– A glance at the Task, the Spirit, the Grace and the Glory.
By Chikezie Ogbonna
The year 2021 in Enugu diocese has been fully packed with lots of events, programmes and activities that are causes of thanksgiving and praise to the Almighty, in whom we live, move and have our being. One can actually describe this year as a year of pleasant surprises. Coming into 2021 with relative trepidation and palpable hope, the faithful in Enugu diocese looked forward to a year that will go on to be a glorious year for the faithful in the diocese.
The Year of St. Joseph
From the beginning of the year, the diocese braced up for the year of St. Joseph. The Holy Father Pope Francis in 2020 proclaimed “Year of St Joseph”.With the Apostolic Letter “Patriscorde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis recalls the 150th anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To mark the occasion, the Holy Father proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph” from today, 8 December 2020, to 8 December 2021.
Enugu diocese through His Lordship, Bishop Callistus Onaga took the celebration to the fore with a plan that spanned through an official inauguration and benediction to mark the beginning of the year on the 28th January at Holy Ghost Cathedral, Enugu. The yearlong celebration witnessed seminars for priests, the religious as well as the laity. Other programs included pilgrimage, Parish celebration, diocesan celebration and support for the poor. In fact, the activities marking the Year of St. Joseph in Enugu diocese could be described as something filled with deep spiritual upliftment and extra-ordinary divine encounter.
The diocesan committee of the Year of St. Joseph headed by Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Igweshi were so committed to the cause as they helped oversee the full participation of all the faithful and effective celebration in various parishes and chaplaincies in Enugu diocese. The grand finale of the year of St. Joseph came much earlier on the 4th of December at St. Paul Parish Ozalla,
The Lenten Pastoral Letter that spews hope and unalloyed trust in God
“This Hope does not disappoint us” (Rom. 5:5). This beautiful scriptural text seems to summarize the awe-inspiring theological reflection on the virtue of Hope in the 2021 Lenten Pastoral Letter of Bishop Callistus Onaga tagged: SPERO IN DEO (HOPE IN GOD).
It is crafted in a very simple language, with a very touching portrayal of the reality of human suffering and predicament, but above all the ever-abiding gift of Hope that makes sense of human existence and purpose.
Flipping through the pages, one could immediately see that the aim of SPERO IN DEO is to buttress the fact that it is only by relying on God and his assistance that we can pull through the trying times we are living in, which pose a serious challenge to both our existential survival and our Christian faith. That is to say, God is the source of our hope of survival on earth and our hope of attaining heavenly eternal reward in the end.Importantly, the Bishop distinguished between the general concept of Hope and the Christian concept of Hope as a virtue.
Beautifully, SPERO IN DEO encourages us that we can transcend and transform all kinds of suffering. And when suffering is triumphed over, after the manner of Jesus Christ, it is transformed into a means of attaining the ultimate happiness after which the human soul searches. Thus, when man suffers in union with Christ, the various crosses of this life becomes ways of fulfilling Gods’ will, liberating oneself from the shackles of evil in the world, and intimidating forces of nature and a sure means of winning one’s true happiness in the end.
SPERO IN DEO finally gives the confidence that it is not for us to question God in his creation and dealings with man, but it is surely our task and to our benefit to utilize all experience in life, good or bad, pleasant and unpleasant, as means of saving our souls and advancing God’s glory on earth.
You can always get a copy of His Lordship Most Rev. Callistus V.C Onaga’s Lenten Pastoral Letter 2021 SPERO IN DEO (HOPE IN GOD) from Press/Bulletin Office, Holy Ghost Cathedral Enugu.
Ndubuisi Health Insurance: The Enugu Diocese’s Perfect panacea to easier access to an affordable health care
In March, we had a special report on the need for an increased awareness over health insurance in the country. Health insurance is an important mechanism to prevent financial hardship in the process of accessing health care. Since the launch of Nigeria’s National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in 2005, the nation is still grappling with the level of under representation and poor access to good health care amongst the vast majority in the country.
