Recognition from ones local church is a thing of pride, but for Chief Victor Umeh, former national chairman of APGA, Chief Ikenna Okafor, an oil magnate and business icon, 17 others, it was not just recognition from the church, but from the head of the church in Rome, as they were invested as Papal knights, reports David-Chyddy Eleke
Recently, 19 individuals who were deemed to have distinguished themselves in the service of the church and humanity in the Catholic Diocese of Awka were invested with Papal Knighthood and Papal Medals by the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Paulinus Ezeokafor on the recommendation of the Holy Father and Supreme Pontiff of Holy Catholic Church, His Holiness, Pope Francis in recognition of their outstanding and committed services to the church and humanity.
The awardees include: Sir Augustine Emenike Ibeme of St. John’s Catholic Parish, Neni, who was awarded a Papal knight of the Order of St Gregory De Great and Lady Pauline Chinwe Ndibe, LSM, LSS of St. John’s Parish, Enugwu-Agidi, former director of C.W.O, Awka Diocese, who was awarded a Lady of the Order of St Sylvester.
Others were awarded papal knights of the Order of St. Sylvester and they were Sir Anthony Obi Umeh, KSS of St Martin’s Parish, Igboukwu; Sir Charles Ikechukwu Daniel Anierobi, KSS of St. John and Paul Parish, Umubele-Awka; Sir Nkemdilim A.U. Nnonyelu, KSS of St. Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Awka; Sir Paul Amaonye, KSS of St Joseph’s Parish, Ekwulobia and Sir Albert Sunday Ezenwafor, KSS (Albertina) of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Ekwulobia.
More awardees included; Sir Jerome Okoye, KSS of St. Dominic’s Parish, Adazi-Enu; Sir Victor Umeh, KSS, the former APGA National Chairman of St. Patrick’s Parish, Aguluzigbo; Sir Ikenna Okafor, KSS (Ide-Akwaeze) of St. Michael’s Parish, Akwaeze and Sir Michael Ifeanyi Ezenduka, KSS (MIFE) of St. Joseph’s Parish, Amesi.
The Papal knights also included Sir Francis Nwaobu Chukwuka Nwandison, KSS of St Paul’s Parish, Ugwuoba; Sir Emmanuel Nwakanma, KSS (CEO of Apple Cosmetics) of St Paul’s Parish, Achalla; Sir Chukwukadibia Emmanuel Onyeneke, KSS ( Igwe Ezejiofor II of Ekwulobia) of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Ekwulobia and the oldest, Sir Anthony Okeke Nwankwo, KSS of St. Theresa’s Parish, Agulu.
In his homily during the investiture the auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, Most Rev. Jonas Benson Okoye, enjoined the papal medalists to live a life that reflected them as true soldiers of Christ, willing to die for the faith which they profess. Bishop Okoye who described the Papal award as a call to greater responsibility and life of sacrifice, urged the awardees to live up to the responsibilities that went with the honour, saying that the honour was not meant for fame but one that led to one’s personal repentance and development of more in-depth relationship between the individual and God.
He advised them to be on the path of truth, to be men of courage and be different from others by turning down offers which were illegal and bad in the sight of God. He stressed the need for individuals to develop the habit of examining their lives as it would help them in correcting their inadequacies as an unexamined life was not worth living.
Bishop Okoye maintained that the Papal Award demanded the courage to be different and comes with its perceived challenges as such difference was required to distinguish a man of the world from the one for Christ. He stated that the awardees were individuals from various fields of life, including the religious, the academia, business, community, leadership and politics.
He said that the perception mostly held by people that those for the Papal Award were always selected and recommended to the Pope by the diocesan bishop was not entirely true or false. He explained that the bishop’s selection and recommendation for Papal Medalists came through the individuals’ good deeds and witness presented before the bishop by either the people or parish priest of those involved, as well as other information which the bishop might have gathered during his visit to the parish of the individuals concerned.
Enumerating the responsibility associated with the Papal Award, the Catholic prelate said that the honour was not meant for saints, but would make the awardees better persons, even as he beckoned on them to improve on their service to the church and humanity.
Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano who was also at the event thanked the Pope through the bishop for finding the awardees worthy. He revealed that the honour came with a lot of responsibility and urged the awardees to double their efforts in their various endeavours.
For the awardees, it was a day to express thanks to God for remembering their efforts in the building of his house. For Chief Umeh, an astute politician, he insisted that, “My Papal knighthood will make me to serve humanity more. The Papal knighthood does not make any of us holier than anybody, none of us lobbied to be conferred Papal knighthood. We simply merited it, and people who have been seeing our good work in the church recommended us to the Bishop, and the Pope ratified it.”
On his part, a foremost businessman and oil magnate, Chief Ikenna Okafor said that, the honour would spur him to do more for the church and society at large.
â€œIt is a call for higher service, I am only asking God for strength to be able to do more for God and humanity.”
Speaking on the role of the knights generally in building the society, he stated that they (knights) are the soldiers of the church, who stand up for the truth and for justice, both for the church and for the nation. “I believe the church is a society builder, and we are soldiers of the church must live exemplary lives that will engineer emulation and subsequent growth in the society,” he said.