Saturday October 16, 2021 will forever remain a memorable day in the lives of the Parish Priest, Associate priests, Religious and indeed, parishioners of Our Lady Mother of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, Ajah, as their new Church building was dedicated for worship, by His Grace, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos. The epoch making event,saw the peoplefilled with profoundjoy, happiness, thanksgiving and resounding celebration that enveloped the atmosphere, as theyworshipped God, in their newly completed Church building. Expressing joy on the occasion, Rev. Fr. Leo Garber, Parish Priest, Our Lady Mother of Perpetual Help Catholic Church said the church building is an image of the Church built from living stones and the place where the Eucharist is kept and a place where Christians assemble to hear the word of God, pray to God and celebrate the sacred mysteries.
“We are extremely blessed and thankful to God almighty for letting us see this day 16th October, the year of our Lord, 2021. A day we will never forget in our lives. “We give thanks to God, and are grateful to so many people who contributed to the completion of this beautiful edifice to our Lord. This should be in form of your time, service, prayers, words of encouragement, your goodwill and cash, over the last 10 years since the project of building this beautiful edifice to our Lord started. We are indeed grateful. Maythe good Lord bless you abundantly, through Christ our Lord. Amen“, he prayed. He thanked His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, who assisted the parish to secure a new Fathers’ House and laid the foundation stone for the Church building on May 10, 2010.
“The oldFathers’ House was at this spot, and it was brought down to pave way for this beautiful Church building. We thank all the priests, who have been here before me. First, Late Rev. Fr. Patrick Adegbite, who established Our Lady Mother of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, as one of the initial Mass centres, on the 14th day of June, 1999. The others being Ss. Philips and James, Idado, Ave Maria, Ikate, St. Peters, Langbasa and Our Lady Mother and Queen, Badore. To the glory of God, of these five Mass centres, four have had their Churches dedicated, with Our Lady Mother of Perpetual Help becoming the fourth today. “Prayerfully and expectantly, we await that of Ave Maria, Ikate, which will definitely happen, by God’s grace. Amen. We are grateful to theLate Rev. Fr. Patrick, for sowing the seed of ervangelisation in this parish. May God grant Fr. Patrick Adegbite eternal rest. Amen. Next, was Rev. Fr. O’Leary, SMA.He was the first appointed Parish Priest ofOur Lady Mother of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, Ajah.
In September 2007, he gave a standard church hall for the Parish Pastoral Council, with his committee, he started establishing and inaugurating churches and organizations like CMO, CWO, CYON and other societies. Fr. Noel started evening Masses at St Charles Boromeo, 1004, Victoria Island. We are grateful to him for his contributions. “ Fr. Garber also recognized the roles played by other former parish priests and associate priests, and parishioners, who were part of the Church’s journey, but have moved on to other parishes. “Worthy of mention is Rev. Fr. Eamonn Finnegan, who initiated the project and supervised it until 2013. Rev. Fr. Julius Olaitan, who took over from Fr. Eamonn and handed over to me in 2015. Amidst these, there were several Associate priests, who contributed immensely to the completion of this new Church, and have since become friends of the parish. “We remain grateful to all our friends and benefactors, and to everybody that has contributed in making this arduous journey a huge success.
May the good Lord bless and keep you all. It is my prayer that the dedication of our Church today, will avail us a constant source of spiritual uplifting and succour. May Our Lady Mother of Perpetual Help continue to intercede for us, through her son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen“, he prayed. For his part, Mr. BamishebiNereus Thompson, Church Dedication Planning Committee Chairman said the Church Dedication Planning Committee, wishes to express its profound gratitude to Almighty God, the Parish Priest and his pastoral team, the Parishpastoral Council, parishioners and friends of the parish for their prayers and immense support to the planning and execution of the occasion of dedication of their Church. According to him,“Inaugurated in September 2019, by the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Leo Garber, and theDedication Planning Committee was tasked with planning the ceremony slated for June 27, 2020.
