By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia (CADEK), Most Rev Peter Ebere Okpaleke, has charged priests, consecrated persons and every individual to give precedence to selfless service in the course of their vocations in life, saying that selfless service was vital for the success of every vocation.
Bishop Okpaleke, who gave the charge in his homily of the concelebrated Holy Mass for the Solemn Dedication of St Michael’s Catholic Church, Ngo, Igboukwu, Aguata LGA, Anambra State, last Sunday, April 26, harped on the importance of what he described as the gift of self to vocations. He urged priests and consecrated persons, as well as the lay faithful, to imbibe the spirit of service and humility in their priestly, religious and other vocations in life.
The Catholic prelate pointed out that the Good Shepherd Sunday, otherwise known as Vocations Sunday, on which the solemn church dedication fell, was a day the Church and her faithful prayed in a special way for priests and consecrated persons.
According to him, the World Day of Vocations was a day the Church and Catholics around the world offered special prayers to encourage vocations from the families and the parishes to the priesthood and the religious life.
The bishop, who cited the Message of Pope Francis for the 2021 Vocations Sunday, highlighted the important role which St Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, played in the life of the Church, family and vocation.
Most Rev Okpaleke noted that Pope Francis in the message which focused on St Joseph (to mark the ongoing Year of St Joseph), identified dream, service and vocation, as the three key words which Saint Joseph suggested for each individual’s vocation.
The bishop explained that the Supreme Pontiff, who quoted the Gospel of Saint Matthew 1:20; 2:13.19.22, in the message, identified Saint Joseph as an outstanding example of acceptance to God’s plans, and who was guided by his dreams because he trusted completely in God.
‘God looks at the heart and in Saint Joseph, He (God) recognized the heart of a father, who is able to give and generate life in the midst of daily routines. Vocations have this same goal: to beget and renew lives every day. The Lord desires to shape the hearts of fathers and mothers, to be hearts that are open, capable of great initiatives, generous in self-giving, compassionate in comforting anxieties and steadfast in strengthening hopes,’ the pope’s message which quoted the Book of I Samuel 16:17, read.
Bishop Okpaleke advised all to emulate Saint Joseph, a model for all vocations, who, according to him, saw service as a concrete expression of the gift of self which did not remain simply a high ideal, but became a rule for daily life.
He added that Saint Joseph, as the pope rightly pointed out, showed the willingness of someone who lived to serve, was the protector of Jesus and the Church, as well as the protector of all vocations.