… as Fr. Okeke celebrates 50th birthday
Young priests have been urged to be committed and dedicated to their vocation, as well work hard, be respectful and take their first posting of priestly assignment seriously to succeed in their call to service in God’s work. The charge was given by Rev. Fr. Vincent Ezezue CSsR, on Sunday, August 7, 2022 during the 50th birthday/17th priestly anniversary of Very Rev. Fr. Anthony Ifeanyichukwu Okeke, Parish Priest, Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Onireke, Lagos and first thanksgiving Mass of Rev. Fr. Richard Nwabugwu Chukwuyenre held in the church premises. Delivering his homily during the Mass, Fr. Ezezue recounted how the parents of Fr. Okeke waited for 10 years before they were blessed with a child, adding that the family believed in the steadfastness of God and convinced about the zeal of the house of God. Hs said: “This is a family that thinks, works and acts like Catholics, a family who put their trust in God. Father Tee was born to the family after 10 years of marriage little wonder they named him Ifeanyichukwu meaning with God all things are possible”. Speaking about the parents’ conviction Fr. Ezezue said that even after waiting for ten years before having a child, they still offered their son to God, “That is a conviction.
The family offered Fr. Tony to the service of God and humanity.” He said the celebration is that of thanksgiving for God’s amazing grace and blessings, as well as favour in the life of Father Okeke and his family. In his words: “In a moment like this, it is worth knowing that we have to recount the bountiful grace of God in his life. For one with a good knowledge of his history has a profound sense of gratitude to God and a good legacy for posterity.” He said Fr. Okeke is worth celebrating because he is remarkable, as he added that the manner in which the priest managed the places where he worked as parish priest are record breaking and has won him positive appraisal. “Fr Tee is a priest with strong moral fibre and ever ready to die defending the faith which he professes. He is very decisive in life with clear unquestionable qualities of transparency, impartiality, unparalleled sense of justice, total dedication and commitment to duty.” Also, Fr. Ezezue thanked God for Fr. Richard Chukwuyenre whom he said is the first indigenous priest of the parish, as he urged him to be committed and dedicated to his priestly vocation. Stating that newly ordained priests do not choose their first parish of assignment, the homilist advised the young priest to trust the judgment of the bishop and the curia He further advised the priest to work hard and show respect to his parish priest, as he disclosed that most bishops take the first assignment of priests very seriously.
Expressing his appreciation, Father Okeke thanked God for His love, faithfulness and every opportunity He (God) has given him, even calling him in his unworthiness, to serve in God’s vineyard. He thanked his parents for giving one out of their two sons to serve God, adding that it’s a big decision and challenge on their part not going back on the promise they made to God. He appreciated all priests and religious who had been there for him in challenging moments in his life, especially Rev. Sr. (Dr.) Francesca Ewedulobi whom he said encouraged him to not give up when he was ill and almost left the priesthood. He thanked all his priest friends and parishioners from all the parishes where he had worked who came to celebrate with him. He urged the people to do all they can to make life easy for Fr, Richard as he begins his ministry of priesthood, adding that it is not easy when one is an assistant priest as the early days of priests matters a lot. The event was graced by parishioners, family friends and well-wishers of the celebrants, as well as priests and religious who came from far and near to be part of the celebrations.