By Chioma Ndife
The auxiliary Bishop of Awka Catholic Diocese, Most Rev. Jonas Benson Okoye, has laid the foundation stone of Priests' Rectory at St. Charles Catholic Church, Ihie Village, an outstation of St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Owerre-Ezukala.
Bishop Okoye laid the foundation stone of the rectory project which was commenced with the funds obtained from foreign aid on Sunday, March 17, and inaugurated the Holy Childhood Association (HCA) of St. Patrick's Parish.
Fides gathered that the outstation was created in 1937 by the then Parish Priest of Adazi Parish, Rev. Fr. Liddane, CSSP, to bring the church closer to people living far away, while the then Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Simon Okafor, made the first pastoral visit to the outstation on 24th June, 2006 to encourage the faith of faithful.
Laying the foundation stone, Bishop Okoye commended the former parish priest, Rev. Fr. Nicholas Okekeocha, who solicited and obtained foreign aid with which the current parish priest, Rev. Fr. Joachim Ezeani, kick started the project.
He beckoned on the priest to ensure effective utilization of funds and called on parishioners, both at the outstation and main parish, to assist in making funds available to ensure speedy completion of the project. He noted that the completion of the project was necessary to provide a conducive residential place for the priest that would be posted there.
He maintained that such would motivate the priest and help him to bring out his best for the development of the outstation for subsequent upgrade into the status of a parish.
Inaugurating members of the HCA of St. Patrick's Parish, Bishop Okoye beckoned on the children to live out the tenets of the association which they had accepted as members. He urged them to live their lives helping other children in need and narrated how members of the association in foreign countries saved their candy money which were used to help Nigerians during the civil war. He charged the children to imitate such and start saving money for their biscuits in order to help other children facing one difficulty or the other.
He described the association as a holy one and tasked the animators to be careful with their conduct around the children, saying that children learnt through observation.
Speaking to Fides, the attractor of the rectory fund and former parish priest, Rev. Fr. Okekeocha, who was in the parish from 2008 to 2014, explained that after some renovation work was done at the outstation at Ihie Village, it became important for a priest to live within the area.
He said that people within the outstation at Ihie were topographically cut off from other parts of the town.
He explained that after the renovation work, it became difficult for the people within the area to raise funds needed to build the rectory to provide accommodation for the priest that would live with people. He noted that the situation prompted him to solicit for funds from Rome through Propagandi Fidei. He disclosed that when the request was granted, funds were sent through the Catholic Diocese of Awka for the project.
The parish through the address read by the secretary of the Parish Pastoral Council, Ogbuefi Alex Okafor, appreciated Bishop Okoye for laying the foundation of the outstation and described it as a big encouragement to the faithful at Ihie. He said the faithful were grateful for the continued interest of other succeeding parishes of Akpu, Umunze and presently, St. Patrick's Parish in Ihie.