- I pledge to be more committed –
By Ononye VC
Encomiums were showered on the Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha,Most Rev Valerian Okeke as he celebrated his 20th Episcopal Anniversary at the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity,Onitsha on Friday.
The thanksgiving mass to commemorate the anniversary was officiated by the Papal Nuncio to Nigeria,Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi who concelebrated with over 42 bishops from across Catholic provinces in the country alongside 200 priests.
The ocassion was graced by the governor of Anambra State,Sir Willie Obiano and his wife Ebelechukwu,ex Governor of Anambra State Sir Peter Obi,Senator Ifeanyi Ubah,Senator Victor Umeh,Senator Princess Stella Oduah(represented) Senator Uche Ekwunife,Prof Pat Utomi among many other dignitaries.
Delivering a homily,the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese most Rev Godfrey Onah showered encomium on Archbishop Valerian Okeke,describing him as a man of honour and gratitude.
Bishop Onah pointed out that Archbishop Valerian Okeke’s chosen motto(John vs 10:10) “that they may have life and have it in abundance”,cut him out specially as a priest with a special mission.
“His life is well known.This is a great man of faith and prayer. He is a man of practical charity who has transformed younger priests to follow his footsteps as servants of the people”.
Bishop Onah veered into the political hemisphere where he revealed that the Archbishop has made several interventions that have saved Anambra State from political turmoil.
He expressed gratitude to God for the Archbishop’s courage and whose effort he pointed out,are felt world wide.
In his remark,the President of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria (CBCN)Archbishop Augustine Akubeze described Archbishop Valerian Okeke as “a great moral theologian of our time” adding that he deserved to be celebrated.
Archbishop Akubeze recalled the “unique” role Archbishop Val Okeke played in Benin City during the Marian Congress where he told the world to “take Mary home”since according to him,anyone who takes Mary home finds Christ.
The governor of Anambra state,Sir Willie Obiano,in a brief remark,said he was extremely happy to be part of the celebration,describing it as a big feat.
In his reaction,the celebrant, Archbishop Valerian Okeke,started with a song of praise to God for taking him thus far.
The Archbishop summarised his remark in three points; Welcome,Gratitude and Prayers before elucidating on them.
He thanked everyone that gathered for the event including school children adding that the presence of the faithful demonstrated love and commitment.
“This celebration is an opportunity to say thank you to you all.If I were to be given the opportunity to serve again,I will work with you people again.The presence of bishops here has made this event unique and I wish to express my special gratitude to the Papal Nuncio for his presence”.
The Archbishop pledged to be more committed in the shepherding of his flock.
The Onitsha Archdiocesan Presbyterium presented an address titled,”Archbishop Val Okeke and the big question,” which was read on their behalf by Rev Fr Tochukwu Onyeagolu.
From the sidelines,goodwill speeches and commendations came from the Anambra Governor elect,Prof Chukwuma Soludo, Chancellor of the Archdiocese Very Rev Fr Prudentius Aroh, Senator Victor Umeh,Senator Uche Ekwunife,Prof Kate Omenugha,Prof Pat Utomi,Hon Eddy Ibuzo,Azubike Okafor,Dame Ngozi Nwanosike of CWO and others too numerous to mention.
Chairman at the reception where the Archbishop was appreciated by the congregants was Sir Evarist Ubah,CMO President General.