Dignitaries from various parts of the globe, including United States of America (USA), Canada, as well as friends and well wishers, yesterday, converged at the Umuchima ancient Community, in Ideato South Council Area of Imo State, South-East Nigeria to Felicitate with a Nigerian (US) Based Catholic Priest, Rev. Fr. (Dr) Theophilus Tochukwu Okpara, on the occasion of his Silver Jubilee Anniversary.
Our Correspondent reports that the colourful reception of the ceremony which began earlier in the day with a Holy Mass at the Church of Immaculate Conception (CIC), Umuchima, the home parish of Fr. Okpara, was graced by scores of Rev. Fathers and Sisters, as well as the Catholic Bishop of Orlu Diocese, Most Rev. (Dr) Agustin Ukwuoma, who is also the celebrant’s boss.
The Bishop, had earlier in his congratulating massage to Fr. Okpara, who currently serves as Staff Chaplain (Veterans Affairs, medical Centre, Bedford Massachusetts (USA), said “on this happy occasion of the Silver Jubilee celebration of your ordination to the sacred priesthood, it gives me tremendous joy to join your many friends and well wishers in congratulating you.
According to him, “there is no doubt that ordination to the sacred priesthood is a rare privilege and that twenty five (25) years of indefatigable service in the lord’s vein yard is indeed a precious gift from God.
“It is therefore, fitting that at such a major milestone, we pause and thank the Lord of the harvest for his call and grace to respond.
“As we rejoice with you, we cannot but recall the many years of selfless service that you have rendered to the Church and humanity. In very many ways, you have been a great source of joy and pride to sacred priesthood” the Bishop declared
“As a Pastor, you have touched the lives of many in many positive ways. Your pastoral zeal and dedication to the Ministry have given many people course to thank God for the wonder of your being. For this and many more, we are grateful to God and proud of you.
The Orlu Catholic Diocese Chief priest, noted that Jubilee year is always a special moment of appreciation for devine benefits received, adding that “we pray that it may also be for you a special moment of renewal and rejuvenation for more fruitful work in the lord’s vein yard.
“And as you turn another page in your life, the entire Christ faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Orlu commend you to God for continuous protection and guidance to face the challenges ahead.
Delivering a sermon during the Mass celebration, a close ally of Fr. Okpara, and Priest in charge of Holy Rosary parish, Umuele, Amazano, in Njamba Council Area of Imo state, Rev. Fr. Bona Ike-Ozoigbo, posited that such occasion was a moment of sober refection for the celebrant.
While thanking the family members of Fr. Okpara, for resisting the temptation of not mounting unnecessary pressures on him, he called on the faithful to always pray for their priests, stressing that because they are also human, and not immune from making mistakes.
Fr. Ike-Ozoigbo, equally urged the church faithful to refrain from the habit of tempting ordained Clergy men, pointing out that as mere mortals, they are always confronted with human challenges which can only be tackled via fervent prayers.
In his remark, the elated celebrant, Fr. Okpara, had went down memory lane on how his journey to priesthood began.
He said: “the journey started in 1985 at St. Mary’s Seminary Umuoma, where I spent one year and was later sent to Holy Trinity parish Omuma, and to St. Kizito’s Secondary school Umuchima in 1986 and 1987 respectively for Apostolic work.
Fr. Okpara, who holds PhD in (Counselor Education and Supervision), Walden University, USA, gave thanks to God for calling him to be his priest, despite “my unworthiness.
He said: “The journey has been full of joys and challenges which presented unique opportunities for me to appreciate God’s presence in my life as a priest.
“Each pastoral experience added to my spiritual growth , humility, and commitment to the service of God and humanity.
“My family has been part of journey and significant support system. I sincerely thank each of them, especially my father, late Mr. Thomas Okpara, and my mother, Nneoma Madam Alice Okpara.
“I am blessed with wonderful parishioners and friends, in my past and present parishes and institutions. I remain grateful to them for being supportive and receptive to my Ministry” he stated.
Highlight of the event was the exhibition of a novelty football match among youths of Umuchima Community.