By Fr George Adimike
Every day is for love, but February is observed as a month of love by sheer convention. February is for love, but it is also for men of gratias et gravitas (grace and gravity). Conventionally, February is accepted as a month to celebrate love, which is both divine and human.
The Most Reverend Valerian Maduka Okeke, the Archbishop of Onitsha, The Most Reverend Hilary Odili Okeke, the Bishop of Nnewi and Professor Pat Utomi have demonstrated by their deeds that love of God and neighbour is not only the compass that directs their lives but also orientation towards which they live their earthly mission. Living for God, dying for the Church, and being spent for humanity is the HCF of these two prelates of the Church, Archbishop Okeke and Bishop Okeke and the prelate of the socio-economy, Prof Utomi.
In February (6), the Lord called Prof Utomi into existence, and in February (9 & 10, respectively) the Lord called the Okeke brothers to the Episcopacy, and they answered. When their Excellencies, Archbishop Val Okeke and Bishop Hilary Okeke accepted the call and responded to the vocation of being successors of the apostles, they were absolutely conscious of its meaning as a vocation to martyrdom and also vividly aware of its attendant grace. They trusted and confidently embraced the great office into which they were called and thus launched their ministries.
In these score-minus-one years of their Episcopacy, they have lived this apostolic vocation with absolute trust in divine providence and great fraternity. Though they are not biological siblings, they share in a spiritual fraternity and spiritual consanguinity through their relatedness by the blood of Christ. Baptised with the water distilled from the blood of Christ, the Eucharistic Jesus, they forged a communion and enviable friendship (Ps 133:1), demonstrating the quality of the Christian brotherhood as a foretaste of heaven.
This apostolic collaboration translates to a synergy that breeds harmony, peace and joy in the ministry. They launched into the ministry with the consuming zeal for the Father’s house perceptible in their pastoral leadership with manifest pastoral fruits. The local Churches of Onitsha and Nnewi bear this mark of pastoral excellence.
Archbishop Valerian Okeke @19: Building Life and Godliness
The Archbishop’s absolute faith in God and understanding of the human person funds his belief that he who has Christ lives newly, fully, and differently. This faith inspires his Episcopal motto and spells his ministry, namely “that they have life in full” (Jn 10:10). In pursuit of this Episcopal commitment in imitation of the Good Shepherd, the eternal lamb-bearer, Christ Jesus, he dedicates himself to working for life and godliness of the flock entrusted to his care.
To that effect, he leaves no turn unstoned in shepherding the flock. He avoids the mistake of delinking of care of life before death from life after death in a binary exclusionism. In other words, his apostolate demonstrates the belief that life after death is an eloquent affirmation of life before death.
As a man of faith, promotion of life and godliness form the rubric of his pastoral engagement and drives his spiritual leadership, thus serving the dignity of the human persons. For him, the fullness of life flows from a profound relationship with the Lord, for that he lives by the principle that faith in the Lord precedes the experience of his glory (cf. Jn 11:40).
Hence, his Episcopal ministry pivots around the true good of human persons, covering his salvation and holistic well-being in a free and virtuous society. The transformation affects personnel training, human capital development, pastoral initiatives and spiritual and infrastructural development, impacting all spheres of life. He drinks from a deep spiritual well in the Eucharist and feeds his children in Christ with rich spiritual food through his homilies, talks and pastoral letters textured with faith and love of God. Let me spare you the details.
Bishop Hilary Okeke @19: Fatherly Pastoral Solicitude
The fatherly pastoral solicitude of Bishop Okeke impacts the pastoral field in such a manner that glory of God the Father radiates through his ministry. Thus, his Episcopacy makes present through the structures of ministry the grandeur and splendour of God. Immediately after his consecration, he hit the ground running, establishing most of the diocesan structures and infrastructures to function on a stable basis in a time of meagre resources.
He was undaunted before the challenges, trusting in the divine providence. The speed and the grandeur point to the magnificent presence of God, and he makes an effort to instantiate God’s presence in the midst of his people. He distinguishes himself as a man of faith with his deeds and signature faith-thought, expounding different dimensions of faith in his Pastoral letters. His love for the Eucharist and the people of God is manifestly apparent.
In their peculiar methods, their distinctive charisms are evident. These charisms positively impact these two local churches that they count among the fastest-growing local churches in the Catholic world.
As we thank God for the spiritual fellowship and pastoral synergy of these brother-bishops, we pray that their stars continue to shine in order to continue to illuminate our paths and hearts. Having been chosen and graced by God as shepherds for the apostolic ministry, they have truly become both transcripts and transmitters of grace. Congratulations and happy Episcopal Anniversary to Archbishop Valerian Maduka Okeke and Bishop Hilary Odili Okeke.
Prof Pat Utomi @65: Celebrating an Integrity Capital
In many and several ways, Prof Utomi carved out a niche as Patrick of Nigeria, a business angel on a mission to transform the socio-economic and political landscape of this nation. As he marks his birthday, it is worth recalling that a nation that celebrates her best gives room for building a galaxy and broad-based eminent citizens of integrity.
Such a nation angles for values in human living and entrepreneurial activities. Celebrating them is not only an honour for their contributions and sacrifices but a medium to showcase the collective pride of the nation in human resources. This understanding is why the birthday of Prof. Pat Utomi worth every attention and fete.
The place of this hint cannot be lost, more especially now, where the crushing socio-economic status of our country is appalling. In all standards, our cynosure is one of our few reputable heads, hearts and hands that are resourcefully striving to better our society. Many more years filled with bliss and grace! Happy birthday, Prof!!!