My diocese, my pride. My faith, my heritage

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ST ANNE CATHEDRAL

Yes, my diocese is my pride; my faith, my heritage! So, which is my Diocese and what is my Faith? Well, my Diocese is Ikot Ekpene and my Faith is the Christian and Catholic Faith. So, what makes these my pride and heritage? To answer this, dear friends, I welcome you to this historical tour and expository journey to the diocese called IKOT EKPENE.

Ikot Ekpene Diocese, located in the South Southern part of Nigeria, Africa, was created in 1963 by Pope John XXIII. Precisely, located in Akwa Ibom State, the diocese is one of the suffragan dioceses of the Ecclesiastical Province of Calabar since 1993. The diocese covers an area of 2, 263 square kilometres with a population of about 1,030,896 inhabitants (as at the 2006 census) of which about 80% are Christians and about 10% are Catholics, that is, about 117,609. The Cathedral Church named Saint Anne Cathedral is located along Cardinal Ekandem Avenue in Ikot Ekpene metropolis. The current Bishop, its third, Most Rev. Camillus Raymond Umoh was consecrated and took possession on October 9, 2010.

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A CROSS SECTION OF PRIESTS ON ANNUAL RETREAT

The earliest date for the foundation of any mission Church in Ikot Ekpene was in 1914 by the missionary fathers at Anua, St Anne Station, Ifuho, which is now the Cathedral. It was established in 1918 with Rev. Fathers Paul Biéchy, CSSP, and James Moynagh, SPS, as the first resident priests in 1920 and 1930, respectively, under Bishop Joseph Shanahan – the pioneer Holy Ghost Bishop of Southern Nigeria with his headquarters at Onitsha.

Ikot Ekpene has always been associated with Calabar Mission, which was established when Fr. James Moynagh, SPS, was appointed the Prefect Apostolic on July 9, 1934. When the Prefecture was raised to the status of Vicariate Apostolic on June 13, 1947, the Pastoral Care of the entire territory was entrusted to Bishop James Moynagh who became the Bishop of Calabar Diocese on April 18, 1950.

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BISHOP CAMILLUS RAYMOND UMOH

With the appointment of Bishop Moynagh, SPS, the Holy Ghost Fathers were replaced by the St. Patrick Fathers, who thenceforth have been indeed the Founding Fathers of Evangelization in Calabar, Ogoja, Ikot Ekpene, Port Harcourt and Uyo Dioceses.

The first indigenous Bishop of Ikot Ekpene was the Most Rev. Bishop Dominic I. Ekandem. He was ordained a priest on December 7, 1947, in Ifuho. He was consecrated an Auxiliary Bishop on February 7, 1954, by Bishop Moynagh as the consecrating prelate and Bishops Peter Rogan MHM of Buéa and Paul Biéchy of Brazzaville as co-consecrators. On March 1, 1963, following the creation of the diocese, the Most Rev. Bishop Dominic I. Ekandem was appointed the first resident Bishop of Ikot Ekpene Diocese with the then Civil Provinces of Abak and Ikot Ekpene and all of the Annang ethnic extraction under it.

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A CROSS SECTION OF THE LAITY AT EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION

Bishop Dominic Ekandem was the Bishop from 1963 to 1989. On October 31, 1971, Most Rev. Bishop Ephraim S. Obot, who later became the Bishop of Idah Diocese in Kogi State (1971-2010), was appointed Auxiliary to Bishop Dominic Ekandem. Under Bishop Dominic Ekandem, Ikot Ekpene Diocese witnessed a tremendous growth in the ordination of indigenous priests. Creation of parishes, establishment of schools and hospitals. He was a Cardinal on April 27, 1976, and his creation in the Consistory as the first Cardinal in Nigeria on May 24, 1976, by Pope Paul VI.

On the appointment of His Eminence Dominic Cardinal Ekandem to the See of Abuja Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria (FCT) in 1989, Most Bishop Camillus A. Etokudoh who was consecrated the Auxiliary Bishop of Ikot Ekpene Diocese on May 14, 1988 became its second Bishop. He was appointed to the See on September 1, 1989 and installed as its second Bishop on February 3, 1990. Following the appointment of Most Rev. Camillus A. Etokudoh as the Catholic Bishop of Port Harcourt Diocese on May 4, 2009, Msgr. Camillus Raymond Umoh was appointed as the Catholic Bishop of Ikot Ekpene on July 16, 2010, to replace Most Rev. Bishop C. A. Etokudoh. He was ordained on October 9, 2010, as the third Bishop of the diocese.

