By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
Thirteen new priests have been added to the Awka Catholic Diocese. The priests were ordained, July 21, at St Patrick's Cathedral, Awka, by the Bishop of the Diocese, Most Rev Dr. Paulinus Ezeokafor, in a well-attended Holy Mass.
Out of the 13 new priests, 10 were ordained for the Catholic Diocese of Awka, 2 for the Society of Catholic Apostolate (SAC) Congregation and 1, for the Catholic Diocese of Mamfe, Cameroun.
The concelebrated priestly ordination Mass which attracted many faithful from some countries of the world, had the Catholic bishop of Linz Diocese, Austria, Most Rev Dr. Manfred Scheuer; the Catholic bishop of Ilorin Diocese, Nigeria, Most Rev Ayo-Maria Atoyebi, O.P. and over 300 Catholic priests from Nigeria, Austria, Cameroun, and beyond, as concelebrants.
During the ordination rites, the congregation that filled the giant St Patrick's Cathedral Church, Awka to the brim, stood enthralled as the ordinands, who prostrated for the litany of the saints, had their hands anointed by the bishop, knelt for their vows of obedience before the bishop and for laying on of hands. They then received their tools of office, as well as the kiss of peace, before they were clothed with stole and chausible.
In his homily, the ordaining prelate and Catholic bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Ezeokafor, described the priestly ordination in which men who were chosen among men to act for the people of God in their relations with God, as a thing of joy and thanksgiving to God.
He tasked the priests and the lay faithful on holiness, urging them to be perfect just like their father in heaven, and by so doing, justify their calling in life. This was even as the bishop enjoined the laity to give their priests the necessary cooperation and support they needed to excel in their priestly formation. The bishop commended the seminary sponsors, who assisted in training of the priests in the course of their formation to priesthood.
Addressing the priests, Bishop Ezeokafor said, 'You are no longer ordinary man, but part man, part spirit. You are now co-presbyters with Christ, so serve the people of God and uphold the vows of priesthood which you took'.
He noted that the long years of careful formation which those in the process to priesthood were given, was due to the great dignity of priesthood, which was the highest rank for those chosen for the vocation.
Bishop Ezeokafor charged the priests to be embodiments of constant prayer lives and exemplary character, carry out their priestly responsibilities dutifully, believe in what they preach and live by what they preach, so as to be noble and ideal priests after the mind of God.
The bishop, who warned the faithful to beware of fake priests and female religious which had gone rampant, urged parents and relations to ensure that their children and relatives who desired the priestly and religious vocations, chose the authentic process approved by the Church, so as to sustain the dignity of priesthood. He condemned the rate at which fake priests, and mostly, fake sisters contaminate the sacredness of the vocation with the habits they sew and wore themselves, even as he maintained that habit does not make a reverend sister.
The Catholic prelate also commended Gov Willie Obiano of Anambra State for the manner in which he took good care of the delegation from Catholic Diocese of Linz, Austria, in security and welfare.
Speaking on the occasion, the Executive Governor of Anambra State, His Excellency, Dr Willie Obiano, congratulated the newly ordained priests and their families for the gifts of the priests to the Church.
He thanked God for the increased number of priests in Awka Catholic Diocese, saying that Awka Diocesan Catholic priests had excelled in their priestly vocation both in Awka Diocese and other diocese in Nigeria and beyond.
Gov. Obiano, who shared his experience with Bishop Scheuer of the Catholic Diocese of Linz, noted that out of the 17 Nigerian indigenous Catholic priests ordained for the Catholic Diocese of Linz, 5 were from Awka Catholic Diocese. He expressed his conviction that the good experience Bishop Scheuer and his delegation from Austria had for the over one week they were in Anambra State would last in their memory for a long time.
The newly ordained priests were Rev Fr. Fidelis Odunukwe of St Albert the Great Catholic Parish, Oraukwu; Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ezeani of St Augustine's Parish, Ichida; Rev. Fr. Chibuike Ezeanyim of St Vincent De Paul Parish, Uga; Rev Fr. Adolphus Nwoye of St. Michael's Parish, Nawgu; Rev. Fr. Henry Oduenyi of Our Lady of Assumption Parish, Nimo and Rev. Fr. Stephen Okeke of Christ the King Parish, Adazi-Nnukwu.
Other were Rev. Fr. Livinus Okafor of St. Peter's Parish, Adazi-Ani; Rev. Fr. Evaristus Oramah of Christ the King Parish, Adazi-Nnukwu; Rev. Fr. Bonaventure Ofolete of Holy Name Parish, Umuchu; Rev. Fr. Bartholomew of St. Martin's Parish, Igboukwu; Rev. Fr. Michael Orji, SAC of SS John & Paul Parish, Awka; Rev. Fr. Joachim Tobechukwu, SAC of St. Dominic's Parish, Mbaukwu and Rev. Fr. Cletus Ntube of Mamfe Diocese, c/o St. Patrick's Cathedral Parish, Awka.
The new priests celebrated their First Solemn Thanksgiving Masses at their various home parishes on Sunday, July 22, 2018.