Over five thousand faithful from all parts of the Diocese turned out on Sunday, May 10, 2019 to witness the first thanksgiving Mass of the newly consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of Port Harcourt Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Patrick Eluke, at St. Francis Catholic Church, Rumuokwuta, Port Harcourt.
The event which was described as memorable and first in the history of the Diocese saw parishioners, friends and members of the Church from other parts of the Diocese beaming with smiles and adorned in the ordination uniform and St. Francis Parish uniform struggling to catch a glimpse of the new Auxiliary Bishop who was the Parish Priest of St. Francis Catholic Church, Rumuokwuta, Port Harcourt.
Welcoming guests to the Mass, the Assistant Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. John Lawrence Dukue, described the day as a day of joy and thanksgiving especially for the Parish, adding that it was in a bid to make the best out of the day that the parish prepared more than three hundred candidates to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation by the new Bishop.
In his homily at the Mass, a priest of Auchi Diocese and friend of the Parish, Rev. Fr. Martins Alokwe said the thanksgiving was not only for the new Auxiliary Bishop, but for the Diocese as a whole as the Lord has given another shepherd to his people in Port Harcourt.
Fr. Alokwe stated that the elevation of Bishop Eluke is a marvelous deed, and urged the people of the Diocese to pray for him, listen to him and obey him, as his position is vital in meeting the pastoral needs of the people of God in the Diocese
“See the Bishop as your father; shun rumour mongering and all similar actions. It is even greater news for us because the new Bishop was appointed while he is our Parish Priest, therefore, let the bell ring, let the music play and let us celebrate more than any other set of people in the Diocese”, he said.
Fr. Alokwe urged the Auxiliary Bishop to educate, love, understand, keep encouraging the flock that has been handed over to him by God, adding that since he was called by God Himself, God would be with him in his Episcopal ministry.
In a joint address to the Bishop by the parish presented by the Vice Chairman of the Parish Pastoral Council, Dr. Joseph Ellah, the parishioners thanked God for making them part of the history of being the parish from where the first indigenous Catholic Bishop in Rivers State was taken from.
Dr. Ellah stated that the parish and parishioners were filled with gratitude since February 12th when the news of his appointment was announced and added that the gratitude of the parishioners go to the hierarchy of the Church and all those who played one role or the other in making the day a reality.
Responding to all the accolades showered on him, the Auxiliary Bishop went to the memory lane to recall how he was instructed to do the family proud as he continued in his quest in priesthood.
He expressed his gratitude to God for calling him into the priesthood despite his shortcomings, and to the Holy Father for appointing him a Bishop, and St. Francis Parishioners for cooperating with him in the last four and half years he has been in the parish.
“I am also grateful to our Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Camillus Etokudoh. I cannot say enough of him now, because he is a man of honour and integrity”, he said.
The thanksgiving Mass was rounded up with a well attended reception as the parishioners from all walks of life struggled to present their token of appreciation to the new Bishop whom many parishioners have seen as pride for them.
Highlights of the day were cutting of Episcopal cake, choreographic display from the children of St. Francis Nursery and Primary School, cultural performances from the parish CWO, CYON, Edo Delta Association, Akwa-Cross community and members of the Adoration Ministry, Port Harcourt branch.