- Bishop Onaga dedicates new ultra modern Church, Grotto, Chapel and Hall
By Chikezie Ogbonna and Ebere Orji
Throughout the history of the Church, the church building has been understood as a sacramental image of heaven which gives a “foretaste of the heavenly liturgy.”
The Book of Revelation gives a mystical vision of heaven, calling it the “New Jerusalem,” a radiant, jewel-like city filled with heavenly beings singing God’s praises in the eternal liturgy.
This image provides the model for every earthly church building, which, as Vatican II reminds us, manifests the “signs and symbols of the heavenly realities” in and through the medium of the arts: architecture, paintings, statues, and stained glass.
This integral meaning of the church building has been perfectly exemplified at the St. John The Beloved Parish, Greenland Estate RCC Trans- Ekulu on 11th April when they dedicated an over 500 sitting capacity ultra modern sate of the art church building with a chapel of perpetual adoration and a grotto. The Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, most Rev. Callistus Onaga was on hand to consecrate the new church building.
First created as an outstation in 2010 before being upgraded to a full fledged Parish in 2017, St John the beloved has witnessed a tremendous growth within just three years of its operation as a Parish which has become a proof and a sign of the ever faithfulness of God.
Awed by the beautiful architectural designs and the portable nature of the state of the art church building, His Lordship showered encomiums on the members of the church for their choice of materials in putting up such beautiful edifice to the glory of God.
In his homily, Bishop Onaga spoke on the theme; The house of God, the house of prayer, the house of waiting. His Lordship described the church as a community of the family of God as well as a place where sinners find refuge.
His Lordship said;
“The Church is the Body of Christ constituted by community of the faithful. At the same time, If you think of a community in the church here, we speak of a place of worship. It is a where saints communed with God, where sinners find refuge. The Church is where there must be no discrimination between saints and sinners. Sinners can become very wonderful saints. One man we should always want to copy should be St. Augustine. Another person to emulate from the scriptures would be St. Paul. Saul who turned to become Paul. We all are sinners and have been accommodated. The Church is a community of the family of God where Jews and gentiles are not different. It is a community of people. Slaves are not different from their masters. Sitting under this very roof are very top government officials and politicians, business men, lawyers, doctors and very poor people. This is the concept of the Church both as a structure and infrastructure where the common denominator is a child of God.
“Through baptism we become one. Once you are baptized you become a Christian. You become a child of God.
“Everybody has got the opportunity. God sits before you once you have lived out your life in a baptized pattern as a baptized Christian.
“Let us build a great family of God.
“God allowed his love to come down on us impartially and equitably for everybody. The only difference is your disposition to receive it. So Jesus as the advocate loves everybody, but what matters is your disposition. And sp, one thing is sure, go to his presence because he is always available. Are you available? When God knocks at your door will you be at home? Whenever you call on God, he is always at home. But when He knocks at your door, will you be at home? In simple terms, this disposition of knowing yourself to be a very special daughter or son of God.
“In the old testament, during the time of Moses, when he went up to Mount Sinai, God revealed to him the kind of church he desires. And that tradition continued. There is this inner divine architecture coming from God.
“Looking at this your church building. It falls into the same pattern we have normally in the church. A church building is either in the form of the ark of covenant or a trinitarian structure. And that is why most of the time you will find churches with wings. Those wings are not just created for nothing. They are created to represent the three persons in one God. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
“The church building is structured in such a way that it is different from other buildings. So while you’re beautifying your houses, trying to bring all kinds of modern architectural designs, the Church has one way- The one that leads you to God.
“Look at all those who contributed to the building of this church. I don’t think they were doing it in order to grow up their savings. We are doing it for God. So we are not just building a house like many others
The Church shows the way, and it is how it should be. When we are doing things in this house of God, let us be very careful. This is the house of God. It is not any other house. Today, the gospel says – do not convert my father’s house into a den of robbers. People are beginning to overlook the fact that the house of God is not a political rag. It is not where you say these are my people, and these are not. It is not done in here. It is the house of God. It is the house of prayer not a place to come in and begin to divide persons into sections.
‘We have come to pray and worship God. This is a place we pray for one another. You thank God for the gifts given to us.
The miraculous growth
His Lordship also marveled at the rate the Church grew within just three years of its creation, of this he said;
“In the former location, one man gave up his house for a priest to live there. He had wanted the church to come here today so he gave up his house. When we started here I did not know we can get up to 10 families here. I do not know how this miracle was done.
‘Keep it up! Do not allow the devil to come again.
