As Ugorji ordains 16 priests
After close to five years of ecclesiastical battle occasioned by the appointment of Bishop Peter Ebele Okpaleke as Catholic Bishop of Ahiara Diocese, activities have resumed in top gear in the diocese. Most visible was the recent ordination of 16 priests by the current leadership of the diocese, His Lordship Most Rev. Lucius I. Ugorji. TAI ANYANWU reports
Mbaise in Imo State, said to be reputed for producing the highest number of Catholic Priests in Africa, recently, was avid with activities in preparation for the epoch-making moment being the ordination of 16 of their sons into the Catholic priesthood.
Some of those for ordination had actually spent 23 years in their search of the priesthood, especially as a result of the Ahiara crisis. Hence the people rolled out the drums to savour the unique occasion.
Their joy was as ecstatic and exciting as relations and associates converged at the massive Cathedral of Maria Mater Ecclesiae Cathedral, Ahiara on the 4th of May when the Ordaining Prelate, His Lordship Most Rev. Lucius I. Ugorji, the Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Diocese confirmed the priests ordained.
“My prayer is there should be no more crises, never again will there be crises in Ahiara, Mbaise; it will be forward ever and backward never. We thank God for ensuring peace which made it possible for the ordination of these our brothers, 16 of them. So we thank God for the peace in the diocese,” Ugorji said.
The first reading at the Mass was taken from the book of Jeremiah. Buttressing the scripture, Ugorji said God is indeed concerned about His people and that was why he sent prophets. He added that prophets are messengers of God; those God has chosen to bring message to His people.
“God chose Jeremiah, today He is choosing those He will send for the dissemination of His word, because of the concern God has for His people, for the salvation of his people in Ahiara Diocese,” Ugorji stated.
Among the 16 people ordained was Reverend Father Christogonus Chinonso Okonko, who on the second day after the priestly ordination, celebrated his 1st Holy Mass of Thanksgiving at Christ the King Catholic Church Okpofe, where he thanked God and all those visible and invisible who helped in one way or the other to ensure his attainment of priesthood. He prayed to almighty God to take over those responsibilities which he would have shouldered in his family.
While thanking those who nurtured the young priests especially their parents, Ugorji stated that the process of ordination of priests is a serious and delicate business when he said “I asked the question if these ones are qualified to be priests and the answer was in affirmation. I asked those responsible for ordination of priests and they affirmed that they are qualified, I asked the Christian community through communication of bans, I asked their trainers, they also bore testimonies. So it is on the basis of all that we are doing what we are doing today. It will be an exercise in futility if the bishop goes ahead to ordain them without these witnesses according to the demands of the canon law of the church”
He went further to explain that it was wrong to put pressure on the bishop to ordain any particular person as priest “If you push the bishop to ordain somebody as reverend father, it is not valid. If it is done without the recommendation of those concerned, it can be valid but illicit, illegal, so it is a very delicate process, so we do this according to the direction of God, and those that make recommendation must also do so without fear or favour, Ugorji stated.
Ugorji urged the new priests to live a life worthy of emulation. “The people must see Christ in your actions, in your speech, there must be integrity, living in imitation of Christ and in holiness”He also told them that the church recommends a life of prayer, “You must live a virtuous life and growing in holiness. The church recognizes a life of prayer,” Ugorji advised.
In the end the new priests were asked if they were prepared to serve the lord and they agreed that they were prepared. He urged the newly ordained priests to respect their respective parish priests and the bishop.
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