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Thomas Aquinas Church… proceed of evangelical commitment



A Church being unveiled in this newspaper’s neighbourhood prompts mypeak into the essence of wholistic evangelism.

DEDICATION of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church edifice in Awka on Sunday, November 10, 2019 illustrates the power of a people’s evangelical commitment and the extent patron saints’ influences can rub off on the affairs of the faithful.

  Among the saints, the medieval Italian philosopher, Catholic clergy man, jurist and teacher, Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274 AD) is regarded as exceptionally cerebral, prolific and tenacious. His seminal works on some very knotty theological and Lithurgical issues in Christianity, from explication of the concept of the Holy Trinity to the Eucharist remain evergreen.

Through the ages, clergymen, religious persons, scholars and researchers from among Christians and non-Christians find refreshing resources in the saint’s writings and teachings. This is why he is called the Angelic doctor in Catholic Church.

Just as Thomas Aquinas became known for his exceptional knowledge and dogged inquest into Christian philosophy and Catholic theology even in young age, a church that took his name in the Catholic Diocese of Awka has proved that an apple does not fall far away from its parent tree.

From its emergence as a chaplaincy in 1998, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Parish, in Government Reserved Area (GRA), Awka, has grown within the past 21 years to become a frontline church community whose influence is not only felt in the Catholic Diocese of Awka but across Anambra State.

It has become a leading light in the propagation of faith; a rallying point for Catholics who are keen on evangelism and an adorable monument for worship where Catholic faithfuls whose business, work or politics locale in the Government House area and environ gather to pray to God.

A serene delightful facility with the engaging allure of a pilgrim’s destination, St  Thomas Aquinas Catholic Parish, located along Ekwulobia Street, GRA, Awka, now harbours an expansive magisterial church edifice, a primary school, a Eucharistic adoration chapel, a Marian grotto among others and a collective of well built structures serving as homes for aging and ailing priests of  Awka Diocese.

There are also structures for the parish priest and vicars.

But beyond aesthetics and its state-of-the-art facility, the parish has maintained a distinguished standard in grassroots evangelism and cathecatical activities as its membership as well as outreach to sundry communities continues to expand exponentially. Within the two decades, the parish has grown to encompass nine basic Catholic communities (zones) and two mass centres.

One of the out stations, Christ the King (CKC) has already built its own church hall.

Also resident in the parish, are three congregation of nuns – the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary; Sisters of the Iwene Tansi and Sisters of  Charity.

Several pious societies, sodalities such as the Catholic Knights of Saint Mulumba (KSM) and The Knights of Saint John International (KSJI), as well as the Opus Dei Society, among others already have very active prayer cells, commandaries and chapters in the parish.

Like a healthy seed, planted on a fertile soil, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish has turned out today to become proof of the presence of divine direction and apostolic inspiration in its creation by the late Bishop Simon A. Okafor who also foresaw the kind of faith-based community it will be and committed it to the patron saint, Thomas Aquinas.

Hence the current trend of ‘A’ class performances the parish records in the local and diocesan activities, from youth events to choral competitions; dance; debate and other inter-parish contests must have been foreseen by Bishop Okafor when he established it as a chaplaincy.

Like in St. Thomas Aquinas, the evangelical and clerical qualities of personalities who are within or have been associated with the parish is high, bishops, monsignors, notable religious persons with outstanding ministries, evangelists, erudite scholars, noteworthy leaders, among others have emerged from priests and lay faithful that were or are in the parish.

The parish has also exemplified itself in primary mission of bringing people within the elite and middle class circle of Anambra State Government, who live in the vicinity of Government House and the grassroots together under one direction aimed at leading all to God. This fulfills the main purpose of creating the community.

Upon the creation of the current Anambra State from old Anambra State on August 27, 1991, Awka was announced the new state’s capital. This brought in a lot of people, especially civil servants into Awka.

New residence areas also opened up. One of such areas was the GRA, Agu Awka and parts of Ifite Awka. With this came a remarkable increase in the number of Catholics in the new parts of town.

In response to the dire evangelical need, Bishop Okafor created the chaplaincy in 1998. It emerged from the already existing St. Anthony Parish, Ifite Awka and St. Joseph The Worker Chaplaincy in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Parish arose from a necessity to locate a Catholic Parish, within the then fast developing area stretching from Ifite Road down to UNIZIK.

Worthy of note is the missionary zeal of the then Monsignor Solomon Amatu (now Bishop of Okigwe Diocese) as chaplain of St Joseph the Worker Chaplaincy and the priest who assisted him then, Rev. Fr. Peter Okpaleke, in identifying and motivating the faithful in the new area through visits and inquiries through which they discovered a large population of faithful not catered for by any shepherd.

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