The Bishop of Awka Catholic Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, has charged new priests of the diocese to appreciate God’s benevolence in choosing them to serve as His priests.
Bishop Ezeokafor stated this, Saturday, 15 July 2023, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Awka, during the ordination of five priests that brought the number of priests in the diocese to 382, reports Rev. Fr. Robert Anagboso, C.P. Uzoaganobi and Marcellinus Uzuanwu.
The new priests are, Rev. Fathers Paschal Idima (Amumara); Nelson Obiagba (Akwaeze); Mark Ikeh (Ifitedunu); Edwin Nwokoye (Awgbu) and Innocent Odilimuo (Agulu).
Giving his homily at the well-attended Ordination Mass (that was also streamed live by Fides Media Okpuno which attracted a reach of over 130,000 viewers worldwide), Bishop Ezeokafor exhorted the priests to strive by a holiness of life to lead the people of God by their words, deeds and dispensation of the sacraments, especially the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
His words, ‘As you celebrate the Holy Mass, prepare your homilies. Do not speak arrogantly and recklessly. This can only scare away the people of God instead of bringing them to true conversion.
‘Your words must edify and not demoralize the faithful. Even when you are saying the truth, do so in charity and with respect so that even the person at fault will admit that you are right.’
At the end of his homily, the Bishop called on the ordinands to profess publicly their intention and readiness to take up the onerous task of priesthood, especially the promise of obedience to the Bishop and his successors.
Following the public confession of their faithfulness, the ordinands, in a symbolic sign of total submission of their human weakness to God, went before the altar and prostrated amid solemn chants of the Litany of the Saints whom the entire Church called to assist the would-be priests as they prepared to take up the holy task awaiting them.
Rising from this symbolic death to anything that corrupts the priesthood, and imbued with the heavenly powers and gifts of the priesthood of Christ, the ordinands went before the Bishop, who, in keeping with the Apostolic Tradition, laid his hands on the head of each of the candidates and invited the rest of the concelebrating priests to do likewise.
The laying on of hands was followed by a long prayer of consecration where the Bishop, in union with the whole Church, prayed God to “give these servants of yours the dignity of the priesthood. Renew the spirit of holiness in them”. As the Bishop concluded the prayer, the rapturous voice of the Master of Ceremony, in clear ecstasy, cried out, ‘With the laying on of hands and this concluded prayer of consecration, these our brothers have now been made priests of the Most High God!’ The visibly elated congregation returned the cry with a thunderous shout of, ‘Thanks be to God!’
Amid the sonorous chants of ordination songs, the newly ordained priests were swiftly dressed in Mass vestments of Stole and Chasuble at which point they could only be identified by their faces as they sharply looked like their elder brother concelebrating priests. Immediately, they went to the Bishop to have their hands anointed because, henceforth, their hands would touch and handle only things sacred and holy.
Following the anointing of hands was the presentation of gifts of Chalice (containing wine and water), and Paten (containing the bread) to the new priests by the Bishop. With these instruments of work, the Bishop charged them to ‘Accept the gifts to be offered to God. Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate; model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.’
The Rite of Ordination was brought to an end with the Kiss of Peace in which the Bishop fatherly embraced his new sons in the priesthood, inviting their elder brother priests to do likewise. It was a real sign of welcoming the just ordained priests to the brotherhood in the priesthood of Christ.
Towards the end of the Mass, the five new priests each blessed the Bishop; the priests, religious and seminarians; their parents and benefactors; the civil authorities, and finally the entire congregation.
The event attracted many dignitaries, including the Governor of Anambra State, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr Ernest Ezeajughi; Mr Peter Obi, the Presidential candidate of Labour Party in the last election, represented by his media aide, Dr. Valentine Obienyem; the national chairman of APGA, Barr. Sly Ezeokwenna, among others.