Issele-Uku Diocese Inaugurates The Marian Year In Grand Style
Rev. Fr. JohnBosco Chimaobi Ezeonwumelu
On Saturday, 4th day of March 2017, the Catholic Diocese of Issele-Uku gathered at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church, Ogwashi-Uku to inaugurate the Marian Year. This is in response to the call by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria that the year 2017 be observed as the Marian Year in celebration of the Centenary of the apparition of our Mother Mary to the three shepherds kids, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta at Fatima in 1917. The events of the day at Ogwashi-Uku began at 9am with a Solemn Rosary procession round the town. After the Rosary Procession and when all had settled down, one of the Masters of the ceremony, Very Rev. Fr. John Konyeke took out time to introduce the time table for the celebration throughout the year. The time table was made to accommodate the involvement and active participation of every person in the Local Church of Issele-Uku in his/her right. Immediately after that introduction, all rose to sing out with joy the anthem for the celebration, “O Come to the Throne of Grace,” and the Igbo version of the Fatima Anthem.
In order to set the vision of the celebration straight, Rev. Fr. Christopher Ikechukwu Ubah came forward to deliver a paper titled, “The Message of Fatima, Significance of the Marian Year and how to Celebrate it.” In his words, “we are most privileged to be gathered here this day to celebrate with joy that event that revealed to the modern Church the indispensable role of Mary in the course of salvation; her motherhood, her discipleship, and her necessary roles in the salvation of mankind.” He noted that her spiritual motherhood accompanies all of us in the Church on our journey to embrace a deeper relationship with Jesus. Therefore, for a deeper appreciation of that role, which is well represented in the Fatima message, beginning with the biblical references to roles of Mary in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, Fr. Chris Ubah traced the history of how Mary has been celebrated, first by God himself and upheld by the early Fathers of the Church and the Church in our time. He went on to provide an indepth account on how important and necessary is Mary’s role in the history of salvation. He however noted that her role does not place her at the same level nor in contention with the authority of Christ. But as she always said in her apparitions, she is only a servant to her son. So Mary is the disciple and first apostle of Jesus, having given humanity to him.
On the significance of the celebration, noting that the apparition took place at a time the world was torn apart by injustice, wars, hunger and the likes, Fr. Christopher said that there is no better time to celebrate this than this time when we are at war with many forces against religion and the Cross of Christ, at the international, national and family levels. With these challenges, we need the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary for victory over these forces and for lasting peace.
On the manner of celebration, he called on all who are able to join in different programs which have been developed for the celebration to do so while pointing out also the recommendation for a pilgrimage to Fatima and other Marian devotions. Those who are not able to make that pilgrimage to Fatima can as well make such pilgrimages to our parishes’ Marian grotto and shrines. But beyond the physical participation, he encouraged all to seek more of interior participation which will see us honouring God with our renewed and righteous lives. To be able to this, we need to emulate the humility of Mary and become agents of justice and peace ourselves.
The paper presentation was immediately followed with the exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which was led by Rev. Fr. Jude Anwuli Iwediunor. In his words of exhortation, Fr. Jude reminded us that Jesus is always coming to us like a good shepherd. He knocks at the different doors of our lives. He seeks us at all times and if we fail to respond positively to him, we suffer for it. So, we must be ready to open the doors of our heart and life to him. He noted that it is important that we seek his face daily in order to discover his purpose for us. We must depend wholly on him in humility just as Mother Mary did at the Wedding Feast in Cana (cf. John 2:3-5). And so, as we have gathered in his name, we are to open up ourselves to him without reservation, knowing that he will never fail us.
The inaugural session came to a close after the inaugural Mass which was presided over by the Episcopal Vicar for Public Relations, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Stephen Uzomah. In his homily at the Mass, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Buchi Aninye pointed out that, as the First Reading of the Mass tells us, immediately after the fall of man, God began the process of his redemption. At the foot of the Cross, Jesus gave his Mother to us to be our Mother too. She continued to be our Mother and her apparition to Fatima was one way she used in reaching out to us in a bid to preach repentance and reparation. According to available records, she opened the eyes of the shepherd kids so that they could see how many souls are falling rapidly into hell. Hence, she asked them to do reparation for the conversion of sinners. It was said that at the burial of Jacinta and Francisco, the scars which the cords they tied around their waist in penance left on them was discovered. Msgr. Aninye therefore reminded us that to be true followers of Christ, we are required to carry our crosses daily and follow Christ. He frowned at the growing trend where most of us craze after miracles without bothering to do the will of God. Taking a clue from the teaching of the Catechism that “God made us to know him, love him, to serve him in this life and be happy with him in the next,” he asked all to strive to do the will of God, knowing that he will never fail us.
At the end of the Mass, the Diocesan Chancellor, Very Rev. Fr. John Ike Aduba thanked all for the active participation at the celebration. He expressed the sentiments of the Diocesan Bishop who was unavoidably absent due to the ongoing meeting of the Catholic Bishops in Abuja. He prayed for God’s blessing upon all in all our endeavours. In conclusion, he announced the appointment of Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ilekenri by the Diocesan Bishop as the coordinator of the Marian Year.
The Marian Year will run till the 9th of December when it will officially come to an end with a Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine at Onicha-Olona, which shall be an all day event.