After close to five years of ecclesiastical battle occasioned by the appointment of Bishop Peter Ebele Okpaleke as Catholic Bishop of Ahiara Diocese, activities had resumed in top gear in the diocese.
Most visible was the recent ordination of 16 priests by His Lordship Most Rev. Lucius I. Ugorji.
As a result, the entire Mbaise in Imo State was agog with activities in preparation for the epoch-making moment being the ordination of 16 of their sons into the Catholic priesthood.
Some of those to be ordained have spent 23 years in their search of the priesthood, especially as a result of the Ahiara crisis.
The joy was as ecstatic and exciting as was expected inside the massive Cathedral of Maria Mater Ecclesiae Cathedral, Ahiara on May 4, when the Ordaining Prelate, His Lordship Most Rev. Lucius I. Ugorji, the Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Diocese confirmed the priests ordained.
Ugorji said, “My prayer is there should be no more crises. Never again will there be crises in Ahiara, Mbaise. It will be forward ever, backward never. We thank God for ensuring peace which made it possible for the ordination of these our brothers, 16 of them. So we thank God for the peace in the diocese.”
Among the 16 people ordained was Reverend Father Christogonus Chinonso Okonko, who on the second day after the priestly ordination, celebrated his first Holy Mass of Thanksgiving at Christ the King Catholic Church Okpofe, where he thanked God and all those who helped in one way or the other to ensure his attainment of priesthood.
While thanking those who nurtured the young priests especially their parents, Ugorji stated that the process of ordination of priests is a serious and delicate business.
He went further to explain that it was wrong to put pressure on the bishop to ordain any particular person as priest.
“If you push the bishop to ordain somebody as reverend father, it is not valid. If it is done without the recommendation of those concerned, it can be valid but illicit, illegal.
“It is a very delicate process, so we do this according to the direction of God, and those that make recommendation must also do so without fear or favour,” Ugorji stated.
He urged the new priests to live a life worthy of emulation. “The people must see Christ in your actions, in your speech, there must be integrity, living in imitation of Christ and in holiness”.
He also told them that the church recommends a life of prayer, adding, “you must live a virtuous life and grow in holiness”. He urged the newly ordained priests to respect their respective parish priests and the bishop.