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AN ADDRESS OF WELCOME PRESENTED BY MOTHER MARY CLAUDE OGUH, IHM, SUPERIOR GENERAL

AN ADDRESS OF WELCOME PRESENTED BY MOTHER MARY CLAUDE OGUH, IHM, SUPERIOR GENERAL OF THE SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY, MOTHER OF CHRIST, AT THE NATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON THE LIFE AND MISSION OF ARCHBISHOP HEEREY, CSSP. HELD AT THE MADONNA RENEWAL CENTRE, NKPOR

                                                                         MAY 7 - 9, 2014  

Your Excellencies,

Most Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke, Archbishop of Onitsha and Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province,

Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Archbishop of Owerri and Metropolitan Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province,

Most Rev. Augustine Tochukwu Ukwuoma, Bishop of Orlu.

Most Rev. Gregory Ochiagha, Bishop Emeritus of Orlu Diocese,

Dr. Willie Mmaduabuchi Obiano, the Executive Governor of Anambra State,

His Lordship, Chief Justice Peter Umeadi, Chief Judge of Anambra State,

His Royal Majesty, Igwe Alfred Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha (Agbogidi),

Prof. Viola Onwuliri, Hon. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs,

Senator Mike Ajegbo, (Ede Obosi),

Sir Norbert Obi, Commissioner for Special Duties, Anambra State

Chief Hon. Tony Nnacheta, Commissioner for Youths and Sports Development, Anambra State,

Dr. Edozie Aroh, Former Commissioner, Youths and Sports, Anambra State,

Nze Emeka Olisa, ASUBEB Chairman,

Distinguished Keynote and Guest Speakers,

Distinguished Guests of Honour,

Very Rev. Monsignori, Rev. Fathers, Brothers and Sisters,

Knights of the Church, President of the CWO Onitsha Archdiocese, Mrs Beatrice Madueke, Members of the CWO, CMO, CYON Gentlemen of the Press,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

All other Protocol dully observed.

 On this grand occasion of the first national Symposium on one of the great Christian missionaries of Africa and our beloved Father Founder, Archbishop Charles Heerey, CSSp, we, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Christ, praise and thank our Almighty and Gracious God, the prime mover of all things, for gathering all of us together. On behalf of my Sisters I welcome you all to this important event. We recall that in 2012, our Religious Institute of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Christ, celebrated the 75th anniversary of our foundation, thanks to the missionary sensitivity, zeal, foresight and generative resourcefulness of great Archbishop Heerey, who, born in 1890 in Ireland, and ordained a priest on the 24th of September 1921, arrived in Nigeria in 1922 as a missionary in the prime of his youth as a priest.

 The theme of this Symposium: Christian Faith and Mission in Eastern Nigeria: The life and work of Archbishop Charles Heerey CSSp (1890-1967), informs us of what we have all gathered to do, namely, to take a cursory look at the life and work of this great missionary from Ireland who took over the mantle of leadership from his predecessor, Bishop Joseph Shanahan and became the First Archbishop of Onitsha. On assumption of this office, his responsibility for the work of evangelization and the deepening of faith increased, and his scope for the appreciation of the challenges involved widened.  To meet up with the enormous and personnel – intensive task ahead of him, he needed an extension of himself in human resources. Efforts to bring enough missionaries from abroad failed so he had to look inward among the natives. This would offer the advantage of better penetration of the culture. A call from the Sacred Congregation for missionaries to develop indigenous priestly and consecrated life wherever they found themselves in the world gave a boost to his inspiration to found indigenous Congregations. In pursuance of this end, he founded two indigenous religious Congregations: the Brothers of St. Peter Clever and the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Christ. To give a voice to the womenfolk in the church, the family, and the society, he also founded the Catholic Women Organisation, by training and fortifying a great woman who we miss at this occasion, Dr. Iyom, Hon. Mrs. V. V. I. Okoye.

 For many who knew and experienced him, this 2014 symposium was long overdue judging from the enormous work, achievements and sacrifices which marked his life as a missionary priest, from 1922-1927, then as Co-adjutor Bishop from 1927–1931, as the Chief Shepherd of the Church in Southern Nigeria from 1931- 1950 and the first Archbishop of Onitsha Archdiocese and Metropolitan of Eastern Province from 1950-1967. This makes him the longest serving Bishop in Onitsha Archdiocese with a total of 40 years. It is my expectation that the intellectual and fruitful discussion within these few days will assist us in understanding this man and his mission better and thus enable us to continue his legacy with greater determination towards the growth and deepening of Christian faith in Nigeria and beyond.

 I thank His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Arinze, our great Father in faith who took over the mantle of leadership directly from Archbishop Charles Heerey. In fact, he was the great motivator who gingered us into taking up this bold assignment. We thank him for all his support and advice.

 In the same vein, we extend our gratitude to our Chief Host, Most Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke, who is the current successor of Archbishop Charles Heerey, for making out time to be here with us and in addition, accepting to be one of our guest speakers. He has assured us of his continuous and fatherly support, particularly in this journey into deeper knowledge of our father founder. On behalf of my Sisters, I thank you, your Excellency for your Fatherly guidance and support. It is worth of note that although our Founder and Father, Archbishop Heerey died 47 years ago, his successors have continued to take care of us like part of the cherished inheritance. We remain ever grateful.  

 I thank you Your Excellencies - Archbishops and Bishops here present for sparing time to be here for this symposium meant to be a means of collecting more information about the life and works of Archbishop Heerey.

 Thank you one and all for your presence at this occasion. May the light of the Holy spirit be enough that we may learn from this exposure what will be useful to us as we continue on this journey of faith which according to Our father founder is ”Our greatest treasure, and the loss of it would be an eternal loss.”

 It is my honest prayer that our stay here will be fruitful. Welcome and May God bless you infinitely for honouring our invitation. At this Juncture, I declare the symposium officially open. I once more, wish each one of you a very happy, hearty and fruitful study. May God bless all of us through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 Thank you.

 

 

 


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