St. Michael’s Catholic Parish Atta, Ikeduru LGA was agog last Sunday with worshippers from far and near, when the parish CWO Home/Abroad members converged to thank God for the success of this year’s August Meeting.
Highpoint of the thanksgiving Mass was conferment of Divine Mercy Priest on their parish priest, Very Rev. Fr. (Prof) Anthony Onyeocha for his outstanding pastoral stewardship in the parish.
The award, which was articulated in a jumbo-size frame, with Fr. Onyeocha’s academic picture, had the following inscriptions: St. Michael’s Catholic Women Organizations Home and Abroad Atta Parish, Ikeduru confers the Divine Mercy Priest Award on Rev. Prof. Dr. Anthony E. Onyeocha for his contributions and services towards the less privileged, the sick, orphans, motherless babies, widows, schoolchildren and the lost sheep in the parish and communities.
The award was presented to the priest by the association’s presidents, Lady Amb. Margaret Duru (Home/Abroad) and Mrs. Scholarstica Uwandu (Home).
Speaking while unveiling the award, Lady Duru said “We’re here to give honour to whom honour is due. Fr. Onyeocha’s work in our parish and community is outstanding and we’re exceedingly happy to honour him with this award of Divine Mercy Priest.
We therefore, enjoin all and sundry to join us in thanking him as we pray God to continue to guide and sustain him in all his good works.”
Fr. Onyeocha, who also was the chief celebrant of the Mass and assisted by his curate, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Enwerem, received the honour with joy, a sentiment he even displayed while welcoming his Avuvu Ikeduru family members, his Arondizuogu, Ngor Okpala and Orji former parishioners as well as other guests from outside Imo State.
Preaching at the Mass, the former rector, St. Peter Clever Minor Seminary Okpala, expressed worry over the deplorable state of moral values in the society and called on the women to use the opportunity provided by their August Meeting to address notable challenges facing women and families.
He listed a plethora of concerns, ranging from widowhood to husband and wife living in constant acrimony, women living without the sacrament of Matrimony, women who no longer identify with church activities and CWO affairs, secondary school leavers found in large numbers in the communities with little or no hope of furthering their education, among other issues.
According to him, such problems should not be ignored but should win the attention of the community-development-minded association with a view to finding a lasting solution for peace and development of families, church and society at large.
Known for his critical stance against the inhuman treatment meted out to widows in the name of mourning their dead husbands, the awardee also registered his detest for the obnoxious act.
“You must lie on the same bed with your dead husband. You must shave your hairs. You must drink bath water from the corpse to show your innocence. You must wear white or black attire. These and many other horrible conditions given to a widow show that we’re yet to assimilate the true culture of our Christian life,” the priest stated, while admonishing the women to rise up to the challenges and nip the fetish practices in the bud.
The presence of Very Rev. Fr. John Ibe, also added colour to the event as the elderly priest, who blessed the award, commended the academic achievements and pastoral acumen of the parish priest.
The now crutches-supported former formator, who resides at the Archdiocesan Sacred Heart Home, Wetheral Road Owerri, described the award recipient as his student and bosom friend.
He congratulated Fr. Onyeocha for meriting the honour and thanked the women for their ingenuity.
Other glowing reactions and appreciations came from friends, visitors and notable members of Atta community, including HRH Eze Ben C. Udeneho, the Olu Oha of Atta West, Sir Ethelbert Ukah, Dr. Geb Okafor, among other dignitaries.
The event, which shifted to a mini reception, where guests were entertained, featured among other things the citation of Fr. Onyeocha.
Presented by the Parish CWO, the citation traced the pastoral leadership of the awardee in the parish, with particular reference on the January 10, 2020 Church dedication event.
Describing the priest as the instrument God used in bringing to fulfillment such long awaited landmark event, the citation added with joy that: “Fr. Onyeocha is an apostle with the zeal of St. Paul, the sanctity of St. John Mary Vianney and the intelligence of St. Thomas Aquinas.”
It further commended his “practical and concise sermons, adding that they “are very easy to understand.”