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A CROSS SECTION OF RELIGIOUS AND SEMINARIANS

Over the years, the clergy and lay faithful of the diocese work together for the evangelization of the people of the area. As such there has been a widespread of lay apostolates and evangelism that have seen many converted to the Catholic Faith. In Ikot Ekpene, there is a true, gradual and fruitful inculturation of the Christian Faith into the culture of the people. A diocese created almost along the line of geographic-ethno-politics of the state is predominantly made up of the Annang. The Annang culture is generally a culture of respect, hospitality and creativity. Its people are lively and happy people who are contented with the good gifts nature and God has bestowed on them. They love and appreciate arts, dance, music and foreigners. The Annang is a home for good African delicacies, the palm wine and locally made gin.

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REGINA PACIS AUDITORIUM

Vocation to the catholic priesthood and the religious life has increased over the years. With her catholic schools and the seminaries, there is a well-thought-out formation plan to embrace vocation even from an early age. Still a young diocese with only 56 years of existence she has so much prospects for the future.  The collaboration that exists between its clergy and its laity is a beauty to behold and has facilitated its missionary growth over the years.

As a Spiritual hub of the area, Ikot Ekpene Diocese has a Pastoral Centre named Cardinal Ekandem Pastoral Centre where visitors can find solace and comfort. The Diocese is currently embarking on a Retreat Centre Project which promises to be a Pilgrimage Centre open for all in need of a Spiritual tourism, Spiritual refreshment and rekindling. You can as well be a part of that project by contacting the Project coordinators through the Diocesan Website.

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PRIESTLY ORDINATION

Ikot Ekpene Metropolis is not only home to the Cathedral Church of Saint Anne but there are up to four other Catholic Churches (parishes) within the city to include: St. Vincent de Paul Church (Located along Umuahia Road), St Anne Catholic Church (Located along Essien Road), St Dominic Catholic Church, (Located along Cardinal Ekandem Avenue) and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (Located Off Uyo Road). These Faith communities are always very welcoming and will be delighted to have you join them in worship and prayers. The Diocesan Secretariat complex is located within the Cathedral Church premises.   

Growing up within the local Church and faith community, attending the various catechism classes and subsequently receiving my baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation as well as working in various capacities in the Diocese as a Seminarian, Deacon and now as a Priest, I have come to appreciate my diocese as my pride, my Catholic Faith as my heritage. In Ikot Ekpene Diocese Faith not only becomes action but faith comes alive. For more information please visit the Diocesan Website @ www.ikotekpenediocese.org

Ikot Ekpene Diocese is a community of Faith and LIFE

Valentine Umoh
Priest of the Diocese
Ordained 2014.

 

A Day with Saint Valentine of Rome: Patron of young couples

 

Introduction: Who is Saint Valentine?

Saint Valentine of Rome was a priest in the Roman Empire who ministered to Christians, who were persecuted there. He was martyred and buried at a Christian cemetery on the Via Flaminia close to the Ponte Milvio to the north of Rome, on February 14, which has been observed as the Feast of Saint Valentine (Saint Valentine’s Day) since 496 AD. The relics of Saint Valentine were kept in the Church and Catacombs of San Valentino in Rome, which remained an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages until the relics of St. Valentine were transferred to the church of Santa Prassede during the pontificate of Nicholas IV. The flower-crowned skull of Saint Valentine is exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome; other relics were brought to Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland where they remain to this day; this church continues to be a popular place of pilgrimage, especially on Saint Valentine’s Day, for those seeking love.

In 1969 the Roman Catholic Church removed his name from the General Roman Calendar given the paucity of information about him. The Roman Catholic Church continues to recognize him as a saint, listing him as such in the February 14 entry in the Roman Martyrology, and authorizing liturgical veneration of him on February 14 in any place where that day is not devoted to some other obligatory celebration in accordance with the rule that on such a day the Mass may be that of any saint listed in the Martyrology for that day.

Saint Valentine (Italian: San Valentino, Latin: Valentinus), officially Saint Valentine of Rome, was a widely recognized 3rd-century Roman saint commemorated on February 14 and since the High Middle Ages is associated with a tradition of courtly love.

The apparent confusion

The Catholic Encyclopaedia and other hagiographical sources speak of three Saint Valentines that appear in connection with February 14. One was a Roman priest, another the bishop of Interamna (modern Terni, Italy) both buried along the Via Flaminia outside Rome, at different distances from the city. The third was said to be a saint who suffered on the same day with several companions in the Roman province of Africa, of whom nothing else is known.