However, with the increasing cases of preventable deaths and inability of many to access good health care in Enugu, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most. Rev. Callistus Onaga initiated the idea of a health insurance scheme in 2015 named Ndubisi Health Insurance which is aimed at bridging the gap for many people who find it difficult to sustain the increasing cost of good health care.
His Lordship recently emphasized on the need to embrace health insurance. Obviously concerned with the level of health challenges people are facing currently, which is relatively not unconnected with the high level of death in the country as a result of treatable and preventable health issues.
In this exclusive interview with The Choice Flame, the Director, Ndubisi Health Insurance, Rev. Fr. Benjamin Eze shared with us the idea behind Ndubuisi Health Insurance as well as the many ways it has become a succor to the health needs of the faithful and beyond in Enugu Diocese.
The Bishops who took up the fight against Coronavirus
The Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga and theAuxiliaryBishop, Most Rev. Ernest Obodo stood strong at the forefront in the fight against Covid-19.
On the evening of Tuesday 30th March, Bishop Onaga received the Coronavirus vaccination at the Bishop’s court, probably becoming one of the first Catholic Bishopsto receive the vaccination in the country, while the Auxiliary Bishop, Most Rev Ernest Obodo with the Vice Chancellor of Godfrey Okoye University, Rev. Fr. Prof. Christian Anieke and Dean of Udi Deanery, Rev. Fr. Dr. Ignatius Emefo were vaccinated by a medical team from the Enugu State Primary Care Development Agency at the Bishop’s Court, Udi.
Bishop Onaga and the entire household of the Bishop’s court comprising of Priests, Seminarians and other domestic staff members received the vaccine from Enugu State primary health team led by Dr. George Ugwu, the Executive Secretary of Enugu State Primary Health Care Development Agency.
Having received his vaccination, his Lordship encouraged all to get vaccinated as the world intensifies the fight against the rampaging virus.The Bishops have since received their second jab of the vaccination.
Enugu Diocese makes history with Domus II
One of the agenda with which the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese came into the episcopacy was to make sure he provides decent accommodations for the people. Aside some blocks of flats to the name of the Diocese, Enugu diocese also has a guest house of about 40 rooms named Domus Sancti Spiritus(Home of the Holy Spirit).
The Diocese went into housing because of a need to provide a comfortable home where people could come in and have a comfortable stay at a very affordable cost, coupled with the fact that the Diocese needs sources of income to sustain its finances. These were made known by the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, His Lordship, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga on Tuesday the 30th of March 2021 during the blessing of the newly completed 70 room capacity Domus Sancti Spiritus II Guest House.
According to His Lordship, it was the turn of Enugu Diocese to host the Nigerian Bishops Conference in 2020; it became necessary to have something on ground for the Bishops since Domus (I) would not take all of them. Speaking further, Bishop Onaga said that the driving force is the urge and desire to provide a reasonable accommodation for every stranger that comes into Enugu.“The cathedral is accessible and at the center of the town. It’s closer to most motor parks and one of the biggest markets in Enugu. So whether stranded or not, one could have a home away from home”, his Lordship reiterated
A Change of leadership in the Diocesan Chancery
Appointed on May2 2009 as the secretary and Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu by Bishop Callistus Onaga, Very Rev. Fr. Ambrose Agu, having exhibited an exemplary leadership and dexterity that has left deep footprints in the hearts of many and in the history of the diocese through his service in office bowed out as the diocesan chancellor. He will be remembered for his ingenuity and versatility in administration and management as a whole. He was replaced with Rev. Fr. Dr. Wilfred Agubuchie.
CWO Enugu Diocese makes History
Years after, the Catholic Women Organization (CWO) of Enugu Diocese on 9th May 2021 conferred on deserving members the award of Life Membership and Ambassadors of Christ of The Catholic Women Organization. The two days event beginning from Saturday 8th May and climaxed on Sunday 9th May saw women from the 6 deaneries of the diocese converge at Holy Ghost Cathedral to celebrate with the recipients.
The event commenced with a reception and fund raising ceremony organized in honour of the award recipients and as well for the ongoing project of CWO in the diocese.
