Bishop Onah Visits Ette Catholic Community

By Innocent Ugwoke

Happiness and Joy in Ette Catholic community as Bishop Onah

• Reinstalls Blessed Sacrament

• Anoints 370 Soldiers of Christ

• Restores peace, unity

The Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Most Rev. Prof. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah has on the 25th day of August, 2017 embarked on a three-day pastoral visit to the once crisis laden Ette community in Igbo-Eze North, Local Government Area of Enugu State. During the pastoral visit on August 25, 2017, the Father Bishop who was led by the Parish Priest of St James’s Catholic Church, Ette, Rev. Fr. John Eze visited some out stations of the parish which include Effeche and Ogodo stations. At these stations, the Father Bishop after series of catechesis on the doctrines of the Church especially the need to replicate the love of God to everyone we encounter in this world; for love is the epicenter of the commandments of God, celebrated the first ever Episcopal Mass at the stations.

He equally taught them amongst their unanswered questions and confusion, that there is the need for the living to pray for the dead, maintaining that such prayers could help them reach their destination, which is the kingdom of God in heaven. His words: "The prayer of the Church helps the dead to reach his or her final destination. Our prayers can help the dead to turn to God. We pray for those who are dead to meet God and we pray to our brothers and sisters who are there already to intercede for us. This is what we call the Communion of the Saints. Any human being who says we should not pray for the dead or to the Saints is either saying that the Saints are dead or that we should not ask our brothers to pray for us.”

The Chief Shepherd continued his journey to Ette on August 26 during which he visited other stations that gathered at Ijekpe amidst massive joy and jubilation at his presence by most of the people who thought it was an impossibility to behold the Local Ordinary given the crises and inaccessibility recorded by the community. Enlightening them on the need to show love to all as love is paramount in the lives of every Christian, the Bishop remarked; “All wicked people are suffering from lack of love. Give him or her more love and you will see the person being so happy. Distribute love and you will see love in your heart but if you distribute wickedness, you will see wickedness in your heart. Wicked people are in need of love, continue to love them." The Bishop admonished the spirit-filled congregation to embrace love, peace and unity, adding that they are the core qualities, values and insignia of true Christians. He challenged them to always stand for truth irrespective of the tribulations and sufferings they may encounter for they will certainly be justified and truth will set them free on the last day.

In his words; “Those who stand for the truth in any community are always persecuted. Those who are against the truth or love will always feel uncomfortable and fight those who stand for the truth. Even here in Ette, there are those who suffer such wickedness and this is Crystal clear in families between husband and wife just because the truth was told.” Father Bishop concluded his teachings at Ijekpe with a historic and remarkable Holy Mass in the station since it was the first time a bishop has celebrated the Holy Mass at the station. During the Eucharist celebration, he emphasized and brought to limelight the outstanding qualities of Ruth and Naomi as emphasized in the first reading, challenging them to imitate and follow their footsteps. Following the story of Naomi and Ruth, he maintained that God has a way of doing things, urging them to always do good for God will always reward all good deeds.

The Father Bishop equally prayed them to obey the good advice of those who are in charge of them. The Bishop stressed that every authority in the Catholic Church is placed in the position by Jesus Christ himself, urging all to listen and obey what they teach. He also admonished the brethren never to follow such authorities in disobeying God when they do not practice what they teach. "Priests and bishops are your brothers and they are tempted as you yourselves are tempted. Always pray for them. Today we have too many prophets who ordained themselves. We must be careful with them. Any priest you see in the Catholic Church was ordained by another person who was in turn ordained by another person. They did not ordain themselves," he continued.

Father Bishop challenged them to be careful with such false prophets, adding that some of them are agents of the devil who are working in the name of Jesus even when their powers are from Satan. He noted that there are others who perform miracles in the name of Jesus but are not interested in what Jesus teaches but rather are interested in enriching their pockets thereby getting their victims poorer. However, according to Chief Shepherd, the consolation is that on that fateful day some will say to Jesus, Lord did we not work miracles in your name? Did we not cast out demons in your name? But he will tell them to get away from him for they did not keep his commandments. Delivering a homily during the Confirmation Mass on August 27, Father Bishop urged the massive congregation to eschew the spirit of disunity and embrace love and total peace as the time for division is over. In his words he said "the message of love, peace, unity, fidelity to Christ, reconciliation, forgiveness, witnessing to Christ among one another are the messages I bring to you."