According to Professor Jack B. Oruch of the University of Kansas, abstracts of the acts of the first two saints (that is Saint Valentine of Rome and Saint Valentine of Terni) were in nearly every church and monastery of Europe. Although, the extant accounts of the martyrdoms of these saints are of a late date and contain legendary elements, a common nucleus of fact may underlie the two accounts and they may refer to a single person. This is because according to the official biography of the Diocese of Terni, Bishop Valentine was born and lived in Interamna and while on a temporary stay in Rome he was imprisoned, tortured, and martyred there on February 14, 269. His body was hastily buried at a nearby cemetery and a few nights later his disciples retrieved his body and returned him home.

Moreover, the Roman Martyrology, the Catholic Church’s official list of recognized saints, for February 14 gives only one Saint Valentine: a martyr who died on the Via Flaminia.

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Some stories associated with Saint Valentine: His faith, brilliance, zeal, love for young couples and martyrdom.

A common hagiography describes Saint Valentine as a priest of Rome or as the former Bishop of Terni, an important town of Umbria, in central Italy. The first legend holds that while he was under house arrest of Judge Asterius for refusing to sacrifice to pagan gods, he shared his faith with the judge in which Valentinus was discussing the validity of Jesus and of Christianity. He was very brilliant, and his intelligence was widespread in the empire. However, the judge put Valentinus to the test and brought to him the judge’s adopted blind daughter. If Valentinus succeeded in restoring the girl’s sight, Asterius would do whatever he asked. Valentinus, praying to God, laid his hands on her eyes and the child’s vision was restored. Immediately humbled, the judge asked Valentinus what he should do. Valentinus replied that all the idols around the judge’s house should be broken, and that the judge should fast for three days and then undergo the Christian sacrament of baptism. The judge obeyed and, as a result, freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge, his family, and his forty-four members household (family members and servants) were baptized. Valentinus was later arrested again for continuing to evangelize and was sent to the prefect of Rome, and later to the emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II) himself. Claudius took a liking to him until Valentinus tried to convince Claudius to embrace Christianity, whereupon Claudius refused and condemned Valentinus to death, commanding that Valentinus either renounce his faith or he would be beaten with clubs, and beheaded. Valentinus refused and Claudius’ command was executed outside the Flaminian Gate February 14, 269. An embellishment to this account states that before his execution, Saint Valentine wrote a note to Asterius’s daughter whom he had healed of blindness and signed “from your Valentine”, which is said to have “inspired today’s romantic missives”.

Another legend is that in the 3rd century AD, it is said that Valentine, who was a priest, defied the order of the emperor Claudius and secretly performed Christian weddings for young couples who were in love. Such marriage would thus exempt their husbands from going to war. This legend claims that soldiers were sparse at this time, so this was a big inconvenience to the emperor. The account mentions that in order to remind these men of their vows and God’s love, Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to these soldiers and persecuted Christians. This is a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on St. Valentine’s Day.

One thing that is clear from all these legends is that Saint Valentine is known to have ministered to the faithful amidst the Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire in the time of Claudius II. Preaching the gospel using every available means and space, healing the sick and celebrating the Christian sacraments especially of marriage. This earned him the obvious crown of martyrdom.

You might notice that there is a bit of romance missing from these stories. This is because the source of the courtship and love that has been linked into Valentine’s feast day does not come from the saint at all. The proposition that the association of Valentine with romantic rites is due to largely futile efforts of early religious Christian leaders to do away with pagan festivals by substituting a Christian observance is a modern interpolation. According to this theory, February 14 was traditionally the Roman festival of Lupercalia, an important day to honour Juno, the Queen of Heaven and protector of women. The wife of Jupiter, Juno was said to bestow her blessing on courtship rituals or marriages celebrated that day. According to proponents of this theory, Valentine’s Day is more accurately a continuation of Lupercalia shrouded in Catholic appropriation. More so, that Valentine’s February saint day coincides with the slow dawn of spring when birds are said to select mates seems to support this propaganda.

The place of Saint Valentine in the Liturgical Calendar

Saint Valentine remains in the Roman Catholic Church’s official list of saints, the Roman Martyrology, but, in view of the scarcity of information about him, his commemoration was removed from the General Roman Calendar, when this was revised in 1969. It is included in local calendars of places such as Balzan in Malta. Some Traditionalist Catholics observe earlier calendars of the Roman Rite, in which Saint Valentine was celebrated as a Simple Feast until 1955, when Pope Pius XII reduced the mention of him to a commemoration in the Mass of the day, a position it kept in the General Roman Calendar of 1960 incorporated in the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, use of which, as an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, is still authorized in accordance with Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, St. Valentine is recognized on July 6, in which Saint Valentine, the Roman presbyter, is honoured; in addition, the Eastern Orthodox Church observes the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, on July 30. Members of the Greek Orthodox Church named Valentinos (male) or Valentina (female) may observe their name day on the Western ecclesiastical calendar date of February 14. He is also the Patron Saint of Bee Keepers, Plague and Epilepsy.