In his homily, the Auxiliary Bishop of Enugu Diocese Most Rev. Ernest Obodo urged mothers to emulate Christ and lead an exemplary life that reflects the teachings of Christ. Noting the significance of being a life member and ambassador for Christ, his Lordship urged the mothers to eschew destructive tendencies of being heavily acclimatized to the things of the world, but to be more of people of Christ.
After the mass, his Lordship presented the award recognition to the 320 recipients who were honored as life members and Ambassadors of Christ of the CWO, Enugu Diocese. Recipients were drawn from the 6 deaneries of the diocese with their family, friends and well wishers at hand to celebrate and support them.
Speaking to The Choice Flame, the President of the Catholic Women Organization, Enugu Diocese, Prof. Bene Okoli urged the award recipients to be true to their mandate and represent Christ in all they do. According to her, having had the last award in 2014, she is glad to have witnessed it again in her tenure as the president of the association. She was also one of the beneficiaries as a life member.
The Emergence of Children of Destiny
In July, two children proved to be outstanding kids as they emerged winners in the rebranded Children’s World page of The Choice Flame Newspaper. It is The Choice Flame’s special Kiddies Corner Weekly competition called Kids Read and Win for children within the ages of 5-11 years old. The keenly contested competition always had kids read and summarize a weekly story with moral lessons learnt.
9 year old Joy Okoye, a primary 4 pupil of St. Mary School, Akwuke Awukunanaw and 9 year old Chukwuebuka Oke, a primary 4 pupil of Rock Land International School, Enugu emerged winners from the Kid’s Read and Win competition of the Early March Edition and early June edition respectively. Their victory secured for them a fully paid scholarship to tertiary education level of which Bishop Callistus Onaga is one of the sole sponsors.
The educational Kids Read and Win competition has continued to do the magic in encouraging the much-needed reading culture amongst our kids. This of course was applauded by His Lordship, Bishop Callistus Onaga who has always hinged on the need for a more broadened education for our young lads.
Following the outstanding success recorded so far, it is hoped that many more children who participate will not only explore a platform to expand their knowledge base, but will also attract more education advancement opportunities for themselves.
Enugu diocese plays an outstanding host to the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria
After many years, Enugu diocese once again had the opportunity to host the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria. By the grace of God, Enugu Diocese successfully hosted the second plenary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria from 19th to 27th August 2021.
Incorporated in March 15, 1958, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, is the organ of unity, communion and solidarity for the millions of Catholics spread across the thirty six states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory. It is the forum wherein the collegiality of the Nigerian Catholic bishops, as successors of the Apostles in union with the Pope, is expressed and where the idea of the Church as family is signified. Through the Conference, the archbishops and bishops of the 54 ecclesiastical jurisdictions, as shepherds of souls in their archdioceses and dioceses, are able to pray together, study together, and work together; and with one voice, are able to speak and spearhead the teaching, prophetic and pastoral ministry of the Catholic Church in Nigeria.
The plenary session of the Conference is held twice a year, for prayer, study and deliberations on important issues concerning the evangelizing mission of the Church in Nigeria, the pastoral care of the faithful, and the promotion of human dignity, human rights, truth, justice, reconciliation, peace and wholesome development in the wider society.
It was indeed a beautiful memory for those who witnessed the convergence of over 80 Bishops from across the federation in Enugu. The weeklong conference of the Bishops witnessed an interactive session with major superiors of Religious Congregations, a session with Catholics in Politics and an Excursion to our very own Godfrey Okoye University. Even with the very demanding nature of the conference with series of close door meetings, the Bishops were received in a special visit to the Government house where they were hosted by the Governor as well as a special visit to selected Parishes across the diocese.
Bishop Onaga Echoes the scourge of Neo-Paganism
It is very important to recall that at the opening ceremony of 2ndplenary session of the bishops, among other things, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga took the stage to decry an emerging new threat to the faith of the people. A phenomenon popularly known as ‘Neo-Paganism’ has been identified as one of the major threat to the faith of the people as many young Christians are reverting back to the old fetish and idolatrous life. His Lordship in his homily at the opening Mass of the 2021 2nd plenary of the Bishops Conference on 22nd August spoke passionately on the topic; “Will you also Away?”.
