The gift of the Catholic priesthood is one of the greatest blessings that God has bestowed on humanity. Different saints and other notable men and women have had occasions to reflect on the dignity of the Catholic priesthood through the centuries. The Priesthood was instituted by Christ Himself for the good of men and women, to sanctify them; to draw them closer to himself. This is why St. Alphonsus Liguori asserts: “The end for which God has instituted the priesthood has been to appoint on earth public persons to watch over the honor of his divine majesty, and to procure the salvation of souls.” Priests, according to St Ambrose, have been made the vicars of God’s love. Centuries later, St. John Baptist Mary Vianney, patron saint of parish priests will reaffirm this point made by St Ambrose. “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus. When you see a priest, think of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
On the sublime dignity God has conferred on the priest, St. Leonard of Port Maurice notes: “What tongue, human or angelic, may ever describe a power so immeasurable as that exercised by the simplest priest in Mass? Who could ever have imagined that the voice of man, which by nature hath not the power even to raise a straw from the ground, should obtain through grace a power so stupendous as to bring from Heaven to earth the Son of God?” In a similar note, St. Francis de Sales writes: “O my child, bethink you that just as the bee, having gathered heaven’s dew and earth’s sweetest juices from amid the flowers, carries it to her hive; so the Priest, having taken the Saviour, God’s own Son, who came down from Heaven, the Son of Mary, who sprang up as earth’s choicest flower, from the Altar, feeds you with that Bread of Sweetness and of all delight.”
It is against this backdrop that Priestly Ordinations and Anniversaries are celebrated as special events in the life of the Church. They are special because of the importance of the life and ministry of Priests as evident in the submissions of the saints cited above.
Most Rev. Donatus Ogun, the Bishop of Uromi Diocese clocked 25 years in the Priesthood on the 31st of July, 2018. He was ordained priest on 31st July 1993 at St. Augustine’s Parish, Ibusa by Most Rev. Anthony Okonkwo Gbuji. On this august occasion in August, it was necessary and fitting to roll out the drums in celebration. It was an occasion for thanksgiving; an occasion to join the Chief Shepherd of Uromi Diocese in expressing gratitude to God for all He has done for His Servant and Bishop, Most Rev. Donatus Ogun and for the Church and humanity as a whole. On the actual day of the Anniversary, the Bishop celebrated the Holy Mass in thanksgiving to God for giving him a share in the Priesthood of His Son Jesus Christ and for sustaining him with His graces and blessings all through the last 25 years of his priestly life and ministry. At this thanksgiving Mass which took place at the Chapel at the Bishop House, the Celebrant was joined by the Vicar General, Diocesan Chancellor, Deans of the various deaneries of Uromi Diocese and some other Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful.
The Silver Jubilee was then celebrated in grand style on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th July 2018 at the Cathedral. On Friday there was Solemn Vespers (Evening Prayer) and Compline (Night Prayer) presided at by the Celebrant and attended by his brother Bishops, the Clergy, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful. This was immediately followed by Dinner/Get together at the Cathedral Hall. The Dinner night was a great delight as it was well animated by various presentations from the Holy Childhood Association, the Young Missionary Movement, the Novices of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the women of St Anthony Cathedral and a Live Band group led by Mr Ohonsi Osinde.
The Thanksgiving Mass on Saturday was awesome. The New Diocesan Cathedral, the venue for the Mass was filled to capacity by family members, the Clergy, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful as well as other friends and well-wishers who came from far and near to grace the occasion. The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria and Archbishop of Benin City, Most Rev. Augustine Obiora Akubeze; the Bishop of Auchi, Most Rev. Gabriel Dunia; the Bishop of Lokoja, Most Rev. Martin, Olorunmolu; the Bishop of Kano, Most Rev. John Niyiring; the Bishop of Idah, Most Rev. Anthony Adaji; the Bishop of Ondo, Most Rev. Jude Arogundade; the Bishop of Osogbo, Most Rev. John Oyejola; the Auxiliary Bishop of Onitsha, Most Rev. Denis Isizor; the Bishop of Awka, Most Rev. Jonas Benson Okoye; Major Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life; the Secretary-General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria together with 122 priests, 1 Deacon, hundreds of Consecrated Persons and thousands of Lay Faithful were present at this Mass. The Presence of the Enijie of Uromi, Igueben, Ewatto, and Ogwa as well as the representatives of other traditional rulers who could not make it personally to the celebration added beauty to the celebration.
On this occasion, the Bishop was all full of gratitude both to God and to all who have been part of his life all through his years in formation as well as all through the last twenty-five years of his priestly ministry.
The celebration equally afforded the Bishop the opportunity to publicly recognise, mention and appreciate individuals, families and institutions that have contributed immensely towards the remodeling/Expansion of St Anthony Cathedral. May God be gracious to these benefactors and grant them His choicest blessings.
In his homily, Rev. Fr Patrick Akinrimisi, OSA reflected on the life of a priest. The priest, as Late Archbishop G.G. Ganaka asserts, must be a saint, a scholar and a gentleman. He added that as one who is called to be a man of prayer and a preacher, prayer must precede his preaching. During the Mass, the Bishop danced to the Sanctuary in Thanksgiving. He was accompanied by all who were present at the Mass. At the end of the Mass, everyone was adequately catered for before the Social aspect of the celebration. The whole celebration was a beauty to behold.
While we thank God for His blessings upon our Dear Bishop and upon Uromi Diocese, it is our prayer that He may grant our dear Bishop many more years to celebrate His faithfulness and love. Amen
By Staff Reporter