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Summary

While there is some apparent confusion as to which of three possible martyrs named Valentine is the saint that is celebrated on that day, it is now clear that he was either a priest or a bishop in Terni, Italy, and that his love for God and his faithfulness was all-encompassing. Following Jesus’ teachings closely, he also had a great love for mankind. It is believed that he committed the crimes of marrying Christians and helping Christians who were being persecuted by Claudius II, the emperor of Rome. Because he would not renounce his faith and because he tried to convert the emperor, he was sentenced to and suffered a brutal death. Over the years and among other things, he has come to be known as the patron saint of love, young people, engaged couples and happy marriages. Although people can pray to Saint Valentine at any stage in their relationship, he seems to be an ideal saint to turn to for young people in love and engaged couples.

Today we celebrate another feast day of this great Saint. Amidst the confusion in today´s world, this Saint´s life encourages us to love God and love humanity. If we love God, then we will not be shy or afraid to profess this faith publicly and even helping others to understand this faith as well (evangelization); if we love humanity, we will not need to be reminded to reach out to one another especially to those who suffer want, hunger, sickness, depression and persecutions of all sorts and we will be committed to express our love publicly to our soul mate by seeking God´s blessings in Holy Matrimony. “God is love and he who abides in love abides in God” says the author of the First Letter of John Chapter 4 verse 16. “Love is patient and kind” says the Apostle Paul (Cf. 1Cor 13: 4 –8).

Prayer to Saint Valentine

Dear Saint and glorious martyr teach us to love unselfishly and to find great joy in giving. Enable all true lovers to bring out the best in each other. Let them love each other in God and in God in each other.

Love
Love is patient and kind

it does not envy or boast

and it´s never proud,

love is not rude or selfish,

it does not get angry easily,

or keep track of wrongs.

Love does not delight in bad

things but it rejoices in the truth.

Love always protects,

trusts, hopes and perseveres

Love never fails.

Saint Valentine – Pray for us

Valentine Day Message 2019

Valentine Umoh
14.02.2019
vatexs4christ@yahoo.com

…AS YOU GRADUATE

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(Dedicated to all the 2018 graduates of Queen of Apostles Seminary Afaha Obong, Notre Dame Girls Secondary School, Urua Edet Obo, Loreto Girls Juniorate, Eriam, Holy Family College, Oku Abak, Holy Child Girls Secondary School, Ifuho, St. Columbanus Secondary School, Ikwen, Stella Maris Girls College, Ikot Etim & all other graduates of the schools that promote the Catholic Educational values)

My dear 2018 graduating students,

Good day! How are you doing? I hope all is well. As you graduate, I considered it fitting to write down a few lines to you from some far distant isles. At least the new media have permitted me to do so. Indeed, though far away, I am very near to you and my love for you will go on. I know for many years you have been tutored, you have been formed, you have been mentored and taught the right conduct and the ability to make right and correct choices, please do not depart from this learning.

As I always say, the first 20 years of your life is like laying a bed on which you will lie on for the rest of your years. Of this first 20 years, the ones I consider very crucial for character and intellectual formation are the six years spent in the secondary school. These years are so crucial and important. That is why your parents had to spend their hard-earned resources to make sure you are given this crucial foundation. Please my dear graduating students value these years and make them count.

Among all the millions of schools, your parents or guardian sent you to a school that promote the values of Catholic Education not minding the cost because they know that indeed the school offers more than the cost per se. Someone once said, if education is so costly try ignorance. And I know that if you are true to yourself, they were right. Please do not make them feel disappointed by your actual output.

While in school the rules were rigorously set out for you: you wake up every morning and the first point of call was always a Thanksgiving to God in your magnificent Chapel, then the Morning functions, the Breakfast, The Assembly, Classes, Midday prayers, Lunch, Siesta, Afternoon prep, Games or Labour, the Vespers/Evening Rosary, Supper, Night prep and then the last point of call again was the Chapel for the Night prayers. And then the lights out. As you see dear friend, the activities were so structured in such a way to seek God´s assistance in all moments and activities of the day as well as to make God the beginning and end of all you do.  Never graduate without assimilating this most important lesson. The difference you will now see after school is that while these regulations remain in your subconsciousness, there will no longer be any Rector or principal, nor auxiliaries nor compound Master, nor prefects, nor regulator to enforce these rules. You will now be your own Rector and Principal, Prefect and Regulator. Indeed, a sense of freedom at last sets in. Watch it my dear friend this is where many got it wrong.