Describing the precarious situation, we have found ourselves in this clime his Lordship said; “In our own context, however, a particularly dangerous phenomenon for faith that threatens the progress and membership base of the Church today is the resurgence of neo-paganism which is gradually spreading like wildfire, especially among the youthful population and some of our exposed and influential kinsmen sponsoring them from overseas. Many have left and still leaving the church to return to the pagan religion of their ancestors for reasons ranging from the search for material benefits or quick wealth, security or protection, spiritual powers, deeper intimacy with the ancestral world and an obsessive nostalgia to revive fetish cultural practices. Most of these people who relapse into full scale neo-paganism are cradle Christians that inherited their faith from their parents.”
In his appeal to all, especially young Christians, His Lordship said; “I, therefore appeal to our Christians People, particularly the youth: Don’t give up on God. Do not allow the difficulties or challenges of life to make you return to the devil or entangle yourselves in a spiritual bondage. God is larger than our problems. If we ever think that God cannot solve our problem, trust me, nobody else can do it”.
A herald of priestly anniversaries and birthdays
In October the diocese celebrated the 90th Birthday of Bishop Gbuji and Msgr. Charles Ikeme as well as the 50thPriestly anniversary of Msgr. Prof. Augustine Akubue. The Diocesan Priestly Silver Jubilee of the 1996 Set was celebrated on Tuesday 30th November 2021 at St. Mary’s Parish Akwuke.
The 1996 set of ordained Priests in Enugu Diocese first observed their Priestly Silver Jubilee anniversary in September with their counterparts from Awgu diocese. The event was then observed at St Michael’s Parish, Asata.
Mary Agro farm: A vision to erase food insecurity in Nigeria and Africa takes shape
Agriculture arguably is central to fostering economic growth, reducing poverty, and improving food security in Nigeria. With the emerging food challenges the nation is faced with, ensuring food security has become an issue of key importance for us with different degrees of economic development, while the agricultural sector plays a strategic role in improving food availability. This of course is the cardinal drive as the Auxiliary Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Ernest Obodo decided to take the bull by the horn by establishing the MaryAgro Farm, Udi for the Diocese. According to Bishop Obodo, nine months after his ordination, he had a push to do something with the little money he had to start a farm that will feed, empower and employ as many as possible.
The project which has commenced in full-fledge with its pilot scheme and has adopted modern technology in its productivity drive is solely aimed at providing food, education and employment for at least ten thousand (10,000) people at the long run. According to His Lordship, the pilot scheme which has commenced fully will usher in the larger farm project which will occupy an estimated 500 hectares of land and will be able to cultivate, harvest and process agricultural products of all kinds.
This according to His Lordship is part of the vision of the church to contribute effectively to increasing food security, availability and as well provide employment for the teeming population. At present, the Mary Agro farm in Udi which is currently at its pilot stage has a flourishing farm comprising of cultivated vegetable crops of all kinds, maze, poultry, piggery farm, fishpond and many more. With 24 hours water supply and a technologically developed recycling system, the farm can boast of all year round uninterrupted production and a sustainable food chain management.
Already an entrance exam was successfully organized for prospective students and as planned, successful students will be awarded a certain amount of money as their takeoff fund. No doubt, Mary Agro farm will once again be adding to the many developmental stride Enugu Diocese has continued to take as part of her contribution to the economic development of the state, South East and the country at large.
Inauguration of members of the Synod committee in Enugu Diocese
On 17th October 2021, the Auxiliary Bishop of Enugu Diocese Most Rev. Ernest Obodo inaugurated the members of the Diocesan Synod team for the Synod on Synodality 2021- 2023. He, as well, urged the faithful to pray fervently for the success of this synod during the Eucharistic celebration at Holy Ghost Cathedral Enugu, noting that the inauguration which is happening in all the different dioceses of the world will chart a new course for the Holy Church. The names of the Diocesan Synodal process team includes: Fr. Michael Chime (Co-ordinator), Fr. Joseph Ezechi (Secretary/Notary), Fr. Paul Uche (Asst. Secretary/Notary), Fr. Justin Eke (member), Sr. Benedicta Odo (member), Prof. Francis Ozoemena (member), and Mrs. Ijeoma Amu (member).
