30th priestly anniversary: Cardinal Arinze, others felicitate with Archbishop Okeke
By Phil Okose, Onitsha
All roads, weekend, led to Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity Centenary Stadium, Onitsha, Anambra State, venue of the celebration of the 40 years of the priestly ordination of the Catholic Archbishop and Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Most Rev Dr Valerian Okeke.
Among those who felicitated with him were Francis Cardinal Arinze from Vatican City, who presided over the Mass, and thanked God for keeping Archbishop Okeke alive to celebrate his 40 years of priestly ordination and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate in the coming November 6 election, Chief Val Ozigbo.
Others in attendance at the occasion that witnessed the presence of about 30 Bishops, were former governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi, Chief of Staff to Governor Willie Obiano, Primus Odili, who represented his boss, Senator Victor Umeh, chairman of the occasion, Sen. Ifeanyi Ubah, and Sen. Stella Oduah as well as PDP gubernatorial aspirant, Chief Obiora Okonkwo, and Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka of APGA, etc.
Speaking, Ozigbo said the Archbishop was his namesake and congratulated him, saying, “Let me formerly congratulate him for the amazing things he has been doing. He is a priest, a leader and not just somebody who has ascended to the high level. He started from being a seminarian to Rev. Father, then Bishop and Archbishop.”
“God has endowed him with sufficient wisdom, intellect, and he has been doing very well within the body of Christ, Catholic Church. I am here to celebrate with him and wish him well.”
“I wish him many more years, good health, and I wish him great partnership when I will be there as governor next year.”
In his own speech, former governor, Peter Obi, commended the Archbishop’s contributions to society and human development, describing him as one who had established a rich legacy of ecclesiastical engagements as a minister of God, teacher and administrator.
Obi commended the Archbishop’s love and commitment for education which were made manifest in the roles he played to ensure that mission schools were returned to the church under his administration.
“In the strong belief in the biblical injunction, you have demonstrated through your actions, that faith without good works is dead. These include your constant prisons’ apostolate and the apostolate to the youth, as evidenced in the such value-added projects as the Holy Family Village, at Amansea, set up for the wholesome formation of the young ones and tomorrow’s leaders.”
Earlier, Senator Umeh recalled when he knew the Archbishop about 20 years ago, at Enugu, adding, “I learnt a lot from him and people did not know, he inspired me to work. We pray God to continue to bless him with good health.
He requires special grace from God to make him look strong always. He has worked very hard in the lord’s vineyard. His passion for education is legendary; his apostolate in education has been wonderful. He was a teacher.”
In his contribution, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, stated that, “We have to pay gratitude to God for keeping the Archbishop alive to celebrate his 40 years of priesthood. It is something to thank God about. The Archbishop gives hope to the hopeless and congregation of Onitsha Diocese and beyond and has given birth to a lot of priests.”
In his response, the celebrant, Archbishop Okeke, thanked all for being with him to mark the event despite their tight schedules, hinting that 90 indigent students had been placed on scholarship as part of the activities lined up in memory of the celebration.