“The devil will always be attempting to come. That is why he is the devil because it is his job. But of course with prayer our works will always be possible. This is a place of meeting where people come to interact with one and another as people who have their belief in one God. Our language remains the same.
“When we come together, we use this same language we understand to communicate with one another: The language of love. That is why we are different from others. That is why the Church makes a big difference in the world. Let patience sustain the Church and keep it going.
“Please as much as possible keep this place clean. Teach your children to clean.
“My dear Brothers and Sisters, we thank God for allowing us to build a place for him. God does not allow just anybody to build a place for him. He did not allow David to build his house, but we were given us the opportunity to build it for him and we did it with joy. I was happy watching you sing the Gloria. Everybody was smiling and singing, showing happiness. May that very light in you all grow through Christ.”
How the journey began
In his welcome address, the first Vice Chairman of the Parish Pastoral Council, Engr. Greg Nnaji who is also the Enugu State Commissioner for works, recalled how it has been a tortuous journey since 2010 when the parish first became an outstation mapped out from Holy Spirit Parish, Gulf Estate under Rev. Fr. Polycarp Okafor who was the then Parish Priest of Holy Spirit Parish.
According to Engr. Ngene, the land upon which the church was built was an abandoned swimming pool for many decades, however, it took the approval of Chief Ikeji Asogwa the then Managing Director of Enugu State Housing Development Corporation to get the land.
As an out station, the land was paid in one installment. Before they got qualified for a parish in 2017, they have built a father’s house while the Bishop gave the approval to be elevated to the statue of a parish, he said.
Continuing, Engr. Ngene said that between 2017 to date, three years, it took the temerity of the parishioners to transform the hitherto abandoned swimming pool to the church which he described as an ark of covenant.
“ It has a basement that can contain 200 people. The sitting capacity is 500 seats including the gallery”, he revealed .
Engr. Ngene further thanked God as well as all that has made contribution to the project and also reaffirmed his assurance that they have written their name in history.
A future so bright
In an interview with The Choice Flame Newspaper, the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Anthony Tochukwu Owo thanked God for his goodness and for his graciousness following the success of the dedication and consecration.
“ We are dedicating our church, our chapel, blessing our hall, parish house and the Grotto. We are simply happy and very grateful to God. It’s not by the strengthening of our minds, but by his grace.
“My message to parishioners and fellow Christians is to trust in God at all times and solely on him, as well as have good will at all times. Love one another and share God’s love”, he said.
Speaking further on how much more awaits the parish in future, Fr. Anthony said;
“Well, we have been mandated to go and proclaim the gospel. We have gotten the structure. But the structure will not achieve any aim if we do not make ourselves useful agents for the Holy Spirit. So at this point we have been given the instrument to live out the grace of God in our lives through evangelism, loving one another and serving God in our capacity.”
The Chairman of the dedication committee, Chief Chike Onodugo urged Christians to stay together in peace, which according to him will spew greater things and achievements to the glory of God. Chike Onodugo, in an Interview with The Choice Flame revealed that as part of the dedication ceremony, the planning committee organized a family fun fare, novelty football match and a visit to charity homes.
“Dedication is an opportunity to dedicate both the structure and ourselves to work for him.
“Everybody came through to support the course. As Christians we need to stay together, we need to have peace. And with peace, when men are to get together in a peaceful environment, greater things can be accomplished”, he admonished.
In the same vein, the first Catechist and one of the active members of the dedication planning committee, Ezuma Magnus Nnanna, forecasted a continuous bumper growth for the parish in all ramifications. According to him, God has commenced his great work in them.
“I am excited. I’m overjoyed at the dedication of this church. We rejoice when we heard them say ‘Let us go to the house of God’. The Bishop did remind us that first of all it is the house of God, house of prayer, house of supplication for the people of God. And it is these three things that we hope to achieve.
“I expect that this parish would remain one. As we are Christians, the beloved of the Lord, St. John de Beloved Apostle Parish, we came out from Holy Spirit parish; it is our wish that very soon we may increase in number like the mustard seed to accommodate more Catholic faithful in and around Trans Ekulu and beyond”, he prayed.
The Chairman of the occasion, Mr. George Agu expressed his excitement for being part of the ceremony while urging Christians to be steadfast in their faith amidst the many challenges and obstacles they face in today’s Nigeria. The chairman further donated the sum of 2 million naira in support of the Church Dedication.
The dedication ceremony was concluded with a reception at the end of the mass with Priests, the religious as well as diocesan executives present. The Auxiliary Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Ernest Obodo briefly joined the celebration during the reception.
Pictures from the Dedication