Njoku Jane Frances The Apostleship of Prayer, League of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on the 26th of July, 2015 celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the formal inauguration of the devotion at the Holy Ghost Cathedral, Enugu amidst pomp and pageantry. The epoch making and colourful ceremony marking the event, started at 10:00 am with a concelebrated mass presided over by the Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. C.V.C Onaga.

In his opening remark, Bishop Onaga thanked God for the opportunity He granted the society to celebrate and also congratulates them on the success achieved so far, making them know that it was a rare privilege to be as old as the Diocese. In his Homily, during the celebration, Bishop Onaga noted that the gathering was essentially to celebrate the anniversary of a society whose spirituality and devotion have a lot to do with the love of God and of neighbour. He noted that the readings of the day coincided with the event of the day. Reflecting on the first reading of the day, 2Kings 4:42-44, Bishop Onaga noted that the miracles of the multiplication of loaves as performed by Elisha in that passage underscores God’s infinite love for his people which manifests in his steady disposition to provide for his people .

In his own words, “God has always desired to provide for his people”, comparing the miracle of Elisha with Christ’s multiplication of the loaves in the day’s gospel taking from John 6: 1-15, the prelate noted that “the multiplication of the loaves did not start with Jesus. Even the fall of the manna in the desert, he said, was an extra-ordinary example of the multiplication of loaves”. According to the Bishop, what happened shows that even in the most difficult times of our lives, God still provides for us his people. He advised all not to lose hope in times of difficulty. Speaking on the significance of the Sacred Heart Devotion, the Bishop stated that the difference between Sacred Heart and other societies is that they (Sacred Heart members) imitate the virtues of Jesus by sharing and prompting Christian love among the faithful.

He expressed gratitude to God for the sustenance he has given to the League and for the past fifty years for which the Diocese has rolled out the drums in joy. Tin a brief vote of thanks shortly before the final blessings of Eucharistic Celebration, the Diocesan chaplain, Rev. Fr. Benjamin Achi, thanked the Bishop for accepting to fix the occasion despite the annual diocesan day fund raising ceremony. He also thanked God for the calm weather and for making the day a success despite the challenges. He also expressed gratitude to the Cathedral Administrator, Very Rev. Fr. John Nwafor, and to other priests especially deanery chaplains of the League of Sacred Heart, gracing the occasion with their auspicious presence. He equally congratulated the newly consecrated members and ended with the handing over of a life-sized staue Sacred Heart statue to the Bishop on behalf of the society.

In appreciation, Bishop Onaga thanked the Diocesan Chaplain for his kind gesture and his efforts for making the occasion a success. He congratulated the members for the rare privilege of celebrating the golden jubilee of the Sacred Heart devotion which is almost “as old as the Diocese”. In a brief chat with the Choice Flame correspondent, the Patron and former National President of the society, Sir Engr. Joseph Anochie expressed his joy for being able to witness the golden jubilee especially as he was amongst those who contributed in nurturing it from the earliest stages and watched it grow from strength to strength. He noted that being the immediate past National President, he was overjoyed for the success achieved so far. His message to his members especially the newly consecrated is “LOVE”.

He noted that the League always preached about the Love of the Sacred Heart for humans, the love humans have for the Sacred Heart. “Members are supposed to love the Sacred Heart of Jesus and their neighbour just as the Sacred Heart loves them”, Engr. Anochie added. He prayed that they remain steadfast in the society. The Diocesan President, Bro. Patrick Ezeora (OFS) in an interview was overwhelmed with joy as he noted that the celebration coincided with his wedding anniversary and thanked God for the opportunity to celebrate the golden jubilee in his tenure. When asked if he encountered challenges, he responded in the positive saying that one cannot attain success without encountering difficulties but God has being their backbone in times of challenges and encouraged all members to never deviate from the message of the Sacred Heart in preaching love as it was a necessary virtue.

The Diocesan Chaplain in the same vein was delighted over the success of the event. “To celebrate 50 years of anything at all is not an easy task. It is something that one should be grateful to God for”, he noted. Speaking also of the challenges at promoting the devotion, the Chaplain noted that the work of evangelization always comes with challenges. He went further to say that even at the time of Jesus, there were challenges and he told his apostles that it wouldn’t be an easy task. But the good news was that He (Jesus) gave them the grace to conquer. That according to Fr. Achi, happened to be the story of the Apostleship of Prayer in Enugu Diocese. “The Spirituality of the Apostleship of Prayer is to communicate to the People the work of Jesus; the love he has for the people especially the Love of God that brought Jesus to the world and making the people appreciate it. This, he said was the major challenge of the society”. He congratulated the newly consecrated members and advised them to keep to heart what they had received because being consecrated into the league is a thing of privilege and so, they shouldn’t relent in keeping their faith and hope alive. To the rest of the members and lay faithful, he advised that they should love the Sacred Heart Just as the Sacred Heart loves them and he prayed that the candle light burn unceasingly in their hearts and the grace and blessings they have received on the day of their celebration may reach out to all and sundry within and outside the Diocese. “May the Heart of Jesus ever burning with love for us remain ever with us always and may we continue to see his blessings and love manifest in our lives and neighbours through Christ our Lord”, he prayed.

Highlights of the occasion were the consecration of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, consecration of new members of the League and the cutting of the jubilee cake. There were also cultural displays by the young members of the League across the Diocese and other entertaining activities. The Apostleship of Prayer, League of the Sacred Heart of Jesus commenced officially in the Diocese in 1965. The first centre of the devotion in the Diocese was established at St. Joseph Parish Emene by Mr. Peter Onwudinjo, who had practiced the devotion privately for 25 years earlier, having been introduced to it by his elementary school teacher in 1940.