- Francis Cardinal Arinze Presides
- A time of great reflection.
- Catalogue of accomplishments
By Ononye VC (News Editor)
The entire priests,religious and faithful of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha are undoubtedly in very high spirit as activities heralding the 40th priestly anniversary of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha,Most Rev Valerian Okeke began to unfold.
Trinitas learnt reliably that our revered father in faith and Prefect Emeritus, Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Vatican City,Europe,Francis Cardinal Arinze would fly in to preside over the thanksgiving mass with many other prelates from across the country and beyond.
It would be recalled that it was Francis Cardinal Arinze who ordained Archbishop Valerian Okeke a priest forty years ago at the then Holy Trinity Cathedral now Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha.
A peep into the anniversary programme showed that priests of the Archdiocese will slug it out in a friendly football match to herald the event with other
Already, the Archbishop’s home Parish at Umudioka,Dunukofia local government area of Anambra State was in joyous mood when they received him in an impressive ceremony after a thanksgiving mass.
Vibration of such joyous expectations are also felt beyond the Archdiocese such that goodwill messages have been streaming in from within and outside the shores of the country.
Already on our table are messages from His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze,Bishops from Onitsha Ecclesiastical Provinces and beyond and other highly placed clergies.
We have also on our table,messages from political leaders like the Executive Governor of Anambra State,Chief Dr Willie Obiano,minister of Labour and employment,Dr Chris Ngige,ex- All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA)National Chairman Chief Sir Victor Umeh,Prof Chukwuma Soludo,Dikeora Obiora Okonkwo, Iyom Senator Uche Ekwunife and Princess Senator Stella Oduah.
Others are,Dr Sir Obinna Uzoh KSG,Sir John Odike KSG,former Governor of Anambra State Sir Peter Obi KSG,Sir Azubuike Okafor,Sir Evaristus Uba,Dame Ngozi Nwanosike,Engr Leo Obiefuna among many others.
The 40th priestly anniversary celebration of Archbishop Valerian Okeke came with a lot of excitement to many as it affords a time for stock taking for a unique Priest whose footsteps in priesthood will forever remain indelible.
Archbishop Valerian Maduka Okeke is unique in so many ways.He is a man of character and conviction.
He is a great man of prayers who does not believe in impossibilities.He has the initiative and drive to achieve his dreams and make the impossible, possible.
Giving insight into the life of Archbishop Valerian Maduka Okeke,Chancellor of the Archdiocese Very Rev Fr Dr Prudentius Aroh,described him as “a man immerse in God’s Grace. It is the power of God’s grace which he allows to shine through his hardwork and dedication that we celebrate at his 40th priestly anniversary. For these 40 years of priestly ministry, Archbishop Val has been an eloquent blend of moral integrity and spiritual vatality. He is a first-class gentleman, a rare genius whose love and generosity are second to none. He is a true apostle of our time who is extremely solicitous for the spiritual and temporal welfare of our generation. We are grateful to God for blessing us with such a man of extra-ordinary destiny and we pray that he will continue to find favour before God who has chosen him”.
The Archbishop’s journey into priesthood 40 years ago came with a lot of sacrifices he made to sustain his chosen vocation and give copiously to humanity.
His works of charity,education and health apostolate,infrastructure, youth welfare,peace building and friendship across denominational and political divide are innumerable and commendable.
Today,we are talking about a Reverend father whose visionary strides were defined with excellence from day one.
He brought excellence to bear in all his doings.His beautiful profile defines his ability to ride on the solid crest of his predecessors whose legacies Rev Fr Valerian Okeke (now Archbishop) amplified beyond imagination.He changed so many lives for good and in this he derived his motto..”That they may have life and have it abundantly”..John 10:10.
Archbishop Valerian Maduka Okeke was born on October 20,1953.He hails from Umudioka in Dunukofia Local Government of Anambra State.
He was ordained Priest in the Order of Melchizedek on July,11,1981.
He was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Onitsha on February 09,2002.He became Archbishop and Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province on September 01,2003.
He is a member of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN).
Post Ordination journey:
After his ordination, the then Fr Val as he was passionately called, served as Parish Vicar at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Onitsha from 1981-1983.
From 1983-1986,he served as Parish Priest of Our Lady of Sorrows,Umuoji.
From 1986-1991,he went for further studies and Pastoral work in Europe and America.
Between 1991 and 1996,he worked as a lecturer at Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu before he became the Rector of the school between 1996-2002.
Between 2002 and 2003,he Rose to become the Coadjutor Archbishop of Onitsha.
On September 04,2003 to date,he became and is still the incumbent Archbishop and Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province.
While assuming position as the Archbishop of Onitsha,Most Rev Valerian Okeke created many new parishes from 92 in 2005 to nearly 200 parishes in the year 2020.
Before his arrival,many huge projects were abandoned due to lack of funds.He started by completing the gigantic Bishop Shanahan Hall project and raised it to a beautiful and imposing edifice.
In 2016,he convoked the 2nd Onitsha Archdiocesan Synod where discussions were made by diverse groups to move the church forward.
Other achievement include attracting the status of a Basilica to the Holy Trinity Cathedral,now a beautiful pilgrimage site and rebuilding of the old Cathedral building to a magnificent structure, now accommodating the Holy Trinity Primary School.
In line with his love and welfare of the youths,Archbishop Valerian Okeke erected the gigantic Youth Village Hostel at Amansea near Awka.The Youth Village has been a home away from home for many University students whose comfort and security were never compromised by the hostel management.
Other achievements are the erection of the Radio Sapientia, Oluchukwu Microfinance Bank and Oluchukwu Oil and Gas.
Archbishop Val made great achievements in the area of education where he was at the forefront in the push to return mission schools to their former owners to promote excellence in learning and character formation.
Many mission schools were renovate and returned to standard.He erected the now imposing Trinity College,Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha.
In his burning desire to improve higher education, Archbishop Val acquired huge expanse of lands in various locations where campuses of the new Bishop Shanahan University,Onitsha would be located.Work has already started in earnest on the various sites.
His hospital vocation cannot be overemphasized. Archbishop Val improved all the mission hospitals. He secured Specialist Hospital status for the St Charles Borromeo Hospital,Onitsha and upgraded many others within the Archdiocese.
The Archbishop Valerian Okeke Music Academy (AVOMA)has provided opportunity for talent hunt for the youth.It has kept many youth out of the streets as many have discovered their talents in music and dancing.
It is open to all that Archbishop Valerian Okeke’s spirit of excellence is extended to priests under his care.This is evident in his regular scholarships to priests to study abroad. Also many indigent students have gained scholarship to pursue or complete their University education through the Archbishop’s Education Foundation.
His Prison Apostolate is second to none. He erected a skill acquisition centre worth N50 million Naira for Onitsha Correctional Centre inmates in order to make them useful after prison service.He pays welfare visit to the facility three times in a year.
We do not forget the enormous assistance he gave to people of diverse groups and origins during the Covid-19 lockdown.He also partnered with a Hungarian humanitarian worker,Dr Reka Fodor to provide food for many during the lockdown.
There is so much to say about the revolutionary initiatives of Fr Valerian Maduka Okeke,the Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha, who by the special grace of God we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of his priestly ordination.
Congratulations and to God be the glory.