The remains of Rt. Revd. Msgr. Stephen Uchenna Uzomah were on Wednesday, interred at Issele Uku after a Funeral Mass held at St Paul’s Cathedral, Issele Uku, Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State.
In our characteristic manner of getting you informed, we present below, a full text of the Homily delivered by Rev. Fr. John Konyeke at the Funeral Mass:
HOMILY DELIVERED BY REV. FR. JOHN KONYEKE ON THE FUNERAL OF MSGR. STEPHEN UCHENNA UZOMAH ON WEDNESDAY 7TH FEBRUARY, 2024
The Chief Mourner, Most Revd. Michael Odogwu Elue, the Bishop of Issele-Uku diocese; His Grace, Most Revd. Augustine Obiora Akubeze, the Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical See of Benin-City. My Lord Bishops, Monsignori, dear brother-priests, Consecrated Men and Women, Catechists, Major Seminarians, knights and Ladies of the Church, Traditional Rulers, Government Functionaries, Political Office Holders, members of Uzomah‟s Family, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen and dear People of God, we gather today with Faith in Jesus Christ to reverently commit to our Merciful God and Father the earthly remains of Rt. Revd. Msgr. Stephen Uchenna Uzomah, that through the merits of this Mass, He will accept him into his kingdom prepared before the foundation of the world, for those who faithfully follow him just Like Abraham did.
Thus, in the first reading from the Prophecy of Daniel, (Dan. 12:1-3) scripture says that “When that time comes, your own people will be spared, all those whose names are found written in the Book. Of those who lie sleeping in the dust of the earth many will awake, some to everlasting life. The learned will shine as brightly as the vault of heaven, and those who have instructed many in virtue, as bright as stars for all eternity. Therefore, with confidence on the Merits of this Mass that we offer with mixed feelings and humble devotion, we appeal for God‟s Holy countenance on Rt. Revd. Msgr. Stephen Uchenna Uzomah.
Providentially, Jesus Christ in the gospel of today assures us that “whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” With those divine words of consolation, we are confident that Rt. Revd. Msgr. Stephen Uchenna Uzomah, a priest and servant of the Church will be accorded a place of eternal bliss with God whom he served during his life time. He was ordained a Priest, 7 years after the creation of Issele-Uku diocese, one of the foundation members of the diocese, a respected elder of remarkable qualities, a quintessential custodian of the patrimony of the diocese, an iconic Priest who lived exemplary life that impacted positively on so many people who encountered him during his life time. No doubt, many of us will find it difficult to recover quickly from the reality of his death.
The loss of original justice through disobedience at the garden of Eden was so devastating that Humankind lost control of created order. The Church Fathers in article 400 of the Catholic Church articulated the damage of the action of disobedience in this way: “The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”. Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will “return to the ground”, for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.” In this state of blurred future for humankind came the heavenly initiative that ended the devils party of deception as and when God decided to send a Saviour to redeem humankind.
Consequently, the Church in her wisdom aptly articulates this view in the Eucharistic prayer IV. “And when through disobedience he had lost your friendship, you did not abandon him to the domain of death. For you came in mercy to the aid of all, so that those who seek might find you. Time and again you offered them covenants and through the prophets taught them to look forward to salvation. And you so loved the world, Father most holy, that in the fullness of time you sent your Only Begotten Son to be our Savior. Made incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.”
As humankind waited for this Kairos time in Christ Jesus, God found Noah as a beacon light in a dark and troubled world filled with waywardness, sin and wickedness. The waters of the flood that prefigured the Waters of baptism, purified the creatures of God as a new people. In Abraham, a man filled with Faith, God led Humankind into the covenant of Faith and obedience and was continued in the life of Isaac. Jacob as a patriarch guided his children in this part of the fulfillment of the promise of God and through his Son Joseph (whose consequence of his dream landed him in Egypt) saw the fulfillment of God‟s promises when he (Jacob) reunited with his son Joseph.
The lives of the Chosen race became a night-mare as they became the Habiru-maltreated people in Egypt. The writer of the second book of the Bible expressed God‟s awareness of this plight of Israelites thus: “I have observed the misery of my people” (Exodus 3:7).As the pilgrimage of Faith continued, God rectified the nationhood of Israel with the Sinai covenant. They became a people once again just as He desired it at creation. Again, they kept exhibiting faithlessness by the challenges of life and been lured away from the Lord, the bite of the serpent reminded them of their covenant with him. Through Kings, Priests, and the Prophets, the message of the reign of the Messiah and of salvation continued to ring until God decided to send His own Son “born of a woman” at the appointed time (Gal 4:4-5). And so, for us men and for our salvation, God decided to speak to us through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1ff), so that we will have life in abundance (John 10:10). To spread this love to all nations, Jesus Christ, the good Shepherd and eternal High Priest who ordinarily would have carried on with his mission on earth without the aid of human beings, chose apostles and placed them as heads and leaders of the Church.
Similarly, in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, “handing over” to them “the authority to teach in their own place. They carried this message of the gospel to the ends of the earth. It is through this unbreakable succession of the apostles, evident in the college of bishops that Msgr. Stephen Uchenna Uzomah shared his priesthood from and belonged for 44 years. He was ordained on the 15th of March, 1980, lived on earth for 72 years. Rt. Revd. Msgr. Stephen Uchenna Uzomah not only promoted fraternal relationships among the presbyterium but he lived, maintained and sustained it. Thus, he laboured assiduously and passionately for the Church in general and our Diocese Issele-Uku in particular.
He was an image maker of the diocese, usually pastorally available, always on his cassock. He was a prudent personnel and resource manager of no mean repute. That accounts for why he served as head of many committees and until his demise, the Vicar General of the „Church’ in Issele-Uku.
