…As Priests, Parishioners Celebrate Parish’s Silver Jubilee in Grand Style
By Chioma Ndife and Daruwana Daku
It was a celebration of sorts as priests, religious and parishioners of St Anthony’s Parish, Ifite-Awka, in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State last Sunday rolled out their drums as they marked the 25 years of existence of their parish.
The auspicious event kick started with an Episcopal Mass officiated by the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr Paulinus Ezeokafor.
Fides gathered that the parish, formerly an outstation of St Patrick’s Cathedral, was established in 1996. In attendance at the Mass, were the pioneer parish priest, Rev. Fr. Hillary Ekwenibe, and other priests who had served in the parish, either as Parish priest or vicar.
In his address of welcome, the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Columba Okany, who expressed gratitude to God for witnessing the parish’s silver jubilee, welcomed the bishop and priests, as well as dignitaries that graced the occasion; even as he described the parish as one that befitted the status of a pro-cathedral.
Through Fr. Okany, Fides gathered that the agitation for the christening of the parish as a pro-cathedral was to push the parishioners into believing in themselves and engaging in more projects.
Fr. Okany who expressed joy at the level of progress of the parish in the last 25 years, referenced the parish’s development to the efforts of his predecessor, particularly, Rev. Fr. Cajetan Obiekezie, who groomed the seed of faith among the parishioners.
‘The past 25 years have not been easy. It has been a very big struggle. Christianity and Catholicism in Awka are going through rough times and we in Ifite also experience it. But we thank God for our predecessors’ roles. People will always acknowledge Fr. Obiekezie. He did a lot of work, especially in the area of faith and relationship with the traditional worshipers,’ Fr Okany said.
Speaking at the Visit, the Catholic prelate, Bishop Ezeokafor, who appreciated how far and well St. Anthony had come as a parish, called on the parish to maintain its own facilities and cautioned that such facilities needed adequate attention in the area of maintenance due to its size.
Bishop Ezeokafor beckoned on the parishioners and dignitaries to support the parish to enable it to take care of urgent needs like purchasing a power generating set and asphalting of its entrance.
Bishop Ezeokafor added that the silver jubilee celebration did not in any way stop the church projects from going on. He said there were more to be celebrated in the church and noted that the golden jubilee and more celebrations were still to come.
He thanked in a special way the efforts of all the past parish priests, even as he eulogized the incumbent parish priest, Fr Okany, for sustaining the pace that was set by his predecessors.
Speaking to Fides, the chairman of Awka South Local Government, Hon. Leo Nwuba, thanked God for the growth of the Catholic Church in Awka Town and refuted purported claims of the dominance of idolatry in Awka. Sir Nwuba who shared in the joy of the parishioners, encouraged them not to relent in their quest of building the parish, both in structures and in faith. He expressed optimism that the parish was worthy of becoming a pro-cathedral.
‘Having the parish upgraded to a pro-cathedral is not the decision of the parish. It is a papal decision. But I think they have merited it, considering the level of development they have now. If a pro-cathedral is to be made by what is on ground, I think they deserve it,’ he maintained.
Adding his voice on the efforts of the Catholic Church and Christian domination in Awka, the Majority Leader, Anambra State House of Assembly, Hon. Nnamdi Okafor, disabused the minds of people on the impression that Awka people were more of idolaters than Christians. According to him, Christianity and Catholicism had made a positive impact in Awka Community and had taught the people morality.
Also speaking, the wife of Anambra State Governor, Mrs. Ebelechuwku Obiano, who was represented by Lady Ngozi Nwuba, expressed delight in the life of the parish and parishioners. Lady Nwuba who appreciated the commitment and work of all the priests that had worked in the parish, expressed the hope that the parish would become a cathedral.
The 25th anniversary featured the planting of the Jubilee tree; fund raising for the procurement of a power generating set and asphalting of the church’s entrance.
Awards of merit were also giving to parishioners that had distinguished themselves in the service of the church within the years of the parish’s existence.