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In Awka, St Thomas Aquinas Parish sends forth Fr Akabogu, others.

By Chinwendu Uzoatu

 Members of St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, GRA, Awka, Sunday, held a sent fort session for their former parish priest, Rev Fr Dr Anthony Akabogu,  their vicar, Fr Solomon Anyaora and Very Rev. Msgr Jerome Mmadueke, who was a residential priest in the parish, as well as two Rev. Sisters, Mary Gaudencia Nwankwor and Maria Lotanna Abbah.

They also welcomed the new parish priest, Fr Francis Oranye and two residential priests, Fr Emmanuel Umezinwa and Fr. Victor Roland Okoli.

The event, which started with a 9:00 am Mass was indeed a celebration of love as the parishioners responded  massively.

In his homily, Fr Anyaora explained that  Jesus Christ is a merciful father by pointing out how he cured a leper who asked for his help from the gospel of the day.

Msgr Mmadueke in his vote of thanks appreciated Fr Akabogu and all the priests he worked with and the entire Aquinas family. He prayed for God's blessings on all even as he stated that the parish is a wonderful place, very natural, peaceful and serene.

On her part, Rev. Sr. Lotanna, who spoke for both Sisters thanked the parishioners for their love. 

She said: "You represent your name - One Family. God will grant all our needs till we reach heaven. With faith and trust in God, we will succeed."

Fr Akabuogu extolled the parish by stating thus: "We cannot thank you enough. You answered me whenever in need. I cannot forget how you tried in saving the life of Ifeanyi Okafor who unfortunately died. I cannot forget your role on Uju Odimgbe which God used to do a miracle on her head. I am one of the most blessed that I passed your community. Many of you challenged me. I thank you for your support, especially your spirit of work"

He also encouraged Fr Oranye to continue the good work even as he assured him that he is in a very good place. He also promised him that they will challenge and support him.

Fr Akabogu while explaining what prompted him to do a lot of charity work while in the parish stated that charity is the center of Christ's ministry.

He said:" It's what he asked us to do. Any church lacking in charity is no church. That is the center of his ministry while here. It is what we live day by day. That is the good news we are asked to preach. Why not charity? If prompted by love, do it. Err on the side of charity. "

The parishioners, while speaking on  the ministry of Fr Akabuogu while with them as their Parish Priest had these to say:

According to Sir Chuka Nnabuife, the MD/CEO of Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation (ANPC), Awka, publishers of National Light Newspaper, Ka O Di Taa and Sportslightxtra, who is a very active member of the parish,  "Fr Akabogu is a wonderful priest. He was very remarkable to me because he presented three different prongs. He was a deeply intellectual person. Throughout the ministry of their stewardship with Msgr Mmadueke, Fr Anyaora and others, you cannot go to any Mass without going home deeply intellectual.At a time in his preaching, you see somebody like a teacher who makes you to learn.

"Another one is that he came across as a community builder. He brings people together, both high and low; a natural gentle person.

" The testimony is the building structure. He left an edifice that can go as cathedral. As he met the church, he was able to bring different people together. He was actually a leveler, unassuming and    porposful. I remember what he said in one morning Mass in 2015, that he believes in building magnificent churches but the best is building the heart. I personally learnt that after every morning Mass, he will step out and will be praying, facing the structure for successful completion as well as for the safety of the workers. Catholic Bishop of Awka, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor commended him by saying that it is beautiful.

"The third prong is that he left a remarkable footprint in pastoral charity. People with extreme cases, from kidney transplant to heart problems relied on him. The church intervened  and to the glory of God, we saved some church members. That was my biggest legacy of  Fr Akabogu at St Thomas Aquinas Parish. 

"In him I saw a priest like Melchizedek, Nnabuife said.

Also speaking, Fr Blaise Ejike said: "He tried very well especially in human spirit. Very humble, he visits the sick and I learnt it from him. He listens to the needy; highest testimony is Uju Odimgbe. He is a very efficient administrator and he has very good human relationship, both small and old.We emulate  him and we pray God to guide him.

Sir J.A.Ezeuchu, the first vice chairman of  St Thomas Aquinas Parish Council said:"He is worthy of emulation. He uses all his spirit for his work, both spiritual and physical. He did a marvelous work in this magnificent church. We wish him to continue the good work. The church sent him to a seminary.

 All the children he will train will be good priests. I pray God to continue to guide him."

The president of Catholic Women Organisation of the parish, Prof Obianuju Mary Chiekezie said: "Fr Akabuogu is a perfect gentleman, down to earth. He is very humble, humility personified. He excels  in every level- children, youth, C.M.O and C.W.O. He is a very wonderful man, full of wisdom and a real administrator. He does not play with spiritual work, he goes hungry to feed others."

President of Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria, Aquinas Parish, Sir Jerry Obodo and the parish Catechist, Nwaka A. Nwaka, in their different interviews also described Fr Akabuogu as a very humble priest, highly spiritual, adding that he completed the church edifice and saw to the dedication on 10th November, 2019.

"Fr. Anyaora, the vicar then complimented the effort of the parish priest, Fr Akabuogu, who  ensured the completion of the work." 

He added that that he, Fr Anyaora worked tirelessly at the Nursery/Primary School, as the manager."

On her part, Mrs Uju Odimgbe,  the woman who God used Fr Akabogu to save showered her praises by saying: "Fr Akabuogu is my spiritual father. My 'ozo Igbo ndu' my benefactor. Infact, by God's grace, he gave me a second chance to live through the people of Aquinas Parish.They raised N13.8 million  for my kidney transplant and it did not end there as they continued with their prayers for the successful operation."

Mrs Odimgbe added that apart from these, they contributed for her diagnosis two times a week which also cost huge amount of money through Divine Mercy Group, St Vincent De Poul, C.W.O, priests, entire Aquinas, Governor Obiano, Bishop of Awka Diocese,Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor and Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Most Rev. Hillary Okeke."

The parishioners also praised Msgr Mmadueke, who they described as a great communicator that promoted the parish to a higher level, and asked God to continue to guide him as he works in his vineyard.

The new parish priest, Fr Oranye thanked God for everything. Concerning the ministry of his predecessor, Fr Akabogu, he said:"I am very happy to start from where he stopped. It is a continuous process, I am following suit. He did a lot; one came for thanksgiving the other time. Helping people is part of our work, we  follow the footstep of God. We are shepherds so we see about the flock.I have come to learn, so after we have worked together,  we make heaven.

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