By Christopher Orji & Millicent Ossai The pilgrimage/rosary carnival by the Catholic Diocese of Enugu to the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Ugwogo-Nike is an annual event for the promotion of Marian devotions in Enugu Diocese and in the world at large This year’s pilgrimage/rosary carnival is very significant because aside the rare occurrence that it fell on the Solemnity of Assumption, the pilgrimage also fell within the jubilee year of our Mother of Perpetual Help. While the Icon is much older, the year 2016 makes it 150 years the original Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help was entrusted to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer by the Church during the papacy of Pope Pius IX. The Redemptorists, whose charism is rich in Marian tradition, remained faithful to the call of the Holy Father as they proclaimed their core charism of plentiful redemption in Christ especially to the poor and abandoned. Today, the Blessed Virgin Mary is loved and honoured under the title of our Mother of Perpetual Help all over the world. On Saturday August 15th, 2015 which was the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, all roads led to the National Shrine of our Mother of Perpetual Help Mary Ville, Ugwogo-Nike, Enugu, as all the clergy, religious and the Catholic faithful under Enugu diocese went for a pilgrimage. The event was really great and interesting and attendance was enormous as different parishes were gathered with their Madonna to pray, and witness other activities of the 2015 pilgrimage. The event began at 8 o’clock in the morning withsolemn rosary procession followed by the presentation of petitions, lightening of votive candles and procession with the Marian Icon presented by the C.W.O Enugu Diocese along with the flower girls just after the Holy Mass entrance procession. The Holy Mass started at 12 o’clock and was presided by His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. C.V.C Onaga flanked by the vicar general, Very Rev. Msgr. Luke Adike and Very Rev. Fr. Malachy Ezeonu, Dean, Nkwo-Nike Deanery. Very Rev. Msgr. Obiora Ike began his homily with songs of thanksgiving. He then recognized the presence of the chief celebrant, Bishop Onaga and equally thanked God for the serene and clement weather. He reminded the faithful of the solemnity of the day and how the Holy Mother Church cherishes it. According to the homilist, the Holy Mother Church remembers annually on 15thAugust (Assumption day) that we have an important woman by name Blessed Virgin Mary. He praised and described her as one who understands the will of God and allows God’s will to be done in her life as recorded in the gospel of Luke (Lk. 1 : 38). He went further to say that this dogma of Mary celebrated every 15th day of August was brought to us by Christ and was rooted in the word made flesh which dwelt among us. He thanked God for His words through which all things were made possible. According to him, it is this word that brought us Christ who came to save mankind. The homilist traced the account of creation and how God created all things good. And out of the love he had for mankind, propelled him to create man in His own image and likeness and entrusted him with other creatures to name and take charge of them. He finally created a companion for him which he called Eve. He also narrated how Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruits and the punishment meted to them by God. As a result of this disobedience, a woman was born in the New Testament as was written by Saint John in the first reading taken from the book of Revelation. According to the homilist, this woman in question represents the Blessed Virgin Mary who later conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit as was earlier prophesied by Prophet Isaiah (chapter seven) and bore a son who redeemed mankind from his sinful state. Monsignor Obiora Ike thanked our Mother Mary for accepting the message brought to him by Angel Gabriel and also for allowing the will of God to be done in her life. He urged the faithful to emulate Mary and to always embrace the will of God especially in their prayer lives. He equally enumerated some of the qualities of Mary. Amongst them were – she is loving, caring, tender hearted, humble, generous, lived a good life, etc. He urged all to imbibe those qualities of Mary and make serious efforts to practicalize them. The homilist admonished the youths to remain chaste and emulate Mary who remained a virgin all through her life, to the parents, to avail their children the opportunity of going to block rosary at the proper time, to the husbands, to obey their wives just as Joseph did in order to preserve love and peace in the family, to the priests, to teach the people of God the doctrines and dogma of Mary and to also imbibe those teachings as Mary is their Mother. Finally, he praised the faith of the people of God who had come for this year’s pilgrimage and prayed God to answer their individual prayers. He also prayed for the grace to embrace the will of God in our lives and to accept Virgin Mary who assumed into heaven as our Mother and our great intercessor. After the post communion prayers a collection for the upkeep of the pilgrim center was held. Before the close of the anniversary The Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese and the Chief Celebrant Most Rev Callistus Onaga granted a Papal plenary indulgence to the Congregation. This rare privilege was followed by the cutting of our Lady’s cake and then the crowning of the Madonna by His Lordship and finally the presentation of kola nut by Ugwogo-Nike community to Bishop Onaga. In his vote of thanks, the chief celebrant thanked everyone who made it to 2015 Ugwogo-Nike pilgrimage and prayed God to bless and grant all journey mercy back home. Before the final blessing, Bishop Onaga made a clarion call for help and for total support for the building and maintenance of Ugwogo-Nike pilgrimage center. Finally, the people of God were encouraged to take part in this pilgrimage being organized annually and benefit from the plenary indulgence attached to it. More still, Pilgrimage/Rosary carnival 2015 was full of abundant graces and Marian miracles. An outstanding miracle was the testimony shared by Rev. Sr. Dr.Merabel Victoria Ogechi from the Congregation of St. Theresa Servant of the passion of Christ, who according to her was healed of a hole in her heart after praying to God through Our Lady. She appreciated God with a huge sum of hundred thousand naira and pledged to be doing this donation annually. There were many testimonies from sick people that were also healed of their infirmities after their pilgrimage experience. Moreover, the Vicar for Evangelization, Enugu Diocese and parish priest St. Patrick Ogbete, Very Rev. Msgr. Ferdinand Okpalaibekwe with his parishioners among some other parishes and individuals gave the entire people of God a food for thought as they made their own journey to Ugwogo-Nike Pilgrimage on foot from their parishes. This was really motivating and a lesson to Catholics. In conclusion, this year’s pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Mary Ville, Ugwogo-Nike was very successful and a hitch-free one. The weather of that fateful day was a great testimony as it remained clement till the end of the event, despite the earlier declaration by the meteorologists that the day would witness a heavy downpour. The event witnessed the presence of the Governor of Enugu State, His Excellency, Hon. IfeanyiUgwuanyi, Enugu East L.G.A/ALGON Chairman, Enugu State, Prince Cornelius NnaedozieNnaji and other distinguished politicians.
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