By Daruwana Daku
They may have retired due to old age but they are not forgotten. That was the case, November 17, when the aged priests of the Dioceses of Awka and Ekwulobia were visited by His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Arinze, who celebrated this year’s Christmas party with them at the Priests’ Welfare Home in Awka.
His Eminence was received by the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, His Lordship Most Rev Dr Paulinus Ezeokafor, and his Ekwulobia counterpart, Most Rev. Peter Okpaleke, and was witnessed by a plethora of priests, religious and lay faithful among whom were priests ordained in the 60s and 70s.
The visit which was chiefly to reignite old moments for both the Cardinal and some of the priests he ordained, saw the aged priests beaming with smiles as the Cardinal celebrated a pontifical Mass at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, GRA, Awka, with them.
Cardinal Arinze in his homily appreciated efforts put together by Awka and Ekwulobia Dioceses in taking good care of the aged priests among them, even as he thanked God for preserving their lives. The prelate who noted how rare it was to see dioceses celebrate their sick and aged priests also called on younger priests to sustain the call on evangelism.
The former Prefect, Congregation for Divine Worship, Order and Discipline of Sacrament, maintained that support for old priests was important as they were resting after the work done during their active days.
Cardinal Arinze who recounted how selfless and obedient priestly vocation could be, beckoned on the people not to neglect the sick and aged priests, stating that priesthood was a tasking one.
Later when the cardinal was given a warm reception at the Priests’ Welfare Home, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, Most Rev Ezeokafor, described aging as a blessing that needed support and care. This, he said, was important in order not to diminish the work of the aged.
In his address of welcome, the Director of the Priests’ Welfare Home, Rev. Fr Emmanuel Udu, said the Cardinal’s visit to the aged priests at the welfare home was an important one. He said the invitation of the Cardinal to be with them this Christmas season was borne out of the desire of the old priests to see him, having been talking much about him.
Fr Udu who thanked His eminence for making out time to visit them, also thanked the many sponsors and institutions that made the visit a reality.
Fides gathered that the Priests’ Welfare home was built for priests of Awka and Ekwulobia Dioceses ordained between 1965 and 1981.
The event attracted many dignitaries among whom were the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, candidate in the 2021 Anambra gubernatorial election, Mr Valentine Ozigbo; the Managing Director, National Light, Sir Chuka Nnabuife, among other important personalities.
Highlights of the event were: blessing of the grotto at the welfare home by his Eminence, cutting of cake, drama and choral rendition.