This committee was saddled with the responsibility to plan and execute a hitch free dedication ceremony of our Church building, but unfortunately, this could not be achieved owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It is worth noting that the committee laboured on with its meeting schedules virtually- ,awaiting a new date from the Archdiocese, and to the glory of God, the Archbishop approved 16th October, 2021 via a letter in January, 2021. “TheDedication Committee would not have achieved the success recorded today without God’s grace, and the various interventions and unflinching support of the parishioners, who remained determined, despite the economic challengers in the country to complete the new Church building. I pray that the Almighty God will replenish your pockets beyond your expectations. “On behalf of theDedication Committee, we are grateful to have been found worthy to serve God, the Church and humanity in this capacity. May Our Mother Mary continue to intercede for us. Amen.
“ In his homily, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins,Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, noted that the love of the Lord has gathered the people together to celebrate the joy of completing a dwelling place for God. He said:“The love of the Lord has gathered us together to celebrate the joy and satisfaction that comes with completion. By the grace of God you started the building of this magnificent structure, not because you had all the money you needed, stored up in the bank, but you started in faith, knowingwell that the Lord will provide and help to bring it to completion. These past few years, you have done annual harvest and bazaars, not only with the intention of thanking God for a good harvest, but also with the intention of raising funds for the building of your Church. You have given yourselves levies to pay. You have appealed beyond the borders of your parish, in order to raise funds. I do not know, but probably, you have also quarreled among yourselves on different aspects of what needs to be done and how to do them. But in all of these, the grace of God, the love of the Church has caused you to go on, and on, and on.
Even when probably you were discouraged and felt tired, the love of God and your love of the Church led you on, till today when we gather to celebrate the joy of completion. What a joy. May the joy of the Lord never be lacking in our lives, and may each one of you feel that joy, all the days of your lives; in your families , in your work and wherever you may be, through Christ our Lord. “ He said the building is completed, and dedicated, in order that the people of God may worship the living God in it. In his words: “By our act of dedication today, we set this building aside that it may be used for nothing else other than the worship of God. Today, this building becomes the house of God, a sanctuary, a holy place where God lives among his people. My prayer is that our act of dedication today may not be in vain. We pray that God in deed and in truth will dwell amongyou his people, so that whenever you come into this Church, the Lord will be there waiting for you, through Christ our Lord.
“ He prayedthat God in truth dwell here among the people and hear their prayers any time they come to pray, and any time they raise their voices in prayers to him. Quoting 1 Kings 8:10-12, the Archbishop recounted how Solomon said prayers and offered sacrifices, in order to dedicate the temple in Jerusalem, after bringing the temple to its completion. “When Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem, the way by which he knew that the temple was really dedicated and hat God had taken possession of the temple was because of the presence of the Ark of the Covenant and the cloud that coveredthe entire sanctuary. He knew because theArk of the Covenant wasbroughtinto the temple, andthe cloud covered the entire sanctuary. “The Ark of the Covenant had no more than the two stones that God had inscribed the Ten Commandments that Moses received on behalf of the people.
Those were the stones that were in the Arkof the Covenant. They were mere stones, but stones that were inscribed with the words of God, and as soon as it was brought into the sanctuary of the temple. God took possession of that temple, and a cloud covered the temple as testimony. As we dedicate this Church, we also have assurance that God takes possession of this place of worship and dwells among us. Matthew 18: 20 tells us where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst. In other words, thefact of our gathering to worship in this building, the fact that you the people of God, the living stone which God has used to build this Church are gathered, is testimony to the presence of God because each one of us is made in the image and the likeness of God.
And as sacred scripture states in 2nd peter 2:5, ‘We are a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God. So, when we gather, in worship, God is present. Therefore, any time you come into this Church, building, never ever forget that you and all the other that are gathered are a testimony to the presence of God, that God has taken possession of this Church, and is living among you. “At the beginning of this celebration, we sprinkled water, not only on the walls of this Church building, we also sprinkled water on everyone present. That is not for nothing. It has implications. First of all, it means that each one of us has been claimed by Christ, has been claimed for Christ by our baptism, and therefore, we are bearers of Christ. We take him with us wherever we go, from day to day.
