By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
In what they described as gratitude to God for the gift of the celebrant, who has been a caring father and exemplary Catholic priest to all, the vicars, religious and parishioners of St Patrick's Cathedral Parish, Awka, Awka South L.G.A, Anambra State, on Sunday, June 30, 2019, celebrated the Cathedral Administrator, Very Rev Fr Dr Matthew Attansey, on the occasion of his 40th Priestly Anniversary.
Leading in his concelebrated thanksgiving Mass which he described as a Mass of gratitude to God, Rev Fr Matthew Attansey said, 'I thank the Almighty God who in His Fatherly love and kindness, has picked a nonentity like me and made me something as prestigious as a Catholic priest in the order of Melkizedek'.
He appreciated the various priests he had worked with and the people of God he had ministered to, throughout the 40 years he has spent in the priestly vocation for their supports and collaborative spirit.
Fr Attansey commended the first cathedral administrator of St Patrick's Cathedral, Very Rev Msgr Prof John Paul Nzomiwu and the various priests that spurred him to priestly formation, and mentored him in the course of the formation for what he described as the good foundation they laid for him. The celebrant also appreciated his late parents, Mr Aaron and Mrs Catherine Attansey, and his siblings for supporting him to his priestly formation and calling.
Rev Fr Attansey, who was ordained a Catholic priest as one of the foundation priests of Awka Catholic Diocese at the old St Patrick's Cathedral, Awka on June 30, 1979, was the first indigenous priest of Isuanaocha, Awka North L.G.A, Anambra State.
The celebrant, who is also the Episcopal Vicar of Awka Catholic Region, had exercised his pastoral duties in many other parishes, among which were parochial vicar, St Joseph's Parish, Ekwulobia, August 1, 1979 to August 1, 1980; pioneer parish priest, St John the Baptist Parish, Ezinifite, August 1980 to February 2, 1981, parish priest, St Joseph's Parish, Umunze, 1981 to 1985 and parish priest, Our Lady of Assumption Parish, Nimo, 1988 to 1993. He also served as a pastor in many parishes at Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, USA from 1998 to 2012.
Rev Fr Attansey fondly known as Odirachukwumma, whose humour and cordial relationship with people endeared him to many, also served as the President General, Isuaniocha Development Union and member, Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU), 1989 to 1998; Chief Chaplain, Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria, Awka Diocese, 1991 to 1998 and Assistant Director I, Fides Communications, Okpuno, 2013 to 2016, among others.
In his homily of the Holy Mass, the celebrant's immediate junior at the seminary, Rev Fr Barr Anthony Ezeoke, described priestly anniversary as the celebration of the triumph of God's grace.
Rev Fr Barr Ezeoke, who based his reflections on the readings of the Sunday, described the readings (I Kings 19; 16, 19-21; Galatians 5:1, 13-18 and Luke 9:51-62), as very apt to the priestly anniversary celebration.
Tracing the formation to priesthood of Rev Fr Attansey from 1965 he entered All Hallows Seminary at Awka to 1969 the seminary was moved to Ukpor, up to his priestly ordination in June 1979, Fr Ezeoke, identified the various difficulties encountered in the course of the formation.
The homilist, who took the congregation back to the ordination rites, noted that at the recitation of the Litany of Saints and prayer of consecration, the ordinands were transformed from mere human to another Christ. He added that as ministers, who work with the power of God, Catholic priests carry out their spiritual duties of to lead, teach and sanctify the people of God.
Pointing out that the anniversary was a moment of stock taking for the priest and sober reflection for all, Fr Ezeoke thanked God for the gift of the lay faithful, who the priests minister to, and who in turn, support the priests. He reminded the laity of the need that they pray for the priests for the grace of perseverance on them.
He prayed that the grace of God which Fr Attansey cooperated with throughout his 40 years in priesthood, would continue to be with him, and lead him to perfection.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the Planning Committee, Rev Fr Polycarp Chimaobi Okoye, extolled the celebrant for his fatherly love and care. Fr Okoye, who is the assistant cathedral administrator II, thanked the parishioners, friends of the celebrant and all that graces and supported the event for their sacrifices and goodwill which contributed to its success.