Completion of Nigerian Cathedral “not one person’s achievement”: Bishop at Dedication

St. Theresa’s Cathedral of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Nsukka.
Credit: Courtesy

The construction of St. Theresa’s Cathedral of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Nsukka is a fruit of collective efforts and contributions from various individuals, the Local Ordinary the Diocese said Thursday, November 19 during the dedication Mass of the 5500-seater Cathedral that took 29 years to complete.

“It was not a one person’s effort, not a one person’s achievement. The church is family and our cathedral project has been a truly family project,” Bishop Godfrey Onah of Nsukka Diocese said in his homily during the November 19 event.

Bishop Onah emphasized the collective efforts of the people of God in realizing the initiative saying, “So many people got involved and Nsukka’s people of all denominations and Christian callings and even non-Christians contributed … many non-Catholics, traditional worshippers and even Muslims contributed.”

He acknowledged with appreciation the collaboration of the Anglican Bishop of Nsukka who was in attendance, Bishop Onah saying that the Anglican Bishop often visited the construction site for inspection, shared his observations, and fed the construction workers.

“Muslims contributed to this church and some of them are here to celebrate with us,” the 64-year-old Nigerian Bishop said, adding in reference to an unnamed Muslim leader, “One of them is here smiling at me because he contributed to the beauty of this house.”

During his 36-minute homily, which was marked by singing in thanksgiving, Bishop Onah recalled the “difficult moment” when funding the construction became a challenge, and the leadership of the Diocese decided to convene cathedraticum that offered people from all walks of life an opportunity to contribute to the project.

He went on to recall the “special group” dubbed “Club 250” whose members “decided to deny themselves every single week a bottle of beer and offer it to the building of the Cathedral.”

“250 Nairas (US$ 0.66) and in one year each of them gave 12,000 Nairas (US$ 31.50), which none of them would have given if we had requested directly,” he observed during the November 19 Mass attended by thousands of people among them 32 Prelates.

He acknowledged his predecessor, Bishop Francis Emmanuel Okobo who he described as “an unadulterated Catholic Priest who dared to dream big and remain focused” by starting the construction of the Cathedral in 1991.

“Your Excellency, your prayers are being answered in many ways in the spiritual and pastoral life in our Diocese,” Bishop Onah said addressing himself to his predecessor and added, “This Cathedral is just one visible manifestation of the healthy and lasting fruit of your selfless and tireless labor.”

As a sign of appreciation and gratitude, Bishop Onah who has been at the helm of Nsukka Diocese since April 2013 invited the 84-year-old Bishop Okobo to join him in the anointing of the Cathedral’s altar.

Acknowledging the many people who contributed to the construction of the Cathedral, Bishop Onah adapted the words of Revelations 7: 9-17, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

“To all those who allowed God to use them to build this Cathedral and for Himself, may God Himself thank you on our behalf,” he said during the dedication Mass attended by various government officials.

In his goodwill message on behalf of the other Bishops, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze congratulated the people of God in Nsukka Diocese for the accomplishment, terming the Cathedral “an edifice of great splendor and grandeur.”

“We highly commend your Bishop and his predecessor, Clergy, Religious, all Lay faithful of the Diocese of Nsukka for the strong faith, deep love of God and the boundless signs of sacrifice you have exhibited in the construction of this magnificent edifice, which stands as a great monument of your faith in God,” Archbishop Akubeze said in his message read by CBCN Vice President, Bishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji.

In the message, CBCN leadership also congratulated Bishop Okobo for starting the project, describing him as “a man of great vision, indomitable courage and indefatigable missionary spirit.”

“The Cathedral is the dwelling place of God, a house of prayer,” CBCN leadership said and prayed, “As you assemble here as the family of God to pour out your hearts in prayer to God, may no petition presented in this Cathedral go unheeded.”

On his part, the Apostolic Nuncio in Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi reminded those in attendance that the Cathedral would remain a “beautiful house of prayer only if we continue to live in faith and prayer.”

“In some countries, there are no more Cathedrals to build because there are no more faithful, no more Priests, no more faith,” the representative of the Holy Father in the West African nation said and observed, “This is a lesson for Nigeria to avoid in the future.”

The Nuncio added, “I wish and pray that this Cathedral remains alive because of your faith, because of your prayers, because of your commitment to Christian life.”


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