While in school, you did not just learn in the class room (Intellectual), learning took many other forms: you were made to belong to one school club or the other, the school choir, the band, the cultural group, the football and other sports team (basketball, volleyball, athletics etc), the press club, debating club, mathematics club, you can name them yourselves. Please my dear student, try to put into efficient use, the good talents that you discovered while in school, keep developing and harnessing them, they could really be of great help in the rainy days.

While in school, you were assigned to a responsibility role: some of you were school senior prefects, Masters of Ceremony, Sacristans, Refectory prefects, Labour prefects, Toilet prefects, Sanitary prefects, Dormitory prefects, Study hall prefects, you can name the rest. These were meant to form you in leadership roles and to inculcate in you the human virtues of accountability and responsibility. My dear student, if there is anything wrong with your Nigeria and my Nigeria, it is that these human and social virtues have been undermined by the country´s successive leadership. It is left for you and me to correct these in our own days. Be responsible and accountable with any position of leadership that will be entrusted to you in the days that lies ahead.

Yes, indeed, you deserve to be congratulated for having completed this phase of your life. Accept my heartfelt felicitations but let your actions speak volumes for you. You were taught to be a civilized and educated human being: a gentleman and a lady, please be good ambassadors.

In the university, the 3rd phase of your educational career, there are many challenges that lies ahead. Your secondary school education has given you all you need to surmount those challenges. However, let me not fail to admonish you: strive to do the right things at the right times and stay safe. Try to avoid going to the wrong places. Avoid the company of those that cannot add value to your life. Dress properly as you have been taught to avoid being embarrassed. A university post reads: “As you dress, so shall you be addressed.” A good dressing gives you confidence and dignity. If your right hand, eye, or leg as the Bible says causes you to sin cut it off. If you notice that you are with the wrong friend and in the wrong company, make a conscious resolution to cut off the relationship. Avoid anything and the company of persons associated with cultism, lesbianism and homosexuality, they are not only moral sins but societal crimes. Avoid smoking and excessive alcoholism, it doesn’t add any value to you, it only exposes you to innumerable heart and related diseases.

As you go into the larger society, keep the fire burning, keep the flag flying, keep the star in you shinning, wake up the Einstein (creative ingenuity) in you and keep soaring like an eagle…the Lord is your strength! Beware of bad company, it corrupts good character. Don’t forget God, it is in Him we live, move and have our being…Respect your elders, it is a guarantee that you will someday be an elder; keep the rules of life, it keeps you going; live and let others live…it is the basic rule of co-existence. On the overall, be good, be nice to all you will ever meet…you do not know what tomorrow holds…

Someone once said, if you can read and write, then thank your teachers. Always be grateful to your teachers and formators. You can never thank them enough. A little courtesy, a wave, a “hi” or “hello”, a good morning, when you see them in the bus station or in your locality gives them some encouragement. Try to keep the companionship of the good friends you have made in school, among your classmates, even your younger ones, you can never tell what tomorrow holds. Many successful people today were helped by the friends they made in secondary school.

Before I conclude, learn to be creative and proactive. While you are expecting your admission processes into the universities to get through and even while undergoing your university education, you can also pick interest in learning something new or developing some naturally endowed talents. For instance, you can learn fashion designing, cake-making, decoration or web page developing and management (not just computer school to learn how to type), public speaking, musical instruments like Guitar, violin, or keyboard, music composition, music recording, video making and photography or photo editing etc. My dear, experiences have shown that many people who ventured into these areas of life also became successful. Your talents and any vocational training you undergo can also add to your income in the future, they can save you in the rainy days especially in these moments our dear country´s economy is experiencing high rate of unemployment.

Above all, in all you do, and whatever you will be tomorrow, make God your number one refuge and stronghold. The many spiritual activities in school were meant to emphasize this very crucial point.

As St Paul will say when addressing his letters to his audience, I am not writing to you as a stranger, rather as one who by a special mandate and grace of God journeyed with you for some years, as one who had been privileged to teach some of you in class, pray with you and for you in the Chapel, play with you in the football field, relax and recreate with you at social events and dine with you in the refectory, but not fail to reprimand and correct you as well when you fell into error. Therefore, I implore you as you graduate, to consider seriously these things and I know that your future is brighter, better and greater.

May the God of peace be with you all!

Once again, congratulations!

Best wishes from your friend and animator,

Fr. Valentine Umoh

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