By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
Various reactions from people, on Thursday, May 21, greeted the 7-Year Episcopal Anniversary of the first Catholic Bishop of Ekwulobia Diocese, Most Rev Peter Ebere Okpaleke, describing it as a milestone for thanksgiving to God.
To the Rector of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia-owned St Dominic Savio Seminary, Akpu, Rev Fr Maximus Okonkwo, the first bishop of the new Ekwulobia Diocese, Most Rev Peter Ebere Okpaleke, had been a man of providence.
According to the rector of the seminary, the number ‘7’, said a lot about Bishop Okpaleke. He recalled that the bishop, who, he said, had “Venite Sancti Spiritu (Come Holy Spirit)” as his motto, had dedicated his entire episcopacy to the Holy Spirit, adding that the number ‘7’, represented the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Rev Fr Okonkwo observed that it was God’s divine will that Bishop Okpaleke assumed his role as the Chief Shepherd of Ekwulobia Diocese on his 7th Episcopal Anniversary, which again, providentially coincided with the 2020 Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus Christ.
Quoting Isaiah 12:3, Fr Okonkwo stated his conviction that the Church would always draw the water of salvation from the bishop’s episcopacy, inasmuch as he (Bishop Okpaleke) continued to listen to the Holy Spirit, which according to him, was the vivifier of the Church. He prayed God to continue to make Bishop Okpaleke a veritable instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit.
Baring his mind, the principal of AUSTICA Memorial College, Nanka, Rev Fr Barr Obiora Okeke, said the bishop’s 7th Anniversary, like every other anniversary celebration, was a moment for special thanksgiving to God and an opportunity to glorify God in a very special manner for His grace that had sustained him all the years. Pointing out that anniversary was also a time for stocktaking, Rev Fr Okeke also congratulated Most Rev Okpaleke on his 7-Year Episcopal Anniversary.
For his part, the immediate past President of Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria, Awka Diocese (CLCNAD), Comrade Emma Ezeokafor, said he rejoiced with Bishop Okpaleke, and the Chief Shepherd of his home diocese, Ekwulobia, on the bishop’s 7-Year Episcopal Anniversary, noting that such was a milestone.
Comrade Ezeokafor prayed God to endow the bishop with the needed grace, strength and wisdom to synergise the priests and the laity into one body of Christ and steer the ship of the new diocese to an enviable destination like a shepherd after the heart of Christ.
The Oraeri, Aguata LGA-born Ezeokafor observed that considering Bishop Okpaleke’s wealth of experience as a former chancellor of the Old Awka Diocese for many years, and his natural intelligence, the expectations were that he would gel and mould the new Ekwulobia Diocese to be an ideal reference point.
Adding her voice, the Financial Secretary of Catholic Women’s Organisation (C.W.O.), Awka Diocese, Lady Philomena Okoli, noted that the bishop’s anniversary was a cause for celebration and thanksgiving to God. She described Bishop Okpaleke as a blessing to the new Ekwulobia Diocese, and prayed God to give him the fortitude, wisdom and grace to excel in his vocation.
For her part, a former President, Life Members of the Old Awka Diocese, Lady Virgy Okoli, urged the entire faithful of the new Ekwulobia Diocese to at all times pray for the bishop for the continued zeal and courage that would enable him to excel in his episcopacy. Lady Okoli wished Bishop Okpaleke more successful years of episcopacy, and prayed God to bless the diocese in all ramifications, as well as fill the faithful of the diocese with grace for what she called notable standard morality.
Similarly, the CEO of Orthon Palace Hotels, Ekwulobia, Chief Titus Anigbogu, who equally congratulated Bishop Okpaleke on his anniversary, prayed God to endow him with the needed grace and wisdom to properly shepherd the flock entrusted unto his care.
On his expectations from the bishop, Chief Anigbogu advocated for the need for the Catholic bishop to ultimately lead the people on the path to heaven, which according to him, was the purpose for which God created humanity.
It will be recalled that Most Rev Okpaleke, was on Tuesday, May 21, 2013, consecrated a Catholic Bishop at the Chapel of Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Ulakwo, Owerri, Imo State, following his then December 7, 2012 appointment as the supposed second bishop of Ahiara Diocese.