By Chioma Ndife
The Auxiliary Bishop of Awka Catholic Diocese, His Lordship Most Rev. Jonas Benson Okoye, has disclosed his interest in seminary formation, saying that he draws strength and encouragement from seminarians whenever he visits them.
Bishop Okoye who made the disclosure at Pope John Paul II Major Seminary, Okpuno, last Sunday, during the Harvest and Bazaar Thanksgiving, said that seminarians undergoing formation at the seminary reaffirmed his conviction that there was growth and future in the Catholic priesthood, saying that such was a booster for them to continue bearing in mind that they were people to replace them.
The Catholic prelate who donated N500, 000 in support of the Harvest and Bazaar Thanksgiving, said he had been saving money from people in order to support seminary formation, saying that he saved yearly through the gifts he received from people.
He noted that seminary formation was at the heart of the Catholic Church and commended the diocesan bishop, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, for the keen interest and maximum attention which he devoted to seminary formation.
He explained that for seminary formation to remain effective, all the clergy and laity must accept full responsibility and make qualitative contributions towards sustaining the seminary in their different capacities, saying that the seminary was the heart of the Catholic Church as any abnormalities in the formation of seminarians would have a negative effect on the teaching of the Catholic doctrine.
He urged formators to be firm and not to compromise the standards which seminary formation had been known for, as any mistake made would have adverse effects on the Church in years to come, noting that those receiving formation at the moment would be responsible for the formation of others.
He commended the inputs and efforts of the formators, past and present, at Pope John Paul II Major Seminary, Okpuno, saying that their hard work could be seen in the overall conduct, performance and transformation of the seminary.
‘The formators in this seminary, I believe, were carefully selected to carry on with the great task of forming these seminarians. I urge you all to be firm; do not compromise the standards which the seminary formation is known for, bearing in mind that any mistake made in the formation of these seminarians would have adverse effects on the teaching of the Catholic faith. The teachings which these seminarians receive now are what they will use to form others in years to come,’ he explained.
He appreciated all those who had been consistent in support to seminary formation, urging them to continue, saying that such was part of sustaining the growth of the Catholic Church, as no institution would survive without a clear cut direction.
Earlier in his homily, Bishop Okoye stated that the name Bartimaeus meant son of honour, saying that while Bartimaeus was the son of honour, he was not taking an honourable position because of his blindness.
He said that Christians had an honourable position in Christ and that their dignity lay, not only in being created in God’s image, but also in being co-heirs with Christ as adopted children of God. He said that as Bartimaeus, Christians were not always in their position of honour where God had placed them.
He said it was important for Christians to be mindful of their sins and selfishness as they brought blindness and disfigured one’s sight against God and his neighbour. He maintained that the sight of Bartimaeus was restored when he cried out to Jesus in faith and encouraged all to cry to God who had the capacity of restoring them fully.
Appreciating Bishop Okoye’s donation, the Rector of the Seminary, Very Rev Fr Cyril Udebunu, said the Auxiliary Bishop had also been advocating for the seminary and its seminarians during Bishops’ Conferences and his other outings in a bid to ensure better welfare package and qualitative support for seminary projects.