Aside from the Masses and soul-lifting papers delivered by Bishops and priests, including other liturgical and solemn activities that characterized the National Eucharist Congress held recently in Benin Archdiocese, there were also several testimonies of the reality of Jesus Christ personified in the Holy Eucharist and the miraculous testimonies of its wondrous effects in the life of Christians. The Congress which drew a large turnout of Bishops, priests, and religious and lay faithful from across the various Archdioceses and Dioceses in Nigeria, including delegates from Lagos Archdiocese featured series of personal testimonies from pilgrims of how the intervention of the Holy Eucharist changed their lives’ situations for better. For Rev. Fr. Alex Okoro of Owerri Archdiocese, his refusal to hearken to the admonition of his Archbishop after a prayer session before the Blessed Sacrament, almost cost him his life. Speaking in front of the mammoth crowd, Fr. Okoro who was then in the US, recalled how he was directed by his Archbishop to return home from his base in the United States of America, but he was not comfortable with the idea. He was to sign a letter of agreement with his Archbishop to return home, but he failed to comply. The next day, he left Nigeria.
On his way back to the US, the plane he boarded developed technical faults that almost led to a mishap but for God’s intervention. According to Fr. Okoro, when they managed to land the plane somewhere in Senegal, he was able to reach his Archbishop on phone and quickly begged for his forgiveness and prayer. Hear him, “After listening to me, my Archbishop said, ‘Don’t be afraid. I will be praying for you, and the priests here will be praying for you. But do you know that you are the Jonah in that plane? I told him that I was willing at that point to quickly sign the letter relinquishing my position in the U.S and that I was willing to return home immediately. He said,’ Go, you will survive. But the Lord has told you to come back home.” After this incident, the Archbishop posted me to a new parish in Owerri. I quickly relocated and resumed at my new parish. So, my dear brother priests, I am advising you, don’t disobey, especially, when your bishop tells you to come back, you must obey and come back.’ Another pilgrim spoke of how his devotion to the Holy Eucharist led him into choosing a compatible life partner in a very unusual way, a story that was as interesting as it was intriguing. A representative of Very Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Edeh, Director of the International Sanctuary, Elele, highlighted several testimonies of the transformative power of the Holy Eucharist, using the Centre as a reference point. He stressed that through the Holy Eucharist, man shares in the divinity of Christ who humbles himself to share in our humanity. He reminded the pilgrims that he who is faithful and rightfully receives the Holy Eucharist will be blessed with the powerful grace to accept God and reject Satan in all ramifications. He equally recounted the positive effect of the sanctuary on the faith of pilgrims as characterized by the daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist, garnished with the undiluted word of God.
There were also several testimonies narrated by Bishop Hilary Dachelem who spoke on the echoes of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress held in Budapest, Hungary last year, including how a committed Pentecostal missionary was led to Catholicism after experiencing persistent personal encounters with the Holy Eucharist. The pilgrims to the 5th Eucharistic Congress were reminded to always hunger for the food of eternity; attend confession on regular basis; reconcile with God, the Church, and neighbours; make effort to live a Eucharistic life of love, be in a state of grace and strive to receive the Holy Eucharist worthily. Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Archbishop of Lagos Archdiocese, graced the congress in company of about 22 delegates led by Very Rev. Fr. Marcellinus Teko. Other priests in attendance included Very Rev. Fr. Julius Olaitan, Rev. Fr. Steven Akinsowon, Rev. Fr. Innocent Opogah, and Rev. Fr. Jude Mary O.P and a host of religious and lay leaders.