Saints Michael, Raphael and Gabriel Catholic Church (Archangels’ Parish) in Satellite Town – the very first foundation of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in Nigeria – celebrates its feast on June 27 every year to coincide with the Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to maximize the opportunity to “make her known.” The actual celebration is usually moved to the first Sunday following the feast day, and a bishop from one of 44 dioceses in Nigeria presides at Mass.
This year, Mary Our Help In Moments of Distress was chosen as the theme of the July 2 celebration at the Mini-Stadium of the International Trade Fair Complex in Lagos. Most Rev. Dr. Jonas Benson Okoye, Auxiliary Bishop of the Awka Diocese, presided at the Solemn Mass with concelebrants Most Rev. Dr. Peter Smith, the visiting Archbishop of Southwark in London, England and Very Rev. Kingsley Onyekuru, Vice Provincial Superior of Nigeria, as well as more than 20 priests and religious. Fr. Vincent Ifeanyichukwu Ezezue, pastor, planned an extravagant celebration with the coordinating expertise of Fr. Raphael Koleade and the assistance of other Redemptorist confreres. The faithful filled the venue to capacity as early as 7:00 am for the celebration, which began with the recitation of the rosary at 8:00 am.
After the solemn procession of celebrants to the altar, the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help was ushered into the arena on a white horse by the Missionary Childhood Association amid songs and dancing. The faithful danced forward in thanksgiving to God for the good fortune of participating in another parish feast and had opportunities for veneration.
One miraculous note: beautiful weather prevailed throughout the day, which was quite unprecedented at the peak of the tropical rainy season. Lagos was drenched by torrential rain just two days before the celebration, but the weather was mild and beautiful with a bit of sunshine – not one drop of rain! This was an amazing phenomenon, especially as the heavens opened up the day after with a tropical storm that lasted for almost a week and flooded many parts of Lagos. This formed a fitting footnote to Bishop Okoye’s homily and commendation to the Redemptorists for their work in Nigeria, especially for propagating devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help throughout the world.
Philip Obasi, C.Ss.R.