By Chikezie Ogbonna
Priesthood has been described as a precious divine gift to humanity.
Speaking today at the 2022 Chrism Mass at Holy Ghost Cathedral, Enugu, The Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga called on priests to use the opportunity of the Chrisim mass to deeper reflect on their calling and their vocation as Priests.
His Lordship who spoke on the theme, ‘The enviable nature and status of the Catholic Priesthood’ in his homily buttressed on the precious divine gift that the Catholic priesthood represents.
While thanking God for the gift of priesthood as well as the critical and sensitive responsibilities for priests His Lordship said the following:
“We are happy God has given us another opportunity to reinvigorate our instrument of service .
“We are thanking God for the gift of priesthood, a gift that is very rare and cherished. It is an excellent and enviable order and must be preserved.
“For those who are privileged to be conferred with this rare vocation, we remind ourselves of the content and value of what has been conferred on us and entrusted to us.
“We need remind ourselves of where we were before we were raised to this level.
“Today calls for a very quiet reflection of our lives. A reflection of where we were before we were picked up.
“Most of us come from very humble, obscure and not known backgrounds, both economically, socially and spiritually.
We can also honestly attest that many of us are not the most intelligent in our communities.
“Many of us come from backgrounds that are not very pious or spiritual enough. In spite of all this shortcomings God chose us to represent him in very significant manner. That is why people refer to us outer Christus.
“Let us not forget that even the angels cannot call down God to change the substance of bread and wine into the body and blood of his son Jesus Christ, not even the angels can do that, but the priest through the imposition of hand and the prayer of ordination have this thing conferred on them automatically.
“The grace of ordination makes it so that even an ex-priest can validly celebrate mass in time of trouble .
“Through this journey, many started it but only very few makes it to the end.
“Once a priest is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
“Resist the temptation of the letting the material things overshadowing the very essence of becoming a priest.
“The work of the priestly ministry is an exalted work and should lead to the kingdom of heaven.
“In priesthood, Christ is our model. Let us not disappoint him, let us follow him in humility.
“We are the priest of God, empowered with the gift of winning souls for Christ through the promises of obedience, poverty and chastity.
“No priest is superior to the other. Every priest is equal. You may be very intelligent, eloquent, charitable , charismatic and so on and so forth in a very superlative sense, but, you are simply a priest according to the reign of Christ.
“Do not think that your priesthood come from another source. It comes from Christ and we follow him as model. Just remain an ordinary priest according to the mind of Christ.
“The laws that guides the Catholic priesthood, still guides everyone of us if you are still the Catholic priest.
“Humility and collegiality should be our watchword.
“Don’t undermine your fellow priest, you are just like this priest, no more, no less, every other thing is a secondment.
“Always be humble, tell your faithful the truth and stand by the truth and above all preach peace and not violence.
“The bishop may be occasionally referred to have the fullness of the priesthood, but, he is still a normal ordinary priest. Because without this character, this seal, he cannot be talking of being a Bishop.
“First of all, the Bishop is a priest, before his episcopal functions.”
Bishop Onaga further thanked the priests for what he described their total support so far for the 13 years he has been the Bishop of the diocese.
“I want to thank the priests of Enugu diocese for their almost absolute cooperation in his 13 yeaars as a Bishop of the diocese. If I am givern an opportunity in the next life, I will choose to be a Bishop of Enugu diocese.
“Spiritually, you are there to support”, His Lordship said.
He also thanked the faithful for their selfless support and love for the diocese.
“My responsibility is to show love within my powers as human being. I will give everything to show love where one can show it.
“The church belongs to God and never to human beings. I love my priesthood and I am proud of it and all priests should do same.
“Do not allow anybody to come and disintegrate us and whoever have the inclination to do that, let us remember such in prayer”, Bishop Onaga urged.
Quoting 1st Peter 5:8-9, which says “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
He urged the people to stop castigating the church carelessly, because according to him, nobody pulls down a system he or she belongs.
He urged them to say things they need to say through the right channel.
The church he noted has passed through greater persecutions and will continue to survive it all with or without us.
He said he had to sustain the faith and will continue to sustain It and declared that the gate of the underworlds can never prevail the church.
“The church has always been the salvation souls more than anyone can think of or even do. As much as possible, let us listen to the church”, His Lordship advised.
He described the faithful as the pride of Enugu diocese and urged them to continue to pray for their priests.
The 2022 Chrism mass as usual witnessed the gathering of all the priests working in the diocese.