He challenged those who received the Sacrament of Confirmation to live out what they have received to their neighbors in a manner fitting to Christians and Catholics in Nsukka Diocese. “You should always bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit in your lives wherever you are; schools, offices, shops, market places, families and among friends and most importantly in your communities for peace and unity to reign,” the Bishop preached. Laying credence to the gospel narratives, Bishop Onah put a similar question that Christ posed to his disciple to the people of God; who do people say you are? He reminded them that when people are saying things about them, they are often wrong saying; “They do not know who you are; do not waste your time replying them. Do not waste your time on rumour and gossip.”

He continued: “Just as the Spirit from the Father allowed Peter to know that Christ was the son of God, are you opened to the Holy Spirit to tell you who Christ is or is the culture of your fathers and forefathers blocking you from listening to the Holy Spirit? “Are you opened to what God is telling you about himself or do you allow your culture to prevent you from listening to what God is telling you about himself? We should know that God existed before our culture, therefore we should allow the Spirit that we have received today to always lead us.” At the end of the Holy Mass, the Blessed Sacrament was reinstalled in the renovated chapel at the parish center amidst cheers and jubilation by the Catholic community.

Recall that during the period of the crisis that rocked and shattered the community, some of the agitating members of the community destroyed, polluted and desecrated the house of God. But be that as it may, the Father Bishop in his words reassured the people of the community that with the reinstallation of the Blessed Sacrament in the parish and in the name of the Holy Spirit which they have received, that pardon has been granted to all those who have in one way or the other offended the church. In an address presented by the Parish Council, the people of Ette were highly appreciative of the Catholic Bishop for his endless love for his diocese and for remembering Ette Catholic Community and beyond.

“From the depths of our hearts, we sincerely welcome you in our midst principally for your innumerable fatherly care for us at the time of our difficult moments; and even when the tides ebbed away. You extended your true love to us even when some tend to misunderstand you,” the address added. They equally enumerated the various charitable works done for them by the Father Bishop when the current administration was against them during their crisis such as donation of a car to their priest and financial assistance the construction of the parish church. Elder Mama, Secretary General of Ette Elders Council at the same time appreciated the visit of the Bishop. According to him, because the Bishop have stepped feet in Ette, they are blessed. “By seeing you, I have seen the Pope of the world. I Pray God to increase your years. You have seen that Ette people love you.” He said. The Honourable Member representing Ette in Enugu State House of Assembly, Hon. Tony Ogidi in his remark equally appreciated Bishop Onah for visiting Ette, promising to deliver the Bishop’s message of infrastructural development to Enugu State government. “I must confess that the government is ready to work here, but because of the problem in Ette sometime ago, they were restricted and handicapped. I will make sure things are followed up to develop our land. Ette people are very industrious. Ette is one and must remain one, added the Honourable Member. In his response, Bishop Onah told them categorically without equivocation that being in their midst makes him happy. He continued that during the crisis in Ette; “I was advised to use force and confiscate the trouble makers, but instead I knelt to my God for lasting solution and finally the lasting Peace of God has returned”.

“I have heard your requests in your different stations for parishes. Do your own parts for God wants your heart and soul to be converted to him”. Let your hearts be a house of God. Every land was created by God. Give us land where we will establish Church things. Whatever you give to God returns to you in 10 folds. I want to see 100% Catholic behavior in Ette,” Bishop Onah said. He continued: “The church divided because people were selfish. I am more worried than you about what happens when women die. I will study that and give you reply. I am not interested in your burial rites, but I am interested in seeing you in heaven. If your burial rites do not help you to see Christ, forget about it and allow the dead to bury the dead. Let all our cultures meet Jesus. Many of what our ancestors did was out of ignorance.”

In conclusion, the Father Bishop passionately said; “As I go home today, I go happy, thanking God and carrying all of you in my heart, blessing you. Let us unite our hands to make our place good. Let it be said that Nigeria is bad but that there is one town that is good and that is Ette.” The end of the occasion was marked by refreshment and presentation of gift items to the Father Bishop by the Catholic community. Some cultural groups were also present and their warm displays did nothing but added glamour to the event.

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