ON Saturday, September 10, 2022, Ejeme-Aniogor in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State, witnessed an unprecedented crowd of Priests from different parts of the country.
The gathering was a unique one as the religious, Catholic faithful and people from all walks of life thronged the agrarian sleepy community. The event was far from being the first Holy Mass to be celebrated by a Priest, but a Thanksgiving Mass, marking the 15th Priestly Ordination Anniversary of Rev. Fr. John Konyeke.
It was a unique gathering for more reasons than one. Priests hardly go back to their communities for such an event. Again, it is very rare for priests to be serving in their communities when such milestones in form of anniversaries are marked.
But, Rev. Fr. Konyeke, though hails from Ejeme-Aniogor, was not posted to serve at his community. His Priesthood sojourn has been characterised by uncertainties, accepting whatever comes his way as fate and ordained by God. In fact, his unwritten philosophy has been: ‘let His will be done and to Him be the glory.”
Orphaned at a tender age, he was once quoted by a colleague of mine, Comrade Dennis Otu, as saying, “My father would not have encouraged me to be a Priest.” And that is quite understandable.
At barely three years, Rev. Fr. Konyeke lost his beloved mother. As if that was not tragic enough, he was only 15 years old – in JSS 3 – when his dear father ‘reunited’ with his mother on the other side.
This writer had to join him on Friday, September 9, 2022 at Ejeme-Aniogor ahead of the memorable event.
The next day, Saturday, September 10, 2022, we rolled out the drums to celebrate his 15th anniversary as ordained Priest.
To corroborate what I had heard or read from others, Rev. Fr. John Konyeke, a respected preacher I met and befriended since 2017, told me that were his father alive, he would staunchly have opposed his dream to become a Reverend Father.
In the assessment of Rev. Fr Jude lloba who took the Homily, Rev. Fr John Konyeke, have been “a great pastoral person” whom God has used you to “impact on so many people positively.” He then admonished that the celebrant should never “take the glory of your Master. Give the glory back to God, be humble at all times as you have been doing.”
“Padre, Congratulations on your Ordination Anniversary and all that you are doing for God and humanity. No regret knowing you since I got into Asaba in 2017. I am mighty glad to have you as a friend, brother and, most of all,l as a Spiritual Father. May God continue to protect you as you carry on His duties and may our Mother Mary continue to be there for you,” he prayed.
Like the Catholic Church that places high premium on the Holy Trinity, the number, three has been apparently significant in the life of Rev. Fr. Konyeke. He was three years old when he lost his mother; he was in JSS 3 when his father died, and he was three years old in the Priesthood when he was posted to Catholic Church of the Ascension, Asaba, Delta State, the first Church where he served as the Priest-in-charge.
He marked his fifth year anniversary as a Priest at the Catholic Church of the Ascension, Asaba, and shortly after that, he was redeployed to St. John Bosco Catholic Church. It was at St. John Bosco that he celebrated his 10th year anniversary.
The Catholic Church believes in the unseen hand that makes all things perfect. So, after marking his 10th year as a Priest, Rev. Fr. Konyeke was sent again by the Catholic Diocese of Issele-Uku for further studies at the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA), Port-Harcourt, Rivers State. He, therefore, clocked 15 years as a Priest, while still a student.
Being a student on holiday, the major challenge was that of a suitable venue for a Thanksgiving Mass. Thankfully, yours sincerely who encountered Fr. Konyeke at Catholic Church of the Ascension, conferred with the President, Catholic Women Association (CWO), St. John Bosco Parish, Hon. Mrs Colina Anazia, and we agreed that it was possible to have a successful Thanksgiving Mass at St. Felix Catholic Church, Ejeme-Aniogor.
Aside being the celebrant’s hometown, the geographical centrality of the agrarian community also factored its choice for the Thanksgiving Mass.
Remarkably, the event turned out to be some sort of homecoming for the celebrant. The people of Ejeme-Aniogor, including the small and mighty, came out en-masse to thank God for the life of their son. The Chairman of the occasion, Chief Augustus Boaz El-Bethel of Energy Giants Group, United States of America; the Father of the Day, Sir Okey Ofili and the Mother of the Day, HRM Patricia Uju Onyia, were all present to lend their support and add glamour to the event.
During his Homily, Rev. Fr. Jude lloba, urged Christians to serve God with all that they have. He was effusive – and rightly so – in his eulogy of Rev. Fr. Konyeke.
On the heels of the Thanksgiving Mass, a reception that saw cultural groups from Asaba, Issele-Uku, Agbor and other places entertaining the people followed. In the end, activities shifted from the church premises to the family compound of Rev. Fr. Konyeke where a popular musician in the area, Sir Deskenny entertained the audience.
Sir Deskenny thrilled the audience till late in the evening. The next morning, being a Sunday, Fr. Konyeke joined his folks in attending the Holy Mass at St. Felix Catholic Church, Ejeme-Aniogor.
Since that event, the expression, “Thank God”, has been constant on the lips of Fr. Konyeke as on Sunday, September 25, 2022, he was at the Catholic Church of the Ascension, Asaba, as Chief Celebrant at the Holy Mass where he went beyond thanking God to also appreciate the parishioners for supporting him.
It would be safe to conclude that from the way Rev. Fr. Konyeke celebrated his 15th Priestly Ordination Anniversary, more natives would be encouraged to go into the Priesthood as Ejeme-Aniogor is host to St. Felix Seminary.
Fr. Konyeke, has since, gone back to the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA), Port Harcourt, Rivers State where he is a student.
The witer, Comrade Fidelis Egugbo, is the Special Assistant, Media to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.