By Gloria Ibesi and Valerian Ejiofor
In a joyful and festive mood, the Parish Priest, Parish Pastoral Council and entire parishioners of St James Catholic Church Neni, Anaocha LGA of Anambra State, welcomed the Bishop of Awka Diocese, His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. Paulinus Ezeokafor, on his pastoral visit to the parish, Sunday, September 3, 2023, four years after his last visit.
In the Eucharist Celebration which marked the beginning of the occasion, presided over by the Bishop, Most Rev. Ezeokafor, 86 faithful received the Sacrament of Confirmation. In his sermon, His Lordship urged the faithful to desist from embracing a life of materialism, as salvation, according to him, came through the cross, which, he said, depicted suffering and sacrifice.
‘He who is a follower of Christ must bear his cross in steadfastness. Without the Cross of Christ, there will be no salvation. However, Christ will not let us bear any cross that surpasses us,’ Bishop Ezeokafor exhorted.
He also noted that the best inheritance was the Kingdom of God, adding that it was through serving the Lord well in this life that Christians could inherit the kingdom of God, even as he asked, ‘For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?’
The prelate further urged the confirmed faithful to endeavour to be useful members of the Church, their family and society at large, even as he encouraged parents to make out time to raise their children in a godly way so that they might be productive and not pose a nuisance for them and people around them.
The Episcopal Mass which was celebrated alongside many concelebrating priests, including the Diocesan Chancellor, Rev. Fr. Charles Ndubisi; Secretary to the Bishop, Rev Fr. Everistus Iheanacho; Diocesan Education Secretary, Rev Fr Maximus Okonkwo; the Episcopal Vicar of Adazi Region, Rev. Fr. Anthony Anike; Neni Deanery Coordinator, Rev Fr Henry Ezeobi, among others, had many faithful from Neni and environs in attendance.
Later, in the course of the event, the Parish Pastoral Secretary, Mr Matthias Nwaenyi, in an address of welcome, presented on behalf of the Parish Pastoral Council and the entire parishioners, appreciated the Bishop for dedicating his time to visit their parish.
He also acknowledged him for all the good work he had been doing in the diocese and for sending the priests that had helped them in building their faith. Nwaenyi further prayed God to continue to strengthen and reward the Bishop for what he described as his good work.
In a series of appreciation speeches, the Parish Priest, Rev Fr Adolphus Obi, lauded the Bishop for his care and dedication towards his people. He expressed joy at the Bishop’s visit, which, he said, would bring blessings and more growth to the parish.
The chairman of the occasion, Chief Edwin Ezeude, thanked the Bishop for coming to bless them and their parish and also to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation on some members of their parish. He prayed God to strengthen, sustain and lead him safely back home.
Bishop Ezeokafor, for his own part, appreciated the Parish Priest and members of St. James Catholic Church for their enthusiastic reception and gifts. He also recognized some members of the parish that had donated generously in one way or the other for the growth of the parish, even as he asked God to reward them all plentifully.
The event also featured the presentation of gifts to the Bishop as well as entertainment of the Bishop and the gathering by different dance troupes.