Our sweet Mother of Perpetual Help has indeed won the affection of innumerable devotees in Nigeria, thanks to Fr. Celestine Okah, C.Ss.R, director of the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, and his team, Fr. Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R, Fr. Chris Uwadiale, C.Ss.R, Fr. Hyacinth Agomuoh, C.Ss.R, Fr. Henrymary Mbanefo, C.Ss.R, Fr. Kingsley Anoghala and the student on Pastoral experience Stephen Okechukwu, C.Ss.R—all dedicated men engaged in the shrine apostolate.
Pilgrims on daily basis troop to this quiet sanctuary located on a serene and expanse piece of land perching on the gentle rolling hill of Nike. From far and near they come to share in the numerous Masses, Stations, Confessions, Counselling, Adorations, and Prayers ongoing at the shrine each day beginning from the early morning till late evening. Some also spend the night in prayers.
The shrine providing a spiritual base, Fr. Celestine Okah with his band of Redemptorist missionaries, is taking the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help on pilgrimage to several parishes across several dioceses within Nigeria. He reckoned that since there were some that would never have the opportunity to visit the shrine for pilgrimage, Redemptorists could as well take Our Mother to their parishes to celebrate pilgrimage with them. What a vision!
Popularity of the Icon pilgrimage is an eloquent testimony of the relevance of Mary in our everyday struggles (do whatever he tells you.Day by day her fame as the Lady to be trusted continues to rise as more and more dioceses and parishes are scheduling dates for the Redemptorists to bring this unique mother on pilgrimage to them. Demand for the Icon Pilgrimage is high and with each outing recording an average of 2000 pilgrims, confreres working in other apostolates have often signed up to help at the pilgrimages.
Make no mistake the good Lady of Perpetual Help is alive and active in the Nigerian church. On regular bases the army of her devotees are increasing with such fervent belief in the power of the miraculous lady of perpetual help on whose account many mothers have given birth, serious illness taken care of and numerous difficult cases resolved.
In the month of August, Saturday 15th feast of Assumption, Most Rev. Dr. Callistus Onaga, bishop of Enugu, where the national shrine is sited, visited the centre to celebrate the annual Diocesan Pilgrimage/Rosary Carnival with more than 10,000 pilgrims. Fr. Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R has this to say about this year’s turn out: “This year’s turn out seems to be the largest recorded probably due to the awareness we created for the program through radio, mobile phone messaging, posters and handbills. It is estimated that over 10,000 people gathered for the program.”
The highlights of the ceremony include arrival of pilgrimages (Parish by Parish) with their Marian statue brought from their churches in songs, dances and drama; praying of 20 decades of the Rosary; celebration of the Holy Mass; coronation of Mary by the bishop; granting of Pilgrimage Indulgence by the bishop and cutting of Our Lady’s cake. After the Mass, Bishop Callistus blessed the large building which serves as toilet and bathrooms for the use the pilgrims; as well as the foundation-level site of the 120-room hostel under construction at the shrine to house the growing number of pilgrims who visit the shrine.
Popularity of the devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help and the marvellous work the Redemptorists are doing has redounded to every part of the country such that this year’s celebration attracted a huge number of the faithful, several priests and religious, politicians as well as the Governor of Enugu State, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Of course, after the Mass, there was refreshment for the priests and religious. The report about the occasion was in the news on radio and TV in Enugu state from Sunday to Monday. There is no better way to capture what Our Lady is doing in the lives of her children like these words from Fr. Celestine Okah: “Our Mother of Perpetual Help is the one who is doing her work and we are just helping out”
Credit to Fr. Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R who provided some information and pictures on the Rosary carnival.