By Perpetua Egesimba
For the priests and parishioners of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) Catholic Church, Shasha, Lagos, It was a fulfilling day recently, as the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, made a historic visit to the church for the first time during the 20th anniversary and confirmation of candidates of the church.
Archbishop Martins performed the rite of the Sacrament of Confirmation, where about 220 candidates of the church were confirmed. He also inaugurated the grotto built in honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the principal patron of the church community.
The building of the church was 20 years ago blessed by Anthony Cardinal Okogie, the former archbishop.
During the visit of the archbishop, the church requested to be elevated to the status of a full-fledged parish as against the quasi-parish status it currently enjoys, as it also requested that St. Vincent School by CKC should be released to the church.
In his homily, Archbishop Martins urged the people to let the lessons of Christmas remain in their consciousness at all times. He also condemned the kidnapping of six Catholic nuns a month ago, and prayed for their immediate release.
He appreciated the priest and parishioners for their efforts in rebuilding the church, which was razed in September.
“I say thank you for the warm welcome that you gave to me as I came. It is my first time and it has been a memorable time. I pray that God will give us opportunities like this as we go into the future. I want to congratulate and commend the parish priest for the leadership he has given in these last two years and the growth of the church,” he said.
The archbishop stated that the church would be made a full parish after due process must have been followed.
“Now that I have seen the people and the priest, how enthusiastic and well-organised the people are, I can say that the time is near for you to have your hearts’ desires and I pray that all of us would be alive and healthy when that day comes,” he said.
He told the congregation that he could not readily make any pronouncements on their request for the handing over of the school, but assured them that all would be well.
He congratulated those who were confirmed and advised them to allow the light and spirit of God to shine through them.
In his response, the priest in charge of the church, Rev. Fr. Nathaniel Ogar, commended the archbishop for visiting the parish despite his busy schedule.
Fr. Ogar said, “To our father, the father of the good people of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, I would like to thank you immensely for being with us today despite your busy schedule. We thank you too for all your encouragement. I make bold to announce that it is your support that has helped us this far in refurbishing our church. We appreciate your presence here today. We would like to host you again.”
He said the church recognised the need to build a strong family and community of faith based on their common heritage in holy baptism. Hence, they rejigged their small Christian community activities to bring the gospel closer to the people.
He emphasised the role of the parishioners and the archbishop that ensured that the church building was completed.
“Physically, the saying holds true here that it’s better to start a project from scratch than to refurbish a dilapidated one. However, with the blessings of our archbishop, financially and morally, we commenced the renovation of our church building.
“Today, it wears a brand new zinc roof and paint, we have erected a functional chapel in the rectory and baptistery in the church. We successfully re-electrified our church, which caught fire on September 10, and we now have new lectern, new presidential and sanctuary chairs, to the glory of God,” he said.
A parishioner, Jude Okeke, said he was happy that the archbishop visited the church, adding that his visit was a source of encouragement to the parishioners. He urged those who were confirmed to let their new state reflect in their lifestyle.
Ali Ann was very excited to receive the sacrament of confirmation and said she now felt like a new creation. She promised to live a good life.
One of the dignitaries at the event was the wife of governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode.