By Chikezie Ogbonna
Priests and religious congregations in Enugu Diocese marked the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas Day, today, February 2nd. The event saw the renewal of vows by priests and religious, making it a significant occasion for the growing number of consecrated members in the country.
Most Rev. Ernest Obodo, the Auxiliary Bishop of Enugu Diocese, delivered a heartfelt homily expressing his delight at the increasing number of priests and religious in Nigeria. He termed this development as an incredible blessing, especially when compared to the declining trend observed in Europe and other Western countries.
Enugu Diocese, boasting 52 different religious congregations, has now become the diocese with the highest number of religious congregations in the country, a fact Bishop Obodo highlighted during his address. He urged the consecrated members to venture into the hinterlands, emphasizing the importance of bringing salvation to those in remote areas.
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, is observed as the Feast of the Encounter. Originating in France, it has persisted as Candlemas Day, symbolizing the light of Jesus that enlightens all humanity. The feast serves as an occasion for priests and religious to offer themselves to the Lord, a rededication that involves the renewal of vows.
Bishop Obodo stressed the significance of identifying with the people, urging priests and religious to learn the local language and embrace the customs and traditions of the communities they serve. In light of the prevailing hardships in Nigeria, he urged them to be empathetic, advising against demanding too much and encouraging support and presence, especially during times of suffering.
Drawing parallels to Jesus being brought to the temple by his parents for identification with his culture, Bishop Obodo called on priests and religious to emulate this act by identifying with the people they serve. He emphasized a life of selfless living, sacrifice, and leadership, echoing the message of emulating Jesus in their actions.
Addressing the vows of chastity, celibacy, and poverty, Bishop Obodo acknowledged the challenges of upholding them, particularly the vow of poverty. He emphasized the importance of sharing within religious communities as a means of countering selfishness, noting that obedience to congregational rules comes from a position of strength, not weakness.
In a final plea, Bishop Obodo urged superiors of religious houses to facilitate an environment that makes it easier for their members to obey, encouraging better leadership and self-care. The event concluded with the highlight of the renewal of vows by priests and religious present, marking a special moment in the celebration of faith and commitment in Enugu Diocese.