Celebration by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus of the Silver Jubilee of Sr. Anita Dominic Ekpo and Sr. Rose Okafor and the Perpetual Profession of Sr. Chinyere Mary Claret Emenogu, Sr. Genevieve Ibedu, Sr. Calister Igbo, Sr. Asabe Gaiya, Sr. Joy Veronica Ushie, Sr. Georginia Onah, and Sr. Angela Ojukwu.
Saturday, 18th August 2018 at Catholic Church of the Assumption, Falomo, Lagos, Nigeria.
24 August, 2018
By Ann Schulte, SHCJ
“Good Evening My Lord”, a Sister said as she greeted Bishop Michael Apochi from the Diocese of Otukpo, catching up with him as he was making his way to the Hall of Holy Child College, Lagos, having very kindly, come to celebrate with Sr. Rose Okafor and the Holy Child Sisters he knows so well in Otukpo. Looking around the compound after 4.30 p.m. on Friday 17th August, one could see cars still arriving with the families and friends of the sisters, who would be celebrating the next day, two Silver Jubilarians and seven for Perpetual Profession. The families and other SHCJ sisters were all making their way to the college hall for the Prayer Service we hold on the Eve of Perpetual Profession of Vows and Jubilee Celebrations. In all, over 130 SHCJ sisters were present having travelled from all over Nigeria, Ghana and Chad to attend different meetings prior to the day of celebration.
The Prayer Service was led by those sisters involved in different aspects of Formation. The first part involved the “Transition Ritual” when the Temporary Professed Coordinator, Sr. Celestina Onyia, presented the Seven Tertians to the Co-ordinator of On-Going Formation, Sr. Bernadette Okure, who welcomed the new members and also congratulated the two Silver Jubilarians. An interesting sharing by the Community representative from each Tertian’s community, had everyone listening attentively as they spoke of the Tertian in their community. Prayer and hard work were two aspects noted by the Leaders for each of the sisters. Sr. Anita Ekpo and Sr. Rose Okoli then spoke of their interesting Missionary Journeys over the past 25 years. Prayers were said over the celebrants, with reference to their parents and their generosity in giving their daughters to serve God’s people in their different missions. Joyful singing and dancing ended the evening with a final blessing by Bishop Michael Apochi, who later said he had learned a lot about the SHCJ! The celebrants then joined their families for Supper in the beautiful new college dining area.
After heavy rains during the night, people were looking up anxiously at the clouds overhead on the morning of Saturday 18th August, the day of our Celebration. It certainly looked like rain, but the Lord was good, there was just one heavy shower when we were in Church and sunshine in the afternoon! Buses were soon ferrying people to Falomo, parents and friends from the college compound and the Sisters from Keffi Street. Each of those going to make Perpetual Profession sat at the end of a bench with her family. These were all on one side of the Church while the SHCJ filled the other side front benches. A long procession of sisters led into the church on the stroke of 10 a.m. followed by about 18 priests, with Bishop Apochi, and Archbishop Alfred Martins, the Archdiocese of Lagos and chief celebrant bringing up the rear. As we passed inside we saw many members of the Parish who had come to kindly support us, had also taken their seats. The choir, which had been joined by some of our sisters struck up with a joyful entrance hymn, “What a joyful day…we are happy and glad” and enlivened the Mass all though with organ and traditional instruments.
We were very fortunate to have Society Leader Sr. Veronica Openibo with us, together with Society Leadership Team Member Sr. Cecilia Nya and Society Secretary Sr. Margaret Jackson from Rome. Sr. Veronica was able to receive the vows of each sister and also give her the ring at the appropriate times during the ceremony. Fr. Pius Omofuma, our Parish priest, later commented on how organized the sisters were, and truly all went very well and in an orderly manner, from the Perpetually Professed, greeting each sister, to “My heart and my soul ring out my joy to God the living God” and the signing of all the papers. For the Parishioners another moving moment was earlier on, when the parents or those designated as such, each came out with their daughter to be given to God’s service, and the lovely prayer said by one of the parents on behalf of all, in the Igbo language, to which the parishioners responded with many “Amen”s! The two Silver Jubilarians also renewed their vows of commitment. Archbishop Alfred Martins, in his homily spoke of the need for service in the Church today, especially in face of so much that is happening in our world today leading away from God. A special Thanksgiving time was held at the end of the mass, during which all danced up joyfully to the altar, and an extra expression of joy was given by a group from Nimo, the home town of Sr. Genevieve Ibedu, who were living in Lagos and who danced up in their traditional dress and musical instruments, especially the drums!
At the end we went out into the sunshine (but had to be careful of deep puddles still on the ground!), as it was time for photos with the Archbishop, Bishop and clergy, SHCJ, family and friends. Priests and sisters, who could not stay on, were given a good meal on the church premises, while everyone else returned to the hall at Holy Child College, where tables had been set for the celebrants and their family members, and seating for all our friends who joined us. A delicious meal as served by very attentive servers, while all were entertained by some traditional dancers from the youth group at Dodan Barracks where we teach and work in the Parish. The ceremony of the cutting of the cakes, one for the Silver Jubilarians and another for the Finally Professed was done with due attention and smiling faces! While Sr. Bernadette Okure led the toast for the day with a very recalcitrant bottle, which seemed to want to refuse to let go of its cork, finally a helping hand got the “pop” everyone was expecting to hear! The celebrants got up and danced on the stage and were joined by some family members and SHCJ in the true traditional style, and “appreciated “ by those present. The celebratory meal ended with a prayer of Thanksgiving to God for the blessings of the day.
Evening time, around 8 p.m. once again we all gathered in the hall for a special celebration with the family members. The MC “visited” the state of each sister, who then danced forward with her family, who struck up lively songs and dances so that many of the sisters got up and danced with them with joy and laughter! They danced for nearly two hours and still did not feel tired, however with some people leaving early the following morning, it was time that all good things must come to an end. Various people were especially thanked with gifts for the different roles they had played in connection with accompanying the Tertians from their times in Rome, England and Ghana for their final preparation, and those involved in the planning for the celebration activities. A final prayer of thanksgiving to God was said to conclude the end of a special day in the lives of the celebrants, their families and the SHCJ family!
To God be the glory! Great things He has done.