…describes Awka/Ekwulobia Dioceses as special gifts to the Church
A Catholic priest, Rev Fr Mike Akigwe, has charged priests to further enhance their spiritual armours, which are the Holy Hour Eucharistic Adoration and the Holy Rosary, and deploy them in effectively checking the menace of armed bandits, Boko Haram, and Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria and the world as a whole, reports Fr Obinna Dike, with additional report by Uche Enem.
Fr Akigwe said this when moderating the annual retreat of Awka/Ekwulobia Diocesan Catholic priests, which held at the Archbishop Albert Obiefuna Retreat and Pastoral Centre Okpuno, Awka South Local Government of Anambra state. The retreat held in three batches this 2020: March 8-13 (group one), May 10-15 (group two), and June 7-12 (group three).
The moderator who is of Onitsha Archdiocese, passionately told his fellow priests that if priests could together and personally lead the massive army of coordinated Holy hours of adoration before the Eucharistic Jesus, accompanied with daily Family Rosary, and in addition to daily Holy Masses, the pillars of the evils one plaguing Nigeria and the world presently would crumble.
The Reverend Father however said all these must be driven by profound love for Jesus as a true friend, and not just mere fulfilling of religious duties. He maintained that Jesus was always waiting for this true love from his people to really change the hearts of even the most hardened. Mechanical form of religion would not ensure the fullness of conversion and change, but rather deeper and authentic abandonment to God’s will in peoples’ lives.
“Can you imagine how the heart of Jesus would marvel seeing his beloved priests giving him extra one hour of personal Eucharistic adoration every day in addition to fulfilling their regular priestly duties to their flock? This would bond the priest better with Jesus in a profound love encounter that will not only edify the priests, but free his flock from the shackles of the evil one. Once the priests lead this sincere advocacy, their flock will follow suit”, Fr Akigwe said.
He continued. “You notice that when priests are faithful to the Holy Mass, the parishioners follow him in their numbers. Same way, when priests are committed to the Holy Rosary and other personal and public devotions, the parishioners join them in numbers and with joy.
You can imagine when greater number of priests take these regular and extra acts of love and devotion, they would have raised a mighty army of chain prayer, that will bring down the ‘walls of Jericho’ in the name of Boko, Covid and Herders’ menace. Prayers work miracles. Priests are called to this type of spiritual army. When they do this their part well, it positively anoints and brings success to all the other efforts by government, organized groups, institutions and individuals to set Nigeria on the part of glory. God must be integrally involved” Fr Akigwe said.
The Reverend Father cum music composer equally advocated for Family Rosary at a unified front. He appealed to priests to get their flock begin and join chain rosary every night at each parish’s own choice time to plead with the Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede with her son Jesus Christ for mercy, conversion, love and faithfulness to God. He urged priests to always end the chain night or evening Rosary as the case may be, with blessing from the Eucharistic Monstrance. Fr Akigwe said such devotion had already started with a group that began theirs at 8.30 every night, and ended with the Eucharistic Blessing from the priests’ rectories at 9 every night.
Fr Akigwe described Awka Diocese (and now the new Ekwulobia diocese too carved out of Awka March 5, 2020), as having a special place in the universal Church, as well as the heart of Jesus for beginning and popularizing devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He said Awka Diocese was the first to begin the massive building of adoration chapels from the time of her first bishop Archbishop Albert Obiefuna till presently. He urged the Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful of both dioceses to hold that flame alight.
The three sets of retreat priests were amazed at God’s use of Fr Akigwe to reenergize them for pastoral ministry. In the vote of thanks presented to the retreat moderator from the third batch, Fr Cajetan Obiekezie summarized the retreat moderator in two sentences. ‘You are the priest after God’s own heart. You know that you are a priest, you live it out boldly, God and His Church are very much proud of you” Fr Obiekezie said