Following the declaration by Pope
Francis last year, that 2016 is an Extraordinary
Jubilee Year for the Catholic Church, Holy Year of
Mercy, Catholic faithfuls in Awgu Local Government
Area of Enugu State, last Sunday, trooped out
enmasse to seek God’s mercy on the prevailing socio-economic situation in the country.
The year began on December 8, 2015, with the
Feast of the Immaculate Conception and will end
with the Feast of Christ the King on November 20,
2016. Each jubilee is intended to be a rare time in
which the faithful can be forgiven of their sins. It
has been part of the Catholic Church’s history since the 14th century, occurring at the Pope’s discretion
every 25 to 50 years.
The Pope told the faithful at St. Peter’s Basilica: “Dear
brothers and sisters, I have thought about how the
Church can make clear its mission of being a
witness of mercy. It is a journey that starts with a
spiritual conversion. For this reason, I have decided
to declare an Extraordinary Jubilee that has the mercy of God at its centre. It will be a Holy Year of
“I am convinced that the whole Church will be able
to find in this jubilee the joy of rediscovering and
making fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are
all called to give consolation to every man and
every woman of our time,” Pope Francis added,
entrusting the Holy Year to Mary, Mother of Mercy.
At the Awgu Catholic Diocese in Enugu State, Bishop
John Okoye, at the Diocesan Presbyterium,
announced the Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy with
the liturgical opening of Door of Mercy in the
Diocesan Cathedral, Awgu, and in mother churches
of the different regions of the diocese.
The grand celebration, however, took place last
Sunday, at St. Dominic’s Parish, Ogbaku, in the
Awgu Diocese, where the celebration coincided
with the 14th priestly anniversary of the parish
priest, Rev. Fr. Matthias Nnaemeka Udeonu.
The celebration attracted a galaxy of Catholic
priests and other dignitaries such as a former
Military Administrator, Commodore Anthony
Ogugua (rtd), the Chairman, Police Service
Commission, Mike Okiro, Emeritus Vice Chancellor,
HRH Igwe Prof. Sam Ukpabi, National Assembly members, commissioners in Enugu State cabinet,
local government council chairmen, among other
clergy and laity.
In the homily of the mass conducted with 13
officiating priests, the chief officiating priest, Rev. Fr.
Leonard Illechukwu, preached for emulation of the
exemplary life of Rev. Fr. Udeonu and the
gratuitous gift of God’s mercy to man. He x-rayed
Fr. Udeonu, his love for Christ and his love for the gospel and all he did in the various places he has
worked including St. Dominic Ogbaku.
The second segment of the homily focused on the
2016 Year of Mercy. It marked the highlight of the
Holy Year of Mercy both in the parish, the Awgu
Dioceses and in the whole world. The homily
focused on the work of Jesus Christ who through
the Mercy of God came into the world and brought mercy to mankind.
A close priest to the celebrant, Rev. Fr. Ndubuisi
Oko, described Fr. Udeonu as a priest of God. “He
works in the dictates of his Master, Jesus. Wherever
he is, he identifies with the community in the
evangelization of the Gospel and makes the gospel
of Jesus Christ incarnate in the community. At Mbano-Nike he worked in a similar manner, to
ensure that the gospel of Jesus develops and
grows among the people. Wherever he is, he
represents Christ,” he said.
Fr. Udeonu, speaking about himself, said: “If I am to
start my life again, I would still want to be a priest
because no gift can be higher than the gift of
priesthood, the gift of the sacrament of sacraments.
Every sacrament is gratuitous but the gift of
priesthood is sacrament of the sacraments because it is the sacrament of Jesus Christ who is the
sacrament of all sacraments. So what gift can be
higher than the gift of God Himself?”
On the journey of his priesthood, Fr. Udeonu said:
“The Church has two faces, the divine face and the
human face. The priesthood is divine in its origin. It
is a gift given to human beings and nature of man
presupposes ups and downs, the good, the bad,
the ugly. It presupposes an admixture of happiness and sadness but it is all joy because in
the midst of all those things, you still find Jesus.
There are times you see yourself following Jesus to
the cross and there are times you find yourself
singing halleluia for Jesus in resurrection. So, I
share his ministry as a priest.”
Talking on mercy and political leadership, Fr.
Udeonu said that victimhood and priesthood joined
together is a priest’s calling and mission. “As
recipients of God’s mercy, we also have to be givers
of this mercy because God’s mercy, if it is not
expressed, is not mercy. It is not verbal, it is expressive. Jesus has no other hand on the earth at
“We priests, every creature, is an agent of mercy
and priests are called in special ways to be special
agents of mercy. And so, what we do by preaching,
by our words and life of example, we try to be
agents of mercy and agents of good and so the
church and the priest are still meaningful both in the ecclesiastes and the civil settings. We are
witnesses to God’s mercy both in the world and in
The combined celebration featured key lecture:
“Mercy: The Authentic Route to Ecclesial and
Community Transformation, the Ogbaku
Experience,” by erudite Prof. Edmund Agbo, who
traced the origin of the first western Catholic Jubilee
of 1300 by Pope Boniface VIII to Pope Clement VI in 1350 and in 1390 decreed by Pope Urban VI,
presided by Pope Boniface IX.
Awards were also given to deserving recipients
and contributions made for the development of
Ogbaku Parish such as the Pioneer Bishop of Awgu
Diocese, Very Rev Fr. John Okoye and a
posthumous award on Late Abbot Mark Ulogu
received by the Cistercian Monks from Cameroon.
Rtd. Commodore Ogugua who was the chairman of
the occasion asked everybody to be agents of
God’s mercy, “since God does not come down on
earth to shake hands with us.