By Felix Agabo
Recently, Catholics from the Archdiocese of Abuja who are indigenes of Edo and Delta States of Nigeria under the auspices of St Patrick Edo/Delta Catholic Community, gathered in Holy Rosary Parish, Wuse Abuja to Celebrate the annual Feast of St Patrick, the patron saint of the Community.
The actual St Patrick Feast Day is 17th March, but since the Church observes the Lenten Season at that time, the thanksgiving and grand reception was shifted to convenient date during the Easter period.
In the thanksgiving Mass which then, had Very Rev Fr. Innocent Jooji as the Parish Priest and Chief celebrant, Rev. Fr. Patrick Akekpe in his sermon said, St Patrick was only fourteen (14) years old, when he was abducted from England and taken to Ireland for slavery.
The Clergyman said history has it that, during this period, the young Patrick usually wakes up at night to pray for his abductors and Ireland was at this time a pagan nation.
He said at the age of twenty (20) years, the young man who will later become St Patrick escaped from his captors and returned to England and while back home, the young Patrick had a dream where the people of Ireland were calling him to come and preach the gospel to them and he obeyed.
The Priest said when he returned to Ireland; Patrick became a very zealous Missionary, who spent days and years building churches all over the place.
The success of Patrick in Ireland was so much that at a point it was believed that every family in Ireland must produce a priest as well as a Nun.
This, he said, led to the growth of many vocations and the country for many years was regarded as the land of saints and scholars.
St Patrick later became a priest and a bishop for forty (40) years.
The Clergyman informed the congregation that from the seventieth (17th) up to the nineteenth (19th) century, the Irish Church began a great Missionary movement and Africa became a beneficiary of that movement, as could be seen in the great bishops we had in Nigeria like Bishop Shannahan, Bishop Patrick Kelly, Bishop Margetric- who were all Irish bishops.
He informed furthermore that the whole region that is today known as the South-South part of Nigeria was basically evangelized by St Patrick Missionaries, which also went ahead to also establish schools like St Patrick College Calabar and Asaba.
The Priest said “by and large, what we are today as a Church in Nigeria is because of the labour and efforts of Irish men and women who came to evangelize us as a nation, which is mostly the reason why St Patrick is the secondary saint of Nigeria.”
Fr. Akekpe said as a people, we must imbibe the admirable legacies of St Patrick, as he was a man of love and forgiveness, a man of peace and humility, a paradigm of true mercy.
Meanwhile, the immediate past Minister of Works and Housing Arc. Mike Onolememen, a staunch member of St Patrick’s Community who was recently honoured with a chieftaincy title by his local community in Uromi in Edo State was also present at the thanksgiving Mass.
Members of the community were seen colourfully dressed in their archdiocesan uniform of St Patrick’s Edo/Delta.
The choir was also at hand to spice the occasion with good melodies of hymns from the indigenous languages of Edo and Delta States.
The second phase of the event was the reception which was held at Panache Leisure Park Wuse Abuja.
Other Priests who were present during the Mass included Rev. Fr. Paul Oziabor Salami, Rev Fr. Patrick Akekpe (MSP), Rev. Fr. Moses Iyoguaya (MSP) and Rev. Fr. Christopher Ojiega.
Also, a Priest from Uromi Diocese came to grace the occasion as well as representatives from over twenty parishes from the archdiocese and beyond.