Remember at your baptism, and sat the baptism of everybody that is born into the Church, the sign of God, the sign of the cross is traced on the forehead of the person being baptized, sand the priest says to each one, ‘I claim you for Christ.’ We were claimed for Christ by the sign of the cross. We are also washed clean from sin by the waters of baptism, and therefore, we are united with Christ, we become so much one with him that each of us must make ourselves available to do the work of Christ; to be the instrument in the hands of God for revangelisation, and bringing people to Christ. He urged the faithful to bringpeople to Christ, by the words of their mouth and by the example of their lives. He said: “Each of one you, dear brothers and sisters must deliberately take care of one another, as brothers and sisters in the faith because we have become one.
We are bound together not only with Christ, but with one another. If we gather in worship, if we come together from time to time in this Church for worship, we must be concerned about the welfare of one another. “I like to say it any time I have the opportunity that each community of God’s people must be a community in whicheveryone cares about the spiritual and material welfare of everyone else. Everyone must care and take deliberate action to help in the spiritual and material welfare of one another. It is when we do this that we become a presence of Christ,a presence of Christ who gave everything for the salvation of everyone.
“Do you ever care my dear brothers and sisters, if your neighbour does not come to Church anymore? Do you ever pay attention if for any reason your neighbour does not receive the sacraments anymore? Has it ever occurred to you that each one of you is set by God to be a guard, to be an assistant for anyone that is not following the ways anymore? What do you do if you have opportunities of offering jobopportunities to your fellow Catholics? Do you turn your face awayfrom him or from her or do you take deliberate steps to ensure that that opportunity is brought to the attention of your brothers and sisters in the Church who need the job?That is something for us to think about becausewhen we are in the presence of God to one another, we must be interested in the welfare of one another. God’s presence is not only in we the people, it is also in the word of God that is spoken to us in the Church.
The word of God will be read, and be preached about in this Church. The word of God has the power to change lives, and to make old things to become new. “We heard in the book of Nehemiah that we read this morning how the word of God was read in the assembly of the people of Israel. Ezra read the word of God from the book of the law. He read from an elevated place, just as I and whoever reads or preaches from here stands on an elevated place, sand reads and proclaim the word of God. My dear friend, whatever we do in our Church has a meaning and it has a basis somewhere that you may not know. Now we know, when you read from here, it is as Ezra did. When we preach from here, it is as Ezra did on an elevated ground that was done to the people of Israel. We were told that at the end of the reading to `the people of Israel, all of them burst out in tears.
They were touched by the word of God. And they needed to be consoled by Ezra the priest because the word of God had touched their lives. What does it say? It says to us, anytime ‘we come into this Church that God is talking to us’ listen, pay attention’. Pay attention anytime the word of God is read at any celebration of any of the Sacraments. The word of God had a message for everyone. The word of god’s message may be different from one person to the other. For some, it is a message of exultation. For some it is a message of warning. For some it is a message of encouragement. For some it is a message that can be as varied as we are present in the Church. Each must listen to hear what God has to say to him or to her. That is when the word of God could be truly present, when it touches you and convicts you and makes you change for the better.
The word of God is a sign of the presence of God in our Church. Of course the Holy Eucharist is the doorway by which the word of God is presented to us, and God takes possession of this building. He said the alter when anointed will be the place on which the sacrifice of Jesus, the same one he offered on the cross will be offered from time to time and indeed every day in a bloodless manner. “Never the less, it is the same as the sacrifice offered on the cross. Jesus is present, not only when he’s offered on the cross, but also in the Tabernacle. Let us be aware that God takes possession, and is present with us all the time in the tabernacle.
“ The Archbishop urged the people to come to the presence of God, bringing to him their needs, their concerns, and thanksgiving, as the Lord will meet them at the point of their needs. He further urged them to treat the place as God’s sanctuary that it is, adding that when they enter there, they should make it a point of duty to genuflect on their right knee, as a sign of reverence and recognition of God that is present in the tabernacle. “When you pass by, on the road, make a sign of the cross to show your recognition that God lives here. Whether people like it or not, they will see this building because it is imposing, it’s a beauty by the grace of God. But you as you pass by, will help them to realize that this is a sanctuary where God lives among men“, he said.