Rest in peace dear Msgr. Stephen Uzomah, Olu oma i ge nye oche n’enuigwe. By virtue of his priestly ordination, Rt. Revd. Msgr. Stephen Uchenna Uzomah was conferred with the veritable authority to act in the person of Christ and be Christ to the people in the world.
He shared in the tripartite offices of Jesus Christ which he inherited through sacrament of baptism, and shared in the ministerial priesthood as well by the sacrament of Holy Orders. Nonetheless, Rt. Revd. Msgr. Stephen Uchenna Uzomah without any dint of doubt, took seriously and conscientiously the mandate of the Church expressed at ordination by the ordaining prelate: “dear sons, you are to be raised to the Order of the Priesthood. For your part you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the Teacher. Impact to everyone the word of God which you have received with joy. Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, that you practice what you teach. In this way, let what you teach be nourishment for the people of God.” (rites of priestly ordination).
As an obedient servant of the Church, Rt. Revd. Msgr. Stephen Uchenna Uzomah understood the mission of the Church as expressed in Dei Verbum, where the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council stated: “In His gracious goodness, God has seen to it that what He had revealed for the salvation of all nations would abide perpetually in its full integrity and be handed on to all generations. Therefore, Christ the Lord in whom the full revelation of the supreme God is brought to completion (2 Cor. 1:20; 3:13; 4:6), commissioned the Apostles to preach to all men that Gospel which is the source of all saving truth and moral teaching, and to impart to them heavenly gifts.
This commission was faithfully and dutifully fulfilled by Rt. Revd. Msgr. Stephen Uchenna Uzomah by his faith and love for God and the Church, in his exemplary life style, in his dedication to teaching the revealed truth and commitment shown in his pastoral zeal.
Consequently, a specific section of the diocese was kept under his pastoral watch and he zealously cared for the souls of the faithful that through days of rigorous catechesis of the revealed truth, sanctifying and governing in such a way that the faithful and their parish communities possess extraordinary sense of pride of being true members both of the diocese and of the Universal Church. Through his pastoral collaboration, the pastoral work of the diocese was rendered more effective by a spirit of unity (CD 30). Dear people of God, for 44 years, we watched & admired Rt. Msgr. Stephen Uchenna Uzomah closely and his priestly decorum inspired some of us to passionately cherish and uphold the patrimony entrusted to us as priests and collaborators in the saving mission of God for humankind. May the „fragrance and smell‟ of his sacrifices in the Church and in our diocese be pleasing to God, who is always aware of our intentions through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Furthermore, Rt. Revd. Msgr. Stephen Uchenna Uzomah until his death was the Parish Priest of St. Joseph‟s Pro-Cathedral Parish, Asaba, Judicial Vicar and the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Issele-Uku. He lived his life serving the Church with total obedience, sincerity, clarity of purpose and pastoral solicitude. He gave his time and pastoral life to building the diocese he was ordained for. After his ordination, he taught at St. Thomas College Ibusa and was later transferred to St. Louis Catholic Church Ekuku Agbor where he worked under Fr. Matthew Ogboi. He was later made the Parish Priest of St. Patrick‟s Catholic Church Ogwashi-Uku. From there, he went to Rome to study Canon Law. He got his licentiate and bagged his PhD in Canon Law. After his studies in Rome, he worked at St Patrick‟s Catholic Church Ogwashi-Uku and later as the Cathedral administrator.
Incidentally, he became the 7th Rector of St. Felix Minor Seminary, Ejeme-Aniogor, and his usual ardour and zeal for having the best, compelled him to transform the face and the administrative structures of the Seminary to the admiration of many.
With the primacy of faith and authority of experience, he became the Parish Priest of St. Michael Catholic Church, Ubulu Uku, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church Agbor and later the Parish Priest of St. Joseph‟s Pro-Cathedral, Asaba, from where he went back to his creator. He equally admonished many of us to hold dear the ethos and values of the Priesthood and practically taught us how to serve, love God and the Church.
At this funeral mass for the happy repose of Rt. Revd. Msgr. Stephen Uchenna Uzomah, the Pilgrim Church‟s confidence is heightened as she acknowledges the redemptive power of Jesus: For even though by our own fault we perish, yet by your compassion and your grace, when seized by death according to our sins, we are redeemed through Christ‟s victory, and with Him called back to life. That victory of Christ on the cross that brought great renewal to humankind is what we now offer in an unbloody manner for our own salvation as Christ’s faithful as well as for the peaceful repose of his soul. It is a prayer of supplication begging God to have a merciful judgement on him, to absolve him of whatever sin he may have committed due to human frailty and accept him in his kingdom. A kingdom where there will be no more sickness, disappointments nor pains. A kingdom where they shall see the Lord face to face; and his name shall be written on their foreheads, it will never be night again, and they will not need lamplight or sunlight because the Lord God will be shining on them, they will reign forever and ever. (Rev. 22:4-5).
Ife anyi kwu mbu, ka anyi ne kwu kwe kita “Nnam Msgr. e ga di ke eche, eche adi agwuagwu. E ga di ka ose orji, ose orji ka we ji ago ndu, e ga di ka mmili, mmili ewene onye ilo, e ga di ka ododo, ododo adi eje ije efele. Nkeli nkeli ka wa ne ekeli ododo”. Msgr. Nnam, the Diocese of Issele-Uku and the people of God say to you—–ije awele. May your soul and the souls of the faithful departed through the Mercy of God rest in peace. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit rest and abide with us now and forever more. For surely, God’s goodness and mercy shall follow us, all the days of our lives and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever and ever. Amen.