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Mother Mary Claude Oguh addresses the Mothers and Fathers in Faith

AN ADDRESS OF WELCOME AND APPRECIATION PRESENTED BY REV. MOTHER MARY CLAUDE OGUH, THE SUPERIOR GENERAL OF THE RELIGIOUS INSTITUTE OF THE SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY, MOTHER OF CHRIST, NIGERIA TO OUR SPECIAL BROTHERS AND SISTERS -THE HOLY GHOST FATHERS (SPIRITANS), THE JESUIT FATHERS AND THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE MOST HOLY ROSARY ON THE OCCASION OF THE CELEBRATION OF THE DIAMOND JUBILEE OF THEIR RELIGIOUS INSTITUTE

THIS 28 DAY OF SEPTEMBER, 2012

 

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!  I warmly greet and welcome you all in the humble and compassionate Heart of our beloved Mother Mary!

Our Sisters have chosen to celebrate specially with you gathered here today, representing your respective religious institutes, during this climax week of the 75th anniversary celebration of our Foundation.  This is because we recognise, acknowledge and appreciate the unique contributions made by your Religious families towards the existence, nurturing and growth of our own Religious Institute of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Christ.

As you already know, our religious institute came into existence in 1937, being the first women religious institute in Igboland.  Our Father Founder, Archbishop Charles Heerey, CSSp of revered memory, while the Vicar Apostolic   of Onitsha/Owerri, having been inspired and strengthened by God, undertook the uphill task of founding this religious family in those early days.   This open-hearted, zealous and heroic missionary welcomed the assistance of people towards the formation/training of this pioneer religious institute in Igboland.

Our Religious family of the Immaculate Heart of Mary clocks 75 years of age in the Church this year.  May all thanks and praise be given to our merciful God.  As we celebrate this unique landmark in her life and history, and jubilate in thanksgiving for God’s many graces and blessings, we cannot fail to pay our special tribute to those who have been God’s special instruments in the spiritual formation and growth of our Sisters.

 

HOLY GHOST FATHERS (CSSP)

Generous brothers of our beloved Founder and our good and loving “Uncles”, you have been there for our on-going formation as confessors, spiritual directors, retreat facilitators and seasoned teachers, formators for our Religious Institute, vocation promoters and enlightened General Chapter Moderators.  At this juncture, we recognize in a special way:

 

  • Our expatriate Holy Ghost Fathers who went before you, as our confessors and retreat moderators, many of whom have gone to their eternal reward in heaven.  May the Lord receive them in heaven!

 

  • Rev. Fr. Francis Okonkwo, CSSp, who guided and moderated our General Chapters, and was ever there for our retreats and spiritual directions!  In a voice and religious posture unique to himself, he convincingly, echoed the values of religious/community life giving ample edifying examples from your life experiences;  expounded the beauty of our sexuality as consecrated women religious (brides of Christ) encouraging us to appreciate our womanhood and the self-donation we have made to God.  You really educated our young Sisters, especially those preparing for their final vows and jubilee celebrations. You are indeed our great uncle!  We thank you for all you have done and are still doing for us.

 

  • Rev. Fr. George Akanigwo, CSSp (Chapter and Verse).  Despite his Parish engagements, he consistently helped our Postulants, Novices and Scholastics in Onitsha, Nkpor and Enugu, with lectures on Sacred Scripture and spiritual directions till his health could no longer permit him.  May God reward you abundantly for your selfless services and sacrifices for our Sisters.

We also appreciate the tremendous contributions of the past and present Provincial Superiors of your Religious Institute, especially Rev. Fr. James Okoye, late Fr. Philip Agu, Fr. Mike Onwuemelie, Frs. Augustine Onyeneke, among others.

Your Religious Institute, through our Father Founder saw to our existence.  Many of your Spiritan Priests have greatly helped to nurture us into spiritual adulthood.  Even now we have come of age at 75 years as a Religious Institute and with some of our members over 80 years of age - you are still there for us.  “Consistency” is your second name because your good works still go on in our Religious Family.  Like eagles, you never tire!

Our Elderly Sisters at our Oguta Road Complex cannot stop talking about their Chaplains each time we visit them.  You painstakingly prepare each of them for the final journey home to our Creator.  I am glad to say that since February 15, 2010 when the Home was officially opened, some of our elderly Sisters have happily returned home to their Creator duly prepared by their Chaplains with the last Rites of the Church.  None was afraid to die. The rest of the inmates of the Home punctuate their lives with daily Masses, daily exposition/adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, daily/weekly confessions and benedictions, monthly recollections, annual retreats, and private personal devotions.  You, our Uncles, are always there for them with great affection, spiritual and moral support.  We thank you, Rev. Fr. Valentine Eze CSSp (Parish Priest), Rev. Fr. Cyril Anene (Chaplain), Fr. Henry Anyabuike, Fr. Kingsley Eze, Fr. Casimir Onowu (R.I.P) and all the Spiritan Fathers at Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Woliwo Onitsha!  May God reward you abundantly.

