Burial of Late Mrs Theresa Ume-Ezeoke Quakes Amichi
…Bishop Okeke, Priests Barred From Entering Palace for Vigil Mass
…Children Secure Court Order to Bury Their Mother
The remains of late Mrs Theresa Onwuemelie Ume-Ezeoke (Ononugbo Eriaku) nee Nwene, were laid to rest in her family compound within the sprawling Ume-Ezeoke royal palace at Amichi, in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State, on Friday, March 17, 2017, amidst tight security by a joint team of policemen and soldiers to curtail the activities of some menacing youths suspected to be hired thugs, who almost marred the funeral ceremony.
Late Mrs Ume-Ezeoke, aged 82 years, was a retired teacher, frontline philanthropic community leader and devout Christian, who had nurtured and tutored many eminent personalities now making waves in the society and various fields of human endeavour.
The funeral ceremony kicked off on Thursday (March 16) with a vigil Mass officiated by His Lordship, Bishop Hilary Odili Okeke, the prelate of Catholic Diocese of Nnewi, and concelebrated by no fewer than 60 priests, including Rev Fr Ferdinand Ntomchukwu Ume-Ezeoke, one of the surviving sons of the deceased.
However, reports revealed that the bereaved children of late Mrs Ume-Ezeoke had to secure a court order to bury their mother inside the family premises, as the solemn event was almost marred by hostile thugs, who were allegedly hired to disrupt the burial ceremony due to an alleged protracted feud within the royal family concerning heritage and land matters.
Bishop Okeke on arrival at the venue, made very concerted efforts to mediate and reconcile the feuding parties by contacting Igwe Oforbike Ezeoke IV, the traditional ruler of Amichi, for an amicable settlement of the rift to ensure a peaceful burial of the deceased but to no avail.
When the royal father refused to open the main gates of the palace which were under lock and key, and owing to ceaseless hostilities by the rampaging hirelings, who were reportedly mobilized by an influential member of the extended family to cause havoc at the event, Bishop Okeke and all the priests with other Catholic faithful kept standing throughout the vigil Mass using an improvised altar mounted on the base of the statue of late progenitor of the Ume-Ezeoke dynasty.
In a homily at the vigil Mass, Bishop Okeke reminded Christians that life has an end when all the power, wealth, beauty and earthly possessions would end, citing an example with Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) as an ideal lesson for humanity, as the latter ignored to take care of Lazarus and received eternal punishment.
Bishop Okeke said: “We have gathered to bid farewell to Mrs Theresa Ume-Ezeoke, to console her family and ask God to grant her soul eternal rest. God gives us opportunity to do His will always. In all you do, put God first.”
He observed that many people claim to be Christians but they had not the spirit of Christ, adding that, “We must extend our love even to our enemies. This makes us Christians. The mother of a priest is also the mother of all priests. Mrs. Ume-Ezeoke is also our mother, so we have come to pray for her.”
The prelate also consoled the bereaved family and children of the deceased while urging them to stand firm in the face of persecution. He further prayed for a peaceful repose of Mrs Ume-Ezeoke’s soul.
On the burial date, Friday, March 17, the said hired thugs intensified their harassment and molestation of the bereaved children and relatives of the late Mrs Ume-Ezeoke without qualms, occasionally invading the arena and threatening the children of the deceased, some close relatives and even the guests were not spared.
Irrespective of the rampaging hirelings, who continued their onslaught against the bereaved family and guests from various parts of Nigeria and beyond, during the requiem Mass in honour of late Mrs Ume-Ezeoke on Friday (March 17), people still thronged the palace to pay their last respect to the deceased matriarch of the ancient Ume-Ezeoke dynasty.
The tense situation continued to the extent that some musicians who came to entertain at the funeral ceremony were prevented from disembarking from their vehicles or setting their musical instruments for the day’s engagement while the vehicle which conveyed caterers with refreshment items, was also attacked by the thugs.
Major roads leading to the palace were barricaded with trunks of palm trees cut down that early morning to prevent vehicle movement around the palace, but a troop of soldiers deployed from the 302 Army Cantonment, Onitsha, assisted by some Mobile policemen, arrived and forced the chain-saw operator to roll them out to pave way for people coming for the funeral ceremony.
The Parish Priest of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church, Amichi, Rev Fr Augustine Ndukaji, presided over the requiem Mass, concelebrated by several priests from other parts of Nnewi Diocese and beyond together with Rev Fr Ferdinand Ume-Ezeoke, a son of the deceased, and numerous others who also witnessed the lowering of late Mrs Ume-Ezeoke into her grave with a dirge.
Her first daughter, Mrs Rosemary Afy Dim, based in the United States of America (USA), described their demised mother as a very unique, compassionate humanitarian who taught many prominent people as a teacher and cared for the down trodden and less privileged members of the society. She promised such legacies would be immortalized through the establishment of a charitable organisation in her honour.
Mrs Dim however, expressed dismay over the lingering internal feud in the family being instigated by a particular influential personality, and thanked the commander of 302 Army Cantonment, Onitsha, together with the state Commissioner of Police for ensuring the successful burial ceremony as well as close relatives and guests for honoring their deceased matriarch.
Rev Fr Ferdinand Ume-Ezeoke, also speaking to the press during the funeral ceremony, regretted the death of his mother, who would be remembered for her generosity, indefatigability and devout Christian lifestyle. He also prayed God to bless and reward all who identified with the family at their moment of grief, especially Bishop Hilary Okeke of Nnewi Catholic Diocese and Most Rev Peter Okpaleke of Ahiara Diocese, numerous priests and well-wishers from across the country and beyond.
Other survivors of late Mrs Ume-Ezeoke include Mr. Ugochukwu Willie Ume-Ezeoke, Mrs Rosemary Afy Dim, Mr Okechukwu Ume-Ezeoke, Mrs Oby Edumanichukwu, Mrs Ogochukwu Ologbenla and Rev Fr Ferdinand Ume-Ezeoke as well as her sons in-law, Arc. Pat Dim, Barr. E. E. Edumanichukwu and Dr Anthony Ologbenla; her sister, Mrs. Agnes Emokah (nee Nwene), etc.