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Address of Welcome by Mother Mary Claude Oguh at Grand Finale of the Diamond Jubillee Celebration of the Foundation of Immaculate Heart Sister, Nigeria

AN ADDRESS OF WELCOME AND GRATITUDE PRESENTED BY REV. MOTHER MARY
CLAUDE OGUH, SUPERIOR GENERAL OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY, MOTHER OF CHRIST, ON 30 SEPTEMBER 2012, AT THE BASILICA OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, ONITSHA, ON THE OCCASION OF THE GRAND FINALE OF THE DIAMOND JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS OF THEIR FOUNDATION 1937-2012

My dear people of God,

With a heart full of profound gratitude to God, our Father and the Unrivalled Sustainer of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Christ, I welcome all of you, our most distinguished guests, to this climax celebration of our Diamond Jubilee. Indeed, today is the climax day, because since we inaugurated our Jubilee Year in November 2011, we have punctuated the entire year with a series of celebrations. We have been celebrating this seventy-fifth anniversary of our foundation by highlighting the intrinsic features of Jubilee as delineated in the Scriptures and according to the Church's understanding. Jubilee, as we know should be marked by liberation, forgiveness and total abandonment to God. By God's grace, we have had within this year some activities that have helped us experience holistic liberation and forgiveness of one another, while imploring God's forgiveness for our shortcomings. All these, perhaps, are manifested in the external joy of festivities, which we perceive in today's celebration.

You have come to share our joy and God's love in that mustard seed which our most revered Father Founder of blessed memory, Archbishop Charles Heerey, sowed on October 7, 1937. As a young missionary from a very devout Christian family, imbued with Christian virtues of humility and compassion, he was greatly moved by the pitiable condition of women and the less privileged of Nigeria, particularly in the southeast of the country where he started and carried out most of his missionary endeavours. This Irish missionary of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers was inspired to begin an indigenous congregation of women religious who would assist him realise his dream of uplifting the indigent condition of women, children and the abandoned. His intention was to give these categories of people a tangible relief to their problems; and the best way to do this was by providing them with basic human needs in the areas of education and health services. The Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Christ was, therefore, founded for this purpose.

This journey began with only two young women who were already beneficiaries of the activities of the early missionaries - they were already trained teachers. These women, our foundation members, were Mothers Mary Bernadette Anyogu and Mary Magdalene Oranu, both of blessed memory. Mother Mary Magdalene Oranu died within this Jubilee Year, at the ripe age of one hundred and two (l02) years. Archbishop Heerey placed them under the tutelage of the Irish Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary, who gave them their initial formation and trained subsequent members until they were able to stand on their own. Our unalloyed gratitude is due to these formators and all the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary, for their love and the efficient formation given to our pioneers. We remain ever grateful to them and to all who have helped us in varied ways to be true to the intention of Our Beloved Father Founder.

Today, the' small seed he sowed has germinated, grown, and borne fruits which are disseminated in Nigeria and beyond. He instructed our formators that we his daughters should be missionaries like himself. Hence, we move with our charism of compassion and our spirit of humility to wherever the Church needs our services. Following the intention of our Father Founder, our Sisters work in different grades of school, hospitals, farms, catechetical centres and other areas of apostolate. Our number has also increased, encompassing Sisters from different parts of Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. This variety of our members has given and strengthened our missionary ardour, which was uppermost in the mind of Charles Heerey. We share this missionary zeal with other lay men and women who adhere to our charism and spirit as our Associate Members. These are increasing in number and we are grateful to God who has inspired them to share in our work of evangelization while living their state of life in the world.

In this year which is a landmark in the history of our Congregation, it is our ardent desire that many more will get to know of the greatness of Archbishop Charles Heerey, who quietly spent his life working for the people of eastern part of Nigeria. In view of this, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Christ, have engaged Nollywood Nigeria in producing a standard film with features of docu-drama that portrays the life of Charles Heerey, beginning from his early life in Nigeria as a young newly ordained priest until the full flowering of his missionary life culminating in his death on 7 February 1967. This tripartite VCD film plates are already in circulation and it is our wish that all of you, our most cherished guests, would procure copies for your families and friends. We have also produced a documentary, in the true sense of the word, of the history of our Congregation from its cradle until today. It is a rare adventure, but by God's grace, we have all these ancient documents in pictures and others in a DVD. We hope that all of you who have come to rejoice with us, would like to know how we began, what we have been doing for the past seventy-five years as well as our innermost aspirations.

These deep aspirations are not different from those of our dear Father Founder, who so much desired the education of the youth in our society and the care of the helpless, particularly, the sick and the elderly. In keeping with this, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Christ, have proposed a project to mark this great Jubilee. The architectural design here before us and which the MC will duly introduce, contains our plan in the furtherance of the work of Charles Heerey. We intend to erect a Youth Catechetical and Skills Acquisition Centre and a befitting Home for the Elderly. We know that we cannot do these alone without the generosity of all who understand the importance and the urgency of these projects in our contemporary society. We very much count on your goodwill!

The age 75 is a mature age, a time of stocktaking and for an organisation like ours, it is a time to take a deep breath and forge ahead. We thank all of you who have come to participate in this celebration and to witness how we are determined to continue our journey of faith in God as we bear prophetic witness in a world that is in dire need of authentic and courageous prophets.

Today we are also celebrating our Sisters who are marking the Golden and Silver Jubilee of their first Religious Profession. These are noble daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who have proved their mettle in the past 50 or 25 years of their Religious Life. They have given themselves to God and steadfastly serve Him in the spirit of humility and compassion in their various apostolate. We thank their parents and relations who made the noble sacrifice of surrendering them to God, and who have supported them through thick and thin for all these years. May God reward you all abundantly!

We promise you our prayers, especially when you will be going back to your various destinations and in your families and different areas of work. May we keep united in prayers and in the mission of the Church until we reach our heavenly home! Thank you and may God richly bless you all!  

 

 


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