You have continued to extend your hand of solidarity to us – not just by ministering to us, but recently by inviting us to share in your educational ministry among the youth in your Eastern Central Province.  We are grateful to your Provincial Superior Very Rev. Fr. (Arch.) Peter Agbonome, CSSp for this invitation.  It is our hope that the collaboration will last and in that way fulfill our Founder’s desire that we dedicate our lives to the catechetical and moral formation of the youth wherever we are sent.

 

THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE HOLY ROSARY (MSHR)

As a community-oriented father and leader, Archbishop Charles Heerey was aware that he could not do it all alone and so he requested for the assistance of his Irish Sisters – the Irish Holy Rosary Sisters in the not-so-easy task of training the indigenous Sisters.  It was appropriate that women train women.  These Irish Sisters were great mothers, formators, models, exemplars and mentors and above all religious women to the core.  With the gift of late Rev. Mother Mary Eucharia Reynolds, Rev. Mother Mary de Lourdes Buckley, Sr. Mary Rose Maguire, Mother Mary Conleth McHugh and others, the Holy Rosary Sisters greatly blessed and empowered our Religious Institute.  Their style of formation was very unique, hence the uniqueness in character, formation, leadership etc some of which they imparted to our Religious Family!

Our Father Founder in his letter of 5th October, 1937 to Sr. Mary Rose advised: “Make them humble Sisters above all things.  If they are humble and obedient, living simple lives, doing their duties of charity towards their people, they will be our tower of strength in the complete conversion of Nigeria.”  Thus, they started early to groom our Sisters in the fundamentals of religious life, especially in our spirit of humility and charism of compassion.  Like clay in the porter’s hands, they earnestly and willingly undertook the task of formation. Great was the sacrifice they made in order to nurture us during those teething years of our existence.  When the time came for the young Institute to become autonomous in 1957, your Sisters left us the legacy of authentic religious life in the Church.  We are deeply grateful and appreciate all the material and spiritual contributions they made towards the growth of our Religious family.  They were very caring Mothers to our Sisters.  We are very proud of you and shall ever remain indebted to your Religious Institute and to our foundation Mothers and Formators!  May the Lord receive those who have passed on into his kingdom and give them the reward of the Just!  Amen.

 

THE JESUIT FATHERS (SJ)

These highly intellectual, spiritual and humane Servants of the Church came into our lives as a Religious Institute and have followed our spiritual growth as early as the 1960’s.  We benefited greatly from their New York Province in the United States of America, through their then Provincial Superior, Rev. Fr. E. Taylor and Rev. Frs. Stack, Himfey, O’Connor and Fr. Farcy. 

 

The late Rev. Fr. Joseph McKenna, SJ meticulously guided us in our General Chapters beginning with that of 1969.  In the 1970’s he led us through all the technicalities and protocols of Civil Incorporation of our Institute.  He thus helped us to obtain our legal identity as a Corporate Body in Nigeria.  His method of moderating General Chapters had no equal.  He even came all the way from New York (United States of America), to Nkpor for our 1981 General Chapter. He guided us and contributed immensely to both the General Chapter proceedings and updating of our Constitutions. He worked hard for the final approval of our Constitutions by the Sacred Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.  May our generous Lord reward him abundantly!

From Benin Nigeria, the late Rev. Fr. Paul Maher, SJ and Rev. Fr. Robert (Bob) Hamm, SJ made several trips to Nkpor to conduct seminars/workshops for our Sisters. With their Jesuit brother Priests, they led us through the arduous exercise of “TELLING OUR STORY” as a religious family in order to enable us establish our IDENTITY as a Religious Institute in the Church.  We received tremendous spiritual support from them through directed retreats, human development and psychological seminars, study of the Paschal Mystery Grid etc.  They directed our retreats as well as encouraged and trained our Sisters in the art of spiritual direction and seminar/workshop facilitation.  Therefore, they did not only give us fish but taught us how to fish. We thus came to an early awareness and appreciation of the fruits of directed retreats and human development and thus built up a strong spiritual foundation.  Today, we are happy reaping the fruits of what they sowed then.  We remain profoundly grateful to you all.

 

Conclusion

We highly appreciate all the support that your three Religious Institutes have given and continue to give us.  Your efforts were never in vain. That mustard seed planted on October 7, 1937 by Archbishop Heerey which you all watered and nurtured, has grown into a gigantic tree with 768 finally professed members; 154 temporarily professed members, 54 Novices, 48 Postulants and 50 committed Associate Members. 78 professed members of our Religious family are finally home in heaven.

The same tree, by the grace of God, has also spread its tentacles to Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Tchad, England, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Canada and the United States of America where our Sisters endeavour to continue to bear authentic prophetic witness to the humility and compassion of Jesus and Mary in our missionary apostolate, especially among the women and their children, the youth and the less privileged.  Once again, we remain grateful to you.

Thank you immensely for honouring our invitation. We count on your prayers.

 


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