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Beginning from tomorrow, Monday, September 2, 2019, all roads will lead to the Maria Assumpta Cathedral Owerri, for the activity-packed last lap of the one-month Silver Jubilee Celebration of the Inauguration of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province and Installation of Archbishop Anthony J.V. Obinna.

The bishops of the suffragan dioceses of this largest Catholic Province in Nigeria –Umuahia, Orlu, Okigwe, Ahiara, and Aba, as well as those from other dioceses in the country and beyond, are expected to arrive Wednesday in Owerri, the Metropolitan See for the celebrations.

While the Thanksgiving Holy Mass by Most Rev. Obinna to mark 25 years of his installation as the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province, comes up Thursday, the Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Most Rev. Antonio Filipazzi, is expected to preside at the concelebrated Provincial Thanksgiving Mass the next day being Friday. The Owerri Archdiocesan Day Thanksgiving will round off the dual jubilee celebrations on Saturday September 7 with a Thanksgiving Mass and 2019 Odenigbo Lecture.

Owerri Diocese, created out of the Old Onitsha Diocese in 1950 was elevated to the status of an Archdiocese in 1994, with the dioceses of Umuahia, Orlu, Okigwe, Ahiara, and Aba as its suffragan local churches. The inauguration of this new province which covers the entire states of Imo and Abia and parts of Rivers and Anambra States was inaugurated on September 4, 1994 during a ceremony which also saw the installation of the Most Rev. Anthony Obinna as the Metropolitan Archbishop.

The Province can rightly be described as the seed-bed of Roman Catholicism in Igboland. The total number of indigenous priests in the six dioceses at that time was 750 while parishes were 249 and Catholic population about 2,248,000.

Since that time, the number of priests, parishes and Catholic population has grown in leaps and bounds.

In the Archdiocese of Owerri alone, the Catholic population has risen to about 1,049,213 with 138 parishes, 25 chaplaincies and five Special Jurisdictions. It is blessed with 318 diocesan priests and 55 religious priests. There are eight male religious congregations and nine female religious congregations working in the Archdiocese. Owerri is also blessed with about 194 senior seminarians, many sisters, brothers, catechists and catechizers.

The Archdiocese has two major seminaries namely, Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary Owerri and Claretian Institute of Philosophy Maryland Nekede. It has numerous primary and secondary schools, Whelan Research Academy, Schools of Nursing, Midwifery, Laboratory, Assistant Technology, Hospitals, Maternity homes, farms etc.

The Most Rev. Obinna has to his credit, the renovation/re-roofing of the Maria Assumpta Cathedral. He did not stop at that but ensured the landscaping of the entire premises, as well as set in motion many other structures including a secretariat complex and an ultra-modern Archdiocesan hall, both on-going.

His pastoral visits to remote rural communities have acted as a catalyst to the building of the people’s faith and the number of dedicated churches has soared. Similar phenomenal growth has also been recorded in the other five dioceses.

For these 25 years, Owerri Ecclesiastical Province has lived out the purpose for which she was carved out, among others, “to promote … a common pastoral action” of the member-dioceses and “the more closely to foster relations between the diocesan Bishops.”

The Province has made serious efforts to live out and maintain the categorical dictates of Christ’s evangelization mandate, vocation, mission and ministry, her ecclesiastical discipline and order, as well as her ecclesiastical unity and solidarity with her member dioceses.

Despite the many challenges, she has made remarkable progress in maintaining her inviolable identity and dignity as well as her sacred traditions.

Whatever the challenges of the sad sides or missed marks, the Province and her Dioceses and faithful have more reasons to rejoice and to celebrate in thanksgiving to gratitude and God.

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