Neni Catholic Community Gets 33rd Indigenous Priest

…as Bishop Okoye Ordains New Priest, Deacon, for Salesians

By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba

The number of indigenous Catholic priests of Neni in Anaocha LGA, Anambra State, was last Saturday, June 19, increased by one when the Auxiliary Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Jonas Benson Okoye, at St John’s Catholic Church, Neni, ordained a new priest and a new deacon for the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) Congregation.

Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye (centre with crosier) poses with concelebrants after the Mass. The bishop is flanked on his right by the new priest, Rev Fr Justin Chukwuebuka Oguocha, SDB, and on his left by the new deacon, Rev Joshua Sixtus Sesugh Pilaku, SDB. On Fr Oguocha’s right is the host Parish Priest, St John’s Neni, Very Rev Fr Chudi Peter Akaenyi.

The new priest, Rev Fr Justin Chukwuebuka Oguocha, SDB, a second son of the family of Mr Obinna Oguocha, and the late Mrs Amaka Oguocha of Ugwudunu Village, Neni, was ordained as the 33rd indigenous priest of Neni. While his co-Salesian, Joshua Sixtus Sesugh Pilaku, a native of Gboko in Gboko LGA, Benue State, was ordained a deacon of the SDB congregation at the June 2021 ordination.

During the ordination rites, the congregation that filled the church building stood enthralled as the candidates took oaths of obedience before the bishop, prostrated for the litany of saints, knelt for the laying on of hands and prayer of consecration and invested accordingly.

This was even as the deacon was presented with the Book of the Gospel while the priest, who was presented with the gifts for Eucharistic celebration, also knelt for the anointing of his hands by the ordaining prelate.

Cutting of the Priestly and Diaconal Ordination cake. 1st from left is Vicar, St John’s Parish, Neni, Rev Fr Raymond Umennajiuba and 2nd from right is Chairman, Central Ordination Committee, Sir Peter Chikeluba, KSM.

Earlier in his homily, the ordaining prelate, Most Rev Okoye, described priesthood as a priceless gift. He urged the new priest and the new deacon to in humility, uphold the vows which they took, live up to the demands of their vocation and be committed to constant prayer life.

He advised the deacon to believe in what he preached, teach what he believed and practice what he preached, and not to be found wanting in his responsibilities of assisting in Eucharistic celebrations and teaching of marriage courses.

The bishop enjoined the priest to visit the sick, be with them and pray for them, especially in difficult situations, and administer the sacraments to the people as and when due.

He thanked the parents of the ordinands for their gifts to the Church, and advised the families against overburdening them with family problems.

Neni Catholic Community presents a Toyota car gift to the new priest.

The Neni Catholic Community, in an address that was signed by the Chairman, Neni Central Pastoral Council (NCPC), Very Rev Fr Chudi Peter Akaenyi; Secretary, NCPC Sir Oliver Oyedum, KSJI and Parish Priest, St Joseph’s Parish, Neni, Rev Fr Chris Aniukwu, congratulated her new priest and prayed that his elevation to the sacred priesthood would impact positively on the people and the town.

While assuring Fr Oguocha, SDB, of her prayers, the Catholic community encouraged him to be a good ambassador of Neni, as well as remember the town in his prayers and Holy masses.

In his remarks, the Delegate Superior, Salesians of Don Bosco, Nigeria, Rev Fr Anthony Prince Oche, SDB, said he was delighted to be in Neni for the ordination and thanked the Catholic community for what he described as the great love which was shown to the congregation.

The ordaining prelate, Bishop Jonas Benson OKoye (sitting centre), anoints the hands of the new priest, Fr Oguocha (kneeling) with Chrism Oil. The bishop is flanked on his right by Chairman, NCPC and Vicar General II, Awka Diocese, Very Rev Fr Chudi Peter Akaenyi, and on his left by the Delegate Superior, Salesians of Don Bosco, Nigeria, Rev Fr Anthony Prince Oche, SDB. With the microphone is Chancellor, Awka Diocese, Very Rev Fr Francis Chidume.

Fides gathered that Rev Fr Oguocha professed his first temporary vows of chastity, poverty and obedience on September 8, 2012 at Mary Help of Christians Parish, Odumase-Sunyani, Ghana, and made his perpetual profession as a Salesian of Don Bosco on May 18, 2019. He was ordained a deacon alongside 13 others on August 16, 2020, at Don Bosco Utume, Nairobi, Kenya, by the Vicar Apostolic Emeritus of Soddo, Most Rev Rodrigo Mejia Saldarriaga, S.J.

Highlights of the reception which had Chief Sir George Ibekendu, Ezeani Ebekuedike, as the chairman of the occasion were presentation of a Toyota car gift and cash gift to the new priest, as well as presentation of cash gift to the new deacon by the Catholic community. It also featured presentation of various gifts to the priest and the deacon by individuals, families and groups, as well as cultural dance performances.

The new priest, Rev Fr Justin Chukwuebuka Oguocha, celebrated his First Solemn Thanksgiving Mass at the same St John’s Catholic Church, Neni, on Sunday, June 20, 2021.