It will be recalled that On the 10th of October 2021, the Holy Father Pope Francis formally opened a two-year process called “a synod on synodality,” officially known as “Synod 2021-2023: For a Synodal Church.” In brief, the process involves an expansion of an established institution, called the “Synod of Bishops.” This means that bishops around the world will consult with everyone from parishioners to monks, nuns and various institutions before coming together for a discussion in 2023. This points to how the Church can learn to rely more fully on this kind of consultation-and-discussion process – how it can become more “synodal” in its governance.
It is important to point out that last month, the General Secretariat for the Synod published the Preparatory Document, along with a Vade-mecum (or handbook) to indicate the guiding principles that will direct the path of the Synod on Synodality. According to the guideline, the solemn opening of the Synod takes place in Rome on October 9-10, and in the particular Churches on October 17; and will conclude at the Vatican in the year 2023 with the assembly of bishops from around the world. Therefore, the Synod is understood as a process composed of three parts: the preparatory phase, in which the consultation of the People of God on the themes indicated by the Roman Pontiff takes place; the celebratory phase, characterized by the meeting of the assembly of Bishops; and the implementation phase, in which the conclusions of the Synod, once approved by the Roman Pontiff, are accepted by the local churches.
Therefore, with this in mind, the Enugu diocesan Synodal Process Team spearheaded by the Judicial Vicar Rev. Fr. Dr. Michael Chime has rolled out guidelines and programmes for the preparatory phase of this Synod in Enugu diocese. In their preparatory text, the Diocesan Synodal team identifies that down here in our local system, the Church is faced with religious apathy/sycophancy, neo-paganism and syncretism, tribal and political hares, religious war and economic degeneration. All these and more are the greater challenge the Church contend with in this era. Again, the Church here faces certain customs and traditions which are at variance with Christian principles as well as how to harmonize relationships with other separated brother and sisters? Some many examples abound such as:
- Traditional Marriage and Christian marriage
- Inter denominational marriages
- Inter religious marriages
- Traditions and rituals of traditions title taking among Catholic Christians.
- Squabbles between religious societies on supremacy
- Should catholic clergy be put on salary?
- The issues of fallen Catholics and the rites of burial
- Duration of Mourning the Dead
- Issue of Burial and Funeral Ceremony
- The rights of widows – Christianity vis-a-vis traditional worshipers/ customs & Tradition
- Modification of the Catechism teaching in view of digital age versus urbanized life.
- Can lay people be permitted to share Holy Communion in the church?
- Bible churches / fellowships/ and Non-Catholic prayer houses
These and many more are the point of interest that the synod tends to address, so as to foster faith in the people through good and healthy collaboration, reading the sacred scripture and then worthy reception of the sacraments.
The Diocesan Synodal team has urged all the faithful in Enugu diocese to participate committedly in the Diocesan Phase of the Synod Process slated from 10th November 2021 to 2nd April, 2022.
Priestly Ordination 2021
The Diocesan Priestly Ordination was initially scheduled on 11th December, 2021. It has been rescheduled to hold on Saturday, 18th December, 2021 at St. Mary Pro-Cathedral, Udi.
As we cross the threshold of 2021 into 2022, we have every right reason to give praise and thanksgiving to God who has made all these programmes, activities and developments in our diocese successful through the instrumentality of our spiritual leader and Father, His Lordship, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga. He stood strong amongst the many challenges that emanated this year. He showed the ever-unflinching fatherly love and care. He ensured that the best is all that is required, and the best is what must be given.
Through his leadership, many strides of development is on a fast pace in the Church, directly impacting on the spiritual life as well as the socio-economic life of the faithful. He has led from the forefront, shown an uncompromising level of commitment to the growth of the faithful and to the effective sustenance of the Church of Christ in Enugu Diocese.
Again, even amidst many challenges faced this year, 2021 will tilt out as a year we will ever remain thankful to God for his goodness, mercies and love.