By Victor Ononye
On Sunday 6th June ,2021,the St Mary’s Catholic Church Onitsha Inland Town was in a total festive mood as two renowned women of substance in Onitsha indigenous Catholic community celebrated their birthdays.
While Lady Theresa Onukwuba celebrated her 85th birthday, Lady Regina Anionwu celebrated her 80th birthday.
The combination of this double event at St Mary’s Catholic Church,Inland Town Onitsha literally set the stage for the longest day in the history of the church.
People came from all walks of life.
There were dozens of Priests who celebrated the mass just as members of the religious and various other colourful groups came to share the joy of longevity with them.
The Knights and Ladies of St Mulumba,St Mary’s Subcouncil led by their Grand Knight, Sir Joseph Epundu came in their numbers. President of the Lady Knights, Lady Ndiwe and Noble Lady Stella Epundu were present.I saw Grand Knight of St Francis Subcouncil Onitsha Sir Christian Achukwu and many other brothers.
A glance at both celebrants gave them out as fresh,energetic and vivacious ladies younger than their ages.
Lady Onukwuba at 85 looked 65.Her make up was captivating and alluring. Her pinky shoes,bag and scarf were neatly chosen to match.
On her own side,Lady Regina Anionwu was dressed in a simple flowing gown.I guessed she deliberately chose not to be loud,but she looked great in terms of make-up and style.At her age,she still drives around in town with her ageless Mercedes Benz and other string of cars.
Former Administrator of Holy Trinity Cathedral( now Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha and former Executive Director of Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC)Very Rev Fr Dr Martin Onukwuba was the Chief celebrant at the mass.
The Episcopal Vicar,Onitsha Region and Parish Pries t of St Mary’s Catholic Church,Onitsha Inland Town,Very Rev Fr Johnbosco Okafor was present so was Very Rev Fr Dr Austin Oburota a renowned educationist,Seminary Rector and social critic.Many other priests from far and near attended.
The homilist was Rev Fr Barrister Cyril Okpalakunne who delivered a marathon homily saying that it was a special blessing and grace of God for the celebrants to attain such height in good health.
According to him both celebrants lived a lives of fulfilment and became exemplary personalities in their communities.
He said that it was amazing that God has continued to refresh them by surpassing His promise of 75 years and yet remained strong in body and spirit.
Fr Okpalakunne who confessed knowing Lady Theresa Onukwuba as a child,pointed out that she contributed in so many ways to his upbringing and choice of going into priesthood along with her child,Rev Fr Dr Martin Onukwuba.
Fr Okpalakunne expressed joy that the duo of Lady Onukwuba and Lady Anionwu were not only celebrating their birthdays but were showing hope,commitment and resilience to the new generation.
Trintas did not get much details what happened at the place of Lady Regina Anionwu’s residence after the mass but from indications,friends and well-wishers came around to felicitate with her.They brought gifts,ate and drank profusely.
At Lady Onukwuba’s residence,the entire space outside and inside the premises were filled up.
It was a mini carnival.Canopies lined up the entire stretch of Obior Street and human traffic was so much.
Various groups besieged the premises.A group of women from Imo,the home state of Lady Onukwuba came to felicitate with her.Onitsha red cap Chiefs took their position and were hosted lavishly by Commissioner Onukwuba. The Knights and Ladies of St Mulumba took their position in a conspicuous corner.
The St Mary’s and Basilica Choir also came to share the joy of birthday with Lady Onukwuba.
Assorted drinks,food and delicacies went round.
Overwhelmed by the show of solidarity, Lady Onukwuba took dance steps in appreciation.
Her children were in full throttle. I saw her eldest daughter, Mrs Obiefuna.I saw Mrs Lilian Okeke and other siblings, they were too busy for an interview. Rev Fr Martin Onukwuba kept a very low profile and religiously wore his nose mask to keep Covid-19 away.
There’s no doubt that this two octogenarians, lady Theresa Onukwuba and Lady Regina Anionwu have left indelible legacies for which they would be remembered when they conclude their earthly journey.
Onukwuba who is richly endowed with a beautiful voice is an award winning chorister whose passion for singing did not only earn her accolades but admiration for all and sundry. She is a pillar of may choir groups and has been able to mentor the youths.
Lady Regi Anionwu has also encouraged women and youths to achieve their goals.Her philanthropic deeds stand her out as a motivator and a woman of strong faith.She is a patroness to many church organizations including the Man of Order and Discipline(MOD).
The birthday celebration was indeed a very long day.