One year ago – on the 30th of July, 2020 — the Diocese of Umuahia witnessed the ordination of the first Auxiliary Bishop of the diocese — Most. Rev. Michael Ukpong, the then respected and beloved Pastor of St. Theresa’s Parish Umuahia, to assist Bishop Lucius Ugorji in the administration of the diocese.
During the past 12 months, Bishop Ukpong has celebrated confirmations in 6 parishes, presided at special liturgies such as the installation of the Blessed Sacrament in newly built Chapels of Perpetual Adoration and blessing of Grottos. The crown of it all were the Diaconate and Priestly Ordinations he has performed.
“Sacramentally, I have had almost all the experience of the episcopal ministry”, said Bishop Ukpong. For these he has received the affirmation of his brother priests and the laity who he has been privileged to serve throughout his 28 years of priestly ministry.
For Bishop Ukpong, so far in his ministry as a bishop, he has not encountered anything he can say he did not expect, or is unusual; having worked closely with Bishop Ugorji for many years and in different capacities, and so had the opportunity of learning first-hand what a bishop’s life is like, viz, very busy with activities.
The Auxiliary Bishop is known for his emphasis on learning the Catholic Faith, because for him ignorance of the faith or the Church’s doctrine is the reason for the confusion we experience among our members, especially that of jumping from one church to another like butterflies jumping from flower to flower.
Therefore, one of his goals in his episcopal ministry is deepening of the faith among the youths who are easily attracted to Pentecostalism.
“There is a saying in English, ‘Fashions come and go but standard remains.’ The Catholic Church has a standard that stands the test of time, which is lacking in most modern-day churches. The principle of Bubuyaya (prosperity and miracles-driven preaching) is like eating a chunk food that tastes good in the mouth but damages the body system.
The Catholic Church, though her mode of liturgy, the content of her preaching may be unappealing for those who do not know the basic doctrines on which divine worship is based, still, it nourishes the soul. It is like eating bitter vegetables, which are unappealing to many people, but does the body more good than the sweet things a lot of people prefer.
The Catholic Church is like that. The Church is not an entertainment club. Her liturgies are not comedian shows. True knowledge and worship of God is the basis of what we do. I always emphasize Catechesis because it helps people to be grounded in the faith. The Gospels tell us that Jesus went about teaching in the Synagogues and in the open fields and not that he went about entertaining people.
From personal experience, those who are easily misled by Pentecostalism are those shaky in the Faith because of ignorance of what they should know and are capable of knowing. The Catholics who are well grounded in the faith according to the Catholic doctrines are not easily drawn away”.
“Even in the secular setting, those who have certificates without the required knowledge cannot stand the test of time, they cannot keep their jobs for long. Education is really important in every sector of Human endeavour, because only the educated can always adjust to the changing time. This leads to the idea of updating. We now deal with a lot of gadgets that demand updating every now and then. For excellence, even our human knowledge also needs updating when due”.
In a related development, Bishop Ukpong advised that “our young people should acquire the spirit of industry. The get money quick mentality is a devil’s work. ‘Onye ọ dị ọsịsọ na ala ọsịsọ’. ‘Kama ị ga agba ka ngwọ gbaa ka nkwụ’. So, youths should forget the idea of success without effort and labour, it does not work. This is so because God does not do for us, what we can do for ourselves”.
The above were the excerpts from the interactive session with the Editor of the Lumen Newspaper.