitude to God for making the day a reality and granting the celebration a clement weather. He further appreciated the bishop whom he described as a great gift to the Diocese, and he prayed God to continue to strengthen and protect him.
In the same Vein, the Parish Priest appreciated the parishioners and all who attended the event, for their love and solidarity; and equally prayed God to see them safely back to their various destinations.
In his vote of thanks, the bishop appreciated all the members of Our Lady of Assumption Parish for their enthusiastic reception, thanking them for their efforts and resources employed in preparing for the occasion.
The event came to its final point with the bishop’s final blessing which included prayer for some members of the parish seeking the fruit of womb.