It was indeed an epoch making event that would forever remain in the hearts and consciousness of entire faithful of Uromi diocese, the entire Esanland and indeed, the Catholic Church in Nigeria as the Catholic Diocese of Uromi marked her 10 years of existence.
The celebration was at St Anthony Cathedral-Uromi, on April 22 and 23, 2016, respectively. The event drew eminent Church men and women, prominent Esan sons and daughters, men and women from all works of life. Notable among them were: John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, Papal Nuncio to Nigeria – Archbishop Augustine Kasujja, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze (Benin City), Archbishop Patrick Ekpu (Emeritus), Archbishop Alaba Job (Emeritus) and a host of 27 other Bishops from different parts of Nigeria, Priests and Religious also from within and outside the diocese of Uromi, clergymen from other Christian denominations and traditional rulers from different parts of Esanland. Others were, Governor Adams Oshiomole of Edo State, Rt. Hon. Charles Osezua – Chairman of the occasion, Chief Tony Anenih, Chief Lee Ikpea, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan (Former governor of Delta State), Chief and Dr Mrs Arumemi Johnson, Engr E.J.S Uujamhan, Chief Tom Ikimi, Chief Dr Edebiri, Rt. Hon. Matthew Egbadon, Senator Clifford Odia, Rt. Hon. Friday Itulah and a host of other political bigwigs, elder statesmen and renowned individuals in their own right.
The ceremony began at 10am with a Solemn Mass of thanksgiving with the Bishop of Uromi, Most Rev. Donatus Ogun as the Chief Host and Celebrant. In his welcome address Bishop Ogun while welcoming all present, paid glowing tributes to Archbishops Patrick Ekpu and Augustine Akubeze. He informed all present that though he became one year old as a bishop in January, he decided to be silent about it to give way for the diocesan celebration of Ten Years Anniversary, which is a landmark in the life of the diocese. While thanking God for the providence to celebrate, he noted that this celebration is our own magnificat as a diocese.
Most Rev. Anthony Adaji, bishop of Idah Diocese, in his homily thanked God for his love and providence. ‘Who will see what we are seeing today and will not thank God. Great is our God; great indeed is His might,’ he said. ‘Today, we have come here to thank God for what he has done. In the creation and erection of Uromi Diocese, God has brought his salvation nearer to his people in this ecclesiastical jurisdiction – the Local Church which we know today as Uromi Diocese. It is right to give him unending thanks and praise, for He not only directed the course of the creation of this diocese but also sustained it splendidly in these past ten years. The accelerated development we see here is not the work of man but the fruits of His sustaining grace. He has done all things well, and in this diocese he has manifested his presence.’
He continued by acknowledging the sacrifices of the early missionaries who sowed the seed of faith in Esanland, and also reminded all present that Archbishop Emeritus Patirck Ekpu cannot be left out of the list of those God has used to bring about the creation of Uromi Diocese. He worked hard; he was no stranger to humiliation and suffering which he bore with apostolic fortitude. He was an important instrument of God for the creation of the Diocese. ‘In the past ten years, Uromi Diocese has got two Bishops; however, the life of Archbishop Akubeze cannot be separated from the history of the diocese as its first bishop who guided the diocese in her early and formative stage.’
He drew reflections from the readings of the day (Is. 63:7-9; Heb.5;1-10; Lk 10;17-24). The prophet Isaiah reminds us that gratitude flows as fruit of knowledge of the gratuitous favour of the Lord. A heart therefore that counts its blessings is prone to gratitude as is the case of the people of Uromi Diocese. He thus admonished the priests to work, cooperate and support one another and key into the pastoral vision of the bishop. He praised the laity of Uromi diocese who he said are well known for their generosity and implored them never to abandon this path of generosity. He concluded by reminding all that a diocese is a divine institution which cannot be built on human ingenuity. Thus, the life of a diocese revolves around God and He alone takes the central stage, hence he urged all to
be people of prayer and never to relent in their devotion to the Eucharist.
After the Liturgy of Eucharist, Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu, Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria made a presentation of all the bishops present which was followed by Goodwill messages. In his message of goodwill, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama represented by the Vice President, Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze congratulated all present and recalled how the diocese metamorphosed from its early stage Ten Years ago to where it is now. He paid tributes to High Chief Tony Anenih for his contributions and encouraged all to collaborate with the bishop and informed all present that the CBCN was pleased with the diocese and thus prayed for the intercession of St. Anthony of Padua, patron Saint of the diocese.
On his part, the Papal Nuncio to Nigeria expressed the warm wishes of the Holy See to the entire diocese. He admonished the entire diocesan faithful to be always hospitable as they have always been and to see each other always as members of one family. Bishop Ogun expressed his joy and thanks and that of the entire diocese to the CBCN for their presence and prayed journey mercies for them as they return to their dioceses. He thanked all those who have contributed immensely to the growth of the diocese for the past ten years and presented awards to some Sons and daughters and friends of the Diocese who have immensely contributed to the building of the diocese in a special way.
The executive Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, who was also given an award for his contributions thanked the Bishop, faithful and all Esan people. He encouraged the church to be steadfast in prayers for the country which he noted has helped a great deal in keeping our country together. He therefore used the occasion to call on all politicians of the state to unite so as to enhance the growth and development of the state.
Another awardees Chief Tony Anenih expressed gratitude to God, Archbishop Akubeze and Bishop Ogun for the honour done to him and promised to do more in taking the diocese to greater heights. Former Governor of Delta State who was also honored at the event, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, dedicated the award to his mother who hailed from Ubiaja and thanked the diocese. He however appealed to the state Governor to return missions schools to the church.
After the mass, guests and all present were treated to a warm reception within the premises of the Cathedral. The reception was chaired by Rt. Hon. Charles Osezua. It began with an opening prayer led by the Vicar General, Very Rev. Fr. Francis Omonlumen after which a welcome address was delivered by the Chairman Organizing Committee of the Celebration, Rev. Fr. Theophilus Itaman. It was indeed a colourful event which featured the traditional breaking of kolanut, cutting of the anniversary cake by the Bishop accompanied by the chairman and some priests and religious. The
Catholic Women Organization of Uromi Diocese presented a welcome dance after which various dance groups from Oyomon, Usugbenu etc., took to the stage and entertained all present.
One of the high point of the event was the very transparent raffle draw to mark the anniversary celebration which saw Ten (10) lucky winners smiling home with various gifts items as consolation prizes, while two winners came from Lumen Christi School as winners of a brand new Refrigerator and Motorcycle as the 3rd and 2ND star prizes respectively. The first prize, a brand new Kia Rio car went to one Ojukwu Maxwell of Mary the Queen Catholic Church, Ekpoma. The key was presented by the Bishop who thanked all for their participation in making the celebration a huge success.
The chairman gave the closing remarks which was followed by the benediction by the bishop which brought the celebration to an end. As the faithful retired to their homes, there was visible joy on the faces of all as the memory of the celebration would definitely continue to linger on in the hearts of all for a long time to come.
By Staff Reporter