It was with great enthusiasm that the parishioners of St. Benedict Catholic Church, Ubiaja awaited the 3-Day pastoral visit of the chief shepherd of Uromi Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Donatus Ogun, since the last of such kind of special visit took place in the year 2010, over eight years ago, when the immediate past Bishop of Uromi Diocese, the Archdiocese of Benin City, His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Augustine Akubeze, visited the parish. For this reason all the parishioners trooped out on Friday 25th January, 2019 to welcome His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. Donatus Ogun who arrived Ubiaja at about 12:15 pm while those who are mobile went as far as the railway along Uromi – Ubiaja road to wait for him, all others lined up the route from the Sacred Heart Girls’ Model Secondary School, Ubiaja to the church gate. On his arrival, he alerted from his vehicle at the point where parishioners were waiting for him and was immediately presented with a complete Esan traditional attire “Igbu, Ijakpa et al’’ and the presentation of a bouquet followed next.
From that point, the Bishop walked majestically amongst the jubilating parishioners who sang and danced to the church. When all was settled, he was immediately greeted with a detailed address cum report on the entire Ubiaja parish. It was presented by Sir A.A Idonin, KSM. The report captured the history of St. Benedict Catholic Church as the doyen parish of Esanland, being founded as far back as 1906. The report also stated that Ubiaja parish has the greatest number of outstations, twenty-three (23), the report equally explained the operations of the zones in all the stations that make up Ubiaja parish, the primary organizations, C.M.O.N, C.W.O.N, C.Y.O.N and the H.C.A, the Apostolate groups and their sources of income.
In the report, it was also mentioned that the parishioners of St. Benedict Catholic Church and the entire Ubiaja Community are waiting anxiously to see work commence in the proposed Pastoral Centre site, the promise made to them when Uromi Diocese was created.
After the presentation of the address, His Lordship, in the company of the Parish Priest, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Joseph Ehimen, his two assistants, Frs. Frederick Asuelimen and Emmanuel Isuogu, the Bishop’s Secretary, Rev. Fr. Gregory Abuya and some parishioners proceeded to visit one of the outstations, St. Augustine Catholic Church, Okhuesan. There, His Lordship saw the people and spoke with them one on one, and then visited the site of their ongoing rectory and new church building projects which they said one of their sons, Mr. John Darlinton, promised to build for them. The Resource Centre which the Victoria Omonzele Egbe Foundation is building in memory of the mother of another of their son, Very Rev. Fr. Peter Egbe was equally visited. The Chief Shepherd was highly impressed with their effort.
From Okhuesan, his Lordship went back to the church for a brief rest, after which he went to another outstation, St. Raphael Catholic Church, Ukpaja, also with his team. There, he also interacted with the people. Out of his generosity, he promised to give them 200 bags of cement for the flooring of their church building when they must have completed the roofing.
The activities on the second day of the visit began at 8:30 am with the journey to St. Augustine Catholic Church, Illushi, where his Lordship celebrated the Holy Mass. During the homily, he officially declared Illushi station autonomous at exactly 9:44 am with Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Umanhonlen as the priest in charge. This gave the parishioners of Illushi great joy and there was great jubilation. His Lordship then told them that being autonomous goes with some responsibilities. They need to, among other commitments, take good care of the priest in charge who will live with them and work for them. After the Mass, the chief shepherd visited the rented apartment for the priest and from there he and his entourage moved to the site of the on-going church building and rectory projects. He commended the efforts of the people and promised to do the flooring of the church building when they finish the roofing work.
From Illushi the Bishop and his entourage visited another outstation, St. Mary Catholic Church, Augustine camp. His Lordship commended the efforts of the faithful in erecting a place of worship and promised to re-roof their church with some of the long-span roofing sheets removed from the former Cathedral Church building at Uromi.
Other Outstations which the Bishop visited are St. Gregory the Great Catholic church, Eguare Oria, St. John Catholic Church, Onogholo and SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Ahia/Udakpa. In the evening of that same second day, there was an interactive session in the main station, Ubiaja, where His Lordship entertained many questions from the parishioners. During this exercise, the Bishop promised to build a standard Nursery & Primary School at Ubiaja since the proposed Pastoral Centre may not take off soon. He said that more good things are on the way for Ubiaja. He encouraged Ubiaja sons and daughters to support him to make it faster.
The last day of the pastoral visit was Sunday 27th January 2019. Instead of our routine two Masses, we had only one which started at 9:30 am. During the Mass. 110 Candidates from all the stations that make up the parish received the Sacrament of Confirmation. His Lordship made the newly confirmed to understand that they are now soldiers of Christ and that soldiers are a people who are ready to suffer for whatever course they are pursuing. He, therefore, enjoined them to be ready to embrace suffering and pain for the sake of the Gospel. He concluded by saying that to witness to Christ is a call to martyrdom and that the greatest miracle is to do the will of God.
At the end of the Mass, His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. Donatus Ogun, concluded his pastoral visit to Ubiaja with a courtesy call at the Royal Palace where he met with H.R.H. Zaiki Curtis Iredia Eidenojie. To make good his promise to build a standard Nursery & Primary School at Ubiaja, he requested a piece of land from his Royal Highness.
The priests, the consecrated persons and the entire worshipping community of St. Benedict Catholic Church Ubiaja, and the entire Ubiaja people sincerely appreciate his Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. Donatus Ogun for this great honor done us with this three days visit during which he has generously promised us many good things. May the Almighty God grant him good health of mind and body, the strength and wisdom to carry this Diocese to greater heights in all ramifications through Christ Our Lord. Amen.