By Gilbert Ekezie
The Parish Priest of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Gbaja Surulere Lagos, Monsignor Bernard Okodua has regretted the negative of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that it caused serious economic and social in Nigeria.
He stated this at a briefing in preparation to St Anthony’s Gbaja 60th anniversary celebration coming up on 13th June 2021.
Okodua noted that the COVID-19 restriction period also created political uncertainty and less hope for a brighter future for the teeming youth population.
He explained that though given the situation of the 2020 COVID-19 which also affect church activities, St Anthony’s Parish still decides to honour founding fathers of the parish whom God gave the vision to establish the parish in 1961, which has continued to grow in leaps and bounds from the humble beginning into a prominent parish within the firmament of Lagos Catholic Archdiocese.
He stated the anniversary becomes necessary as it is a good catch up with people and enjoy time and food together because it is always good to spend time with God’s people, and by extension, members of the proximity community, who are beneficiaries our the church’s services. “This is what we call fellowship, and it is to be encouraged among the members of the church of Christ. ”
A major reason for the celebration, Okodua said, is to raise funds to carry out general renovation works in the parish to position it for the challenges in the next fifteen years. “We need to constantly look into the future and prepare to meet the needs of all relevant stakeholders, particularly, our dear parishioners. Events lined up for anniversary include; a day with elders, men, women and youths’ day and Novena.”
He explained that the anniversary day has always been the church’s annual feast day (St Anthony of Padua), which is June 13th, but this year being the Diamond Anniversary, the church decided to celebrate it in a grander way, bringing in relevant church societies and groups to have their own special day of celebrations.
Associate Priest of the parish, Rev. Fr Victor Okhiria said the programme announces the commencement of the 60-day celebrations , as part of the events lined up for the important milestone in the history of the church.
He stated that the role of the church in the modern world, as transformation and change agent, cannot be exaggerated.
Okhiria informed that all over the ages, the church has been involved in the lives of humanity, structuring of society with it’s functions and institutions , and in shaping the form and quality of political systems. “With a particular reference to St. Anthony Catholic Church, it is certain that due to the proximity of the church, and the services the members offer, it has become indispensable to the immediate community. For a fact, some people are beneficiaries of our services, which include medical care from our government accredited clinic, community seminars on health, provision of practical assistance to those in need through it’s relevant organization, the St. Vincent De Paul and Justice Development and Peace Commission. Our church understands that making a difference in people’s lives and that of the community, is a well intentioned cause.”
According to him, while the principal purpose of missions, is to propagate the good news of Jesus Christ, it has also involved a process of teaching men and women to observe the things he had commanded. “It is expected that this teachings of men and women, would lead to the transformation of their physical, social and spiritual lives. We are honoured to have had notable Nigerians, who have shaped the socio-economic systems of this country, receive their foundational moral and spiritual formation from our parish. Therefore, the celebration of diamond anniversary, is not merely simplistic, but a strong assertion of our values and belief, which we have held for the past sixty years; the contributions of the parish to its immediate environs; and more emphatically, a message to all about our unrelenting commitments and contininous response to needs and growth of the immediate community.”
The Associate Priest, highlighted the events lined up for the anniversary to include; Novena, a day with the elders, youth day, men’s day, children’s day and, women’s day celebrations.
President of the Parish Laity Council, Mr Felix Odiachi, while giving the brief history of the church, said it has become a home church for those living around and family church where everyone knows one another.
He said even when some members move out of Surulere, they still come back to experience the uniqueness of the parish.”The parish has grown to become a home for a large number of parishioners . It has also given birth to other parishes within and outside Surulere like; Our Lady of Fatima Aguda, Our Lady of Lourdes, Coker, Our Lady Queen of Nigeria, Clegg Street, Surulere and it’s twin Parish, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Ibeju Lekki.’
Odiachi also informed that since the parish was opened and dedicated by the late Archbishop of Lagos, His Grace, Leo Hale Taylor in 1961, it has produced distinguished and successful lay faithful who made their marks felt in politics, public and private sectors alike, as well as the academia. “This obviously attests to our rating as a
“Grade A” Parish within the Surulere Deanery and Archdiocese of Lagos. At sixty years of existence, we have achieved a lot as a parish and are continually making our impact felt with the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos.”