On Thursday, the 18th of May, 1998, late Rev. Fr. Patrick Adegbite came to Ajah a reconnaissance mission, to see how his work of evangelization in Ajah will start. On that historic day, Fr. Adegbite walked in to Mr. Jude Agu’s shop at Ajah bus stop where he was selling plumbing materials. He noticed a finger rosary on Mr. Jude’s finger and deduced he is Catholic, he informed him of his intentions to start a Catholic Church in Ajah. Rev. Fr. Adegbite and Mr. Jude Agu started searching for a place, after a while they found an open place at the bus stop outside the shop of one Mr. Adigun – a Muslim. The following day, Fr. Adegbite came in the company of his Catechist, Mr. Christopher Bassey, joined by Mr. Jude Agu, in a vehicle on which they mounted a public address system. They went around Ajah announcing that a Catholic Church was opening in Ajah and that there will be Mass at the bus stop on Sunday 31st May, 1998. The first Mass attended by 16 people and 7 communicants, the traders brought out a collection of 3-5 stools and benches, which served as Altar table and pew. Fr. Adegbite continued the weekly announcements at Sunday Masses. On the third Sunday of worshipping at Ajah bus stop, it rained so members agreed to look for an enclosed space. Mrs. Sonuga volunteered to speak to some people so she went to School Masters but no luck. It was at that time 14th of June 1998, Mr. and Mrs. Demola Fowler (worshipped with the community for the first time), provided a more conducive place beside their home on Addo, away from Ajah bus stop. Those days were marred with fuel scarcity so far many who had just moved to Ajah, it was a thing of joy and a miracle to know that Sunday Masses were just a walking distance away from our homes. The zeal with which the people welcomed and offered to work for the church was most commendable. Everyone brought what they felt was needed to make the Mass and environment as comfortable as possible. Carpenters offered to make the Altar table (labour free). Collection boxes were donated and over 150 white plastic chairs and canopies, with a public address system, were provided free of charge by the Fowlers. Each Sunday, people came with excitement to set up the canopies and chairs for Mass. It was a growing family Parish at the time membership grew quickly from 16 to 200 people. Less than a year in existence, exactly on Sunday the 1st day of November, 1998, the first combined Children/Youth and Adult Harvest was successfully celebrated. That year’s harvest was chaired by Mr. Demola Fowler and Dr. Mrs M.S Sonuga, the Secretary was Mrs. Anne-Marie Palmer-Ikuku, the Bazaar Chairman was Jerry Chukwueke and the Bazaar Special Guest was Mr. Patrick Amaechi. Formation as a Parish At that time, the Parish soon started growing, having acquired four plots between 1999 and 2002 and having erected a temporary place of worship. Fr. Adegbite challenged members of the mass center to build a Parish House and request to have a Parish Priest if they wanted to be a Parish.
The challenge was accepted, the community quickly commenced fund-raising to build a Reverend Father’s House. By September 2007, His Eminence blessed the Reverend Father’s house and appointed the First Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. O’Leary S.M.A. The new Parish Priest quickly gave the standard structure of a Parish Pastoral Council (with its committees) and started establishing/ inaugurating church organizations (CMO, CWO and CYON) and other societies. Fr. O’Leary started evening masses while still resident at St Charles Borromeo, Victoria Island. The men formed themselves into C.M.O, ably led by Pa Patrick Okpalefe, Chief James Ibe, Barr. Charles Nmarkwe, Phillip Jatto and Bonny Mekwunye (current) have all occupied this position at different times. Fr. O’Leary requested that the women organized themselves into C.W.O because of the directives from the Archdiocese, five women came together to start the C.W.O of the Parish. They are Mrs. Theresa Okpalefe, Mrs. Nwokolo, Mrs. Chinyere Mberekpe and Mrs Adaku Ihuoma. The President of CWO was Mrs. Tessy Okpalefe, Mrs. Debbie Nkechi Mekwunye, Mrs Vivian Emmanuel-Ogon, Mrs. Stella Ifeyinwa Okolo, Mrs Nora Amadi and Engr. Mrs. Rita Uchechukwu Ofili (current) have all occupied positions as Presidents of the CWO.