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Address of Welcome by Mother Mary Claude Oguh, IHM to Diamond Jubilee Awardees


 “He (God) gives generously to the needy,

His kindness lasts forever.”

And God who supplies seed to sow and bread to eat will also supply you with all the seed you need and will make it grow and produce a rich harvest from your generosity.  He will always make you rich enough to be generous at all times, so that many will thank God for your gifts which they receive from us. (2 Cor. 9:9-11)

 My dear Brothers and Sisters in the humble and compassionate Hearts of Jesus and Mary! With St. Paul I offer this prayer to God for you.  I heartily welcome and greet you.  I thank you very much for honouring our invitation knowing fully well that it entailed sacrifices, for some of you cancelling or shifting of appointments and even risking the hazards of our roads.  We immensely thank God for safe journeys granted to all of us.

 Our Religious Institute of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as you well know, clocks 75 years this year, a unique epoch in her life and history.  Our Founder, Archbishop Charles Heerey CSSp of happy memory, painstakingly brought this religiously family into existence in 1937 with only two young women – Maria Anyogu (late Mother Mary Bernadette) and Clara Oranu (late Mother Mary Magdalene).  This was when it was taboo for a girl to choose a way of life other than marriage.  Mother Mary Magdalene passed into eternity last July at 102 years.  May their heroic souls rest in perfect peace.  Amen.  It is worth knowing that that mustard seed sown 75 years ago, has been watered and nurtured in the Church by so many generous hands.  By the grace of God it has continued to grow and mature in the Church.

 Archbishop Heerey’s zeal to win the whole territory of his missionary endeavor for Christ led to his phenomenal thrust in the establishment of educational health and other social institutions as fertile preparatory/catchment grounds. In his humility, he did not abandon the foundation laid by his predecessor in the area of education but built it up to enviable height. Many of the institutions he established still remain the pride of our land, such as Christ the King College, College of Immaculate Conception Enugu, Queen of the Rosary college Onitsha, Holy Rosary College Enugu, St. john of God Secondary School, Awka, Mater Amabilis Umuoji, Queen of the Rosary Secondary School, Nsukka, Holy Rosary Hospital Emekuku, St. Joseph’s Hospital Adazi, holy Rosary Maternity Hospital Water Side Onitsha, All Hallows Junior Seminary Onitsha, Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu etc.

 Consumed by a deep concern for the status of women, compassion for the underprivileged, the sick and children and for good Christian family life, he was inspired to found the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate heart of Mary, Mother of Christ, the first indigenous  Congregation in Igbo land on the 7th October 1937. The Sisters, besides their own personal Sanctification, and their commitment to their vows, are to engage in effective education and nurturing young girls and women in schools, caring for the sick in hospitals and engaging in other social and pastoral activities in parishes, mission stations and remote villages. Thus the Sisters work in parishes as Catechists, in schools in various capacities, in hospitals and in clinics.

  Moving with the signs of the times, we run compassionate homes for poor orphans whose parents die of AIDS, programms for destitute and homes for single mothers, particularly the rejected ones. We also take care of victims of domestic violence, like rejected children, elderly sick men and women. We are fully engaged in elaborate widow’s apostolate by which we try to make life more meaningful for them.

 Our Sisters have deliberately chosen to have some hours spent specially with you our cherished benefactors and benefactresses (both spiritual and temporal), in order to appreciate you. Each of you here has in one way or the other, somewhere or some year, identified yourselves in a special way with our Sisters and our religious family.  You have all along the line shared with us your time, your resources, in cash and/or in kind, and have also in many other ways demonstrated your interest and concern in our spiritual and/or material welfare. Some of you built our convents, some sponsor the education our Sisters, and others sponsor the training of our Novices and provide mobility for some of our communities.

 It is therefore fitting that during this climax week of our celebration, we should jubilate with you, share with you our joys and concerns and demonstrate to you that your sacrifices and contributions towards the life and growth of our religious family are very much acknowledged and appreciated and not taken for granted by our Sisters.

 In recognition of these innumerable contributions in our life and mission and as a token of gratitude we have gathered today to call you by name and give you an Award as one of the high points to mark the Diamond Jubilee of our foundation. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which the Priests have offered to God on your behalf and in which all of us have participated, is the unqualified token of our thanksgiving.  In deep gratitude to you, our Sisters consciously in every community of our Institute make a daily remembrance of you as our benefactors and benefactresses, in our prayers and sacrifices of the day.  We have other suffrages we make for you and your families.  We dearly cherish you.

 God continues to bless our Institute with many vocations.  Please join us to pray for quality and authentic living of the religious life in the Church.  The task ahead is enormous.  By God’s grace, we have now 922 professed Sisters, 51 Novices and 58 Postulants.  Many of these professed Sisters need professional training to be more effective in the apostolate.  The Novices and Postulants need to be clothed and maintained.  These however, are happy burdens which in one way or the other you have been helping us to bear.

 Our religious Institute is structured into 8 Regions in 11 countries.  Our Sisters are serving the people of God in some dioceses in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Chana, Kenya, Tchad, Italy, Canada, Germany, England, Ireland and the United States of America.Your benevolence has greatly helped in the formation and training of some of our Sisters who have served and /or are still serving in these places.  So, you share in the missionary apostolate of our religious institute.

 We intend to set up a Catechetical Youth Development Centre in order to contribute our quota in the training of our Youth in the fundamentals of the Catholic Faith.  Our modern society is urgently in need of such ventures.

 At 75 years of age, our religious family registers many ageing Sisters, who have spent their life helping to make our Institute what it is today.  We have a “Home” for them at our Oguta Road Complex, Onitsha.  I am extending our invitation for a visit to them to any of you who may wish to do so anytime you are in Onitsha.  The number of these elderly is on the increase.  For this, we intend to have a more conducive permanent HOME for them near our hospital here at Nkpor for better attention too.  It is also our intention to extend this care to our elderly brothers who may wish to benefit from it.  We shall have time to present to you the architectural designs for these ventures and our jubilee packages which are our own efforts towards the start-off of the project.

 In view of consolidating this initial effort of ours, and in order to give a clearer evidence of our charism of compassion to the less privileged, we intend to establish Archbishop  Charles Heerey Foundation as our diamond jubilee gift to our Founder.  This will help us to meet the needs of the many poor and sick people who come to us for help.  We are confident you will support this project in your usual manner.

May I renew our deep appreciation and gratitude to each of you our beloved benefactors and friends.   Today affords us opportunity of meeting all of you who as individuals have been part of our life and mission as a group. We therefore, extend to you an invitation to become organised friends of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Mother of Christ. This will enable us to brainstorm together and contribute ideas on how best to participate in and further the ministry of Evangelization which already you have been doing through the numerous assistance you rendered and are still rendering to us.

May God and his Blessed Mother Mary reward your generosity and lead you safely back home to your loved ones.   Thank you very much and may God bless you.


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