By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
As part of the activities to mark the 2021 Annual Day of Consecrated Life, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia (CADEK), Most Rev Peter Ebere Ezeokafor, on Thursday, February 4, met with the religious men and women working in the diocese.
Fides gathered that the Day of Consecrated Life is celebrated annually by the Church on February 2, the Feast of Presentation of the Lord, but the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia this year, shifted hers to February 4, for convenience.
Speaking at the interactive session which formed part of the event held at St Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral, Ekwulobia, Aguata LGA, Anambra State, Bishop Peter Okpaleke stressed the importance for priests to give the consecrated persons the opportunity to address the congregation on the need to attach importance to vocation generally.
He urged the religious to attach strict importance to catechesis in the various parishes and institutions where they worked. Bishop Okpaleke, charged the association of the consecrated persons in CADEK, to come up with proposals on how best, what he termed the internal relationship between the special consecration and the baptismal consecration, would be injected into the faithful.
Earlier when he led in the concelebrated Mass to mark the celebration, the Catholic prelate in his homily titled: “What You Have Come to is Mount Zion, the City of the Living God”, (Heb. 12:21), reminded the religious men and women that as consecrated persons, they were called to be ambassadors extraordinaire in their vocation.
According to him, the priests and religious as consecrated persons, had been called to the city of the living God, in relationship with God and with one another.
Bishop Okpaleke, who cited the message of Pope St. John Paul II on the occasion of the First World Day of Consecrated Life in 1997, noted that consecrated life was at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element of her mission.
Wondering what would become of the world without the religious as St Theresa of Avila said, the bishop identified thanksgiving, renewed commitment to one’s holy vocation and promotion of knowledge and reverence for the consecrated life among the entire people of God, as the reasons for the institution of the day of consecrated life.
According to him, consecrated life was not a call to belong to an elite group of Christians, who were entitled to recognition and support of the Christian community; rather, consecrated life was at the service of the baptismal consecration of all the faithful.
The bishop noted that the celebration was for the consecrated persons to draw strength from each other and from the Lord, so as to make the best out of their vocation. Bishop Okpaleke, observed that at the heart of the celebration of the Day of Consecrated Life was total self-giving in imitation of Jesus Christ, so that the religious would by extension, become the Word of God made flesh.
Basing his reflection further on the gospel of the Thursday, he reminded the religious that they were consecrated not for themselves, but for services to the Church. He stressed the need for consecrated persons to renew their strength and commitment in witness to Christ, who, according to him, called them to be signs for more basic and lasting values, order than accumulation of wealth, power and search for security.
In his remarks, the Episcopal Vicar for Religious, Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia, Rev Fr Jude Ekemgba, C.S.Sp, described the event as an opportunity for the religious men and women working in the diocese to interact with the bishop, share their experiences and challenges and map out strategies for their better improvement, for lasting growth of the Church.
On his take home from the event, Rev Fr Ekemgba, who is the Principal, Holy Ghost Academy Amaokpala, noted that it was expected of a religious to live a humble and simple life, and live out their virtues of chastity and poverty as role model for others.
Also speaking to Fides, Rev Sr Chinyere Nwosu, MSHR, said it was a good time to have celebrated with the bishop of CADEK. She described the interactive session as worthwhile, noting that it gave them the opportunity to share their challenges in their various ministries within the diocese, seek clarifications where necessary and give their own suggestions on possible improvement.