The 2017 Lenten Assembly and Cathedraticum in Nnewi Diocese began in Nnewi region at St John of the Cross parish, Nnewi on Saturday, March 18, as thousands of the lay faithful trooped out en masse from the 22 parishes in Nnewi region to show their love, support and solidarity to the diocesan bishop, Most Rev Hilary Okeke.
In the Letter to the People of God, Bishop Okeke extensively dwelt on the meaning and implications of Cathedraticum; in summary, “it is the way by which the priests, consecrated men and women and lay faithful demonstrate their respect, love and support for the Bishop of the diocese in which they are.
He went further by bringing it down to the Igbo context, where Cathedraticum resembles the traditional tribute (Ibu Ihu), with which relations of an elder in the community is respected and supported. Traditionally, people give money and other things to their elders as a sign of their loyalty, respect and support. This action by the people creates a type of communion among the Igbo communities. Cathedraticum is therefore, also a cultural activity by which Igbo Catholics render tribute (Ibu Ihu) to their religious chief and elder, the bishop”. In the same way, the Cathedraticum held once a year at various regions establishes a communal love between the diocesan bishop and the people of God.
In his speech during the Lenten Assembly held before the Holy Mass, Bishop Okeke reminded the people of the indispensability of faith in their salvific journey.
Elaborating on faith, he presented Mary the Mother of God as a role model, in the light of his Lenten Pastoral; Let Us Follow Mary, the Model Of Our Faith. He spoke extensively on the life and faith of Blessed Virgin Mary urging the faithful to imitate her always and seek her intercession.
Bishop Okeke presided over the Eucharistic celebration in which many priests in Nnewi Region concelebrated.
Msgr Hypolite Adigwe preaching the homily during the Mass admonished the congregation on the importance of mercy as showcased in the gospel of the prodigal son. He therefore, called on the faithful to adhere strictly to the teachings and the catechesis of the Church on mercy and forgiveness for a better life of a worthy Christian, for in the teaching of the Church lies our salvation.
Earlier, the Episcopal Vicar for Nnewi Region and the Parish Priest of St John of the Cross Uruagu Nnewi, Very Rev Fr Patrick Unaegbu welcomed the Bishop, the priests and lay faithful to the 2017 Lenten Assembly and Cathedraticum.
After the Mass, all the parishes in Nnewi Region fully represented, danced and jubilantly presented their gifts to the bishop; it was indeed “Ibu Ihu” as seen in the traditional Igbo setting.
Bishop Okeke blessed the congregation after his warm expression of gratitude to the Episcopal Vicar, Fr Unaegbu, priests,, religious and people of God, as light refreshment followed thereafter.
By Chisom Ilechukwu