By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
Enugwu-Ukwu in Njikoka L.G.A of Anambra State, on Friday, June 8, 2018, played host to many dignitaries from Nigeria and beyond during the burial ceremony of a devout Catholic and mother of love, late Lady Bernice Chikaodili Okeke (Odibeze Nne-newlu Ifunanya), nee Unachukwu.
The deceased who died at the age of 61 on Easter Wednesday, April 4, 2018, was the wife of the Grand President of Ancient & Noble Order of Knight of Saint John International (KSJI), Awka Grand Commandery, Chief Sir Tony Okeke, KSJI (Ozo Nkpu Abatelie, Akalanri Enugwu-Ukwu na Umunri).
Leading in the concelebrated burial Mass that providentially fell on the Solemnity of Sacred Heart of Jesus, at St Francis' Parish, Enugwu-Ukwu, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Dr Paulinus Ezeokafor, who was represented by Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, condoled with the bereaved family over the great loss. The bishop, who eulogized late Lady Bernice Okeke for the life she spent in charity and care for the poor, prayed God to grant her soul eternal rest.
In his homily, the spiritual director of KSJI, Awka Grand Commandery, Rev. Fr. Barr. Anthony Ezeoke, described death as a necessary end, and enjoined the living to utilize the burial Mass as an opportunity to reflect on their lifestyles, and make amends where necessary, so as to enjoy heavenly inheritance at their demise.
Rev Fr. Barr. Ezeoke stressed the need for lives of peace and unity among all, and charged husbands who were not at peace with their wives to make amends, and vice versa. He noted that in the end, God would not ask them why there were not at peace with each other, but would ask the husbands, the whereabouts of their wives.
In his remarks, the chief mourner, Chief Tony Okeke, KSJI, commended all who joined the family in prayers and Holy Masses for the repose of the soul of their late beloved wife, mother and grandmother, as well as wished the family comfort over the devastating loss, for their goodwill.
Sir Okeke, who is also the 2nd Vice Chairman of Nimo Regional Pastoral Council, described his late wife as his perfect soul mate, a woman of virtue and a mother of love and compassion, who was very dear, not only to him and her immediate family, but to many others.
Late Lady Bernice Okeke fondly known as Odibeze Nne-newlu Ifunanya, was a religious and community leader, who was an apostle of truth, selfless service, justice, transparency, discipline and hard work. She was survived by her husband, Chief Sir Tony Okeke; five children- Chinasa Tobe-Iloabachie, Chidozie Tony-Okeke, Ifeomachukwumerem Martins-Ojiegbe, Engr. Ofordile Tony-Okeke and Onyekachi Otiora, grandchildren and numerous relations.
Among the cream of sympathisers were the Supreme Subordinate President of Ancient & Noble Order of Knight of Saint John International, Nigeria, Noble Bro. Dan Okekenta, KSJI; the Supreme Respected President of Lady Auxiliary of St John International, Nigeria, Lady Barr. Georgina Onyezuluigbo, who was represented by Lady Rita Okpaleke; the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, His Excellency, Dr Nkem Okeke and HRM Igwe Sir Ralph O. Ekpeh (Okpalanakana Ukpabia IV), Eze Enugwu-Ukwu na Igwe Umunri, with his wife, HRM Lady Dorah C. Ekpeh (Okpu Eze).