By Charles Igwe
In a jubilant celebration resonating with five decades of dedication and service, Enugu Diocese gathered at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Emene, to commemorate the 50th Episcopal Anniversary of the Emeritus Bishop, Most Rev. Anthony Okonkwo Gbuji. The grand event, attended by Bishops, Priests, religious leaders, the faithful, and dignitaries from across the nation, paid homage to a remarkable man whose life has been intertwined with the Catholic Church.
At the venerable age of 92, Bishop Gbuji stands as a living testament to fifty years of dedicated service as an ordained Bishop and an astounding sixty-five years as an ordained priest. The celebratory atmosphere reached its zenith with the presence of the Nigerian conference of Bishops and the esteemed His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Emeritus Bishop of Abuja Diocese, who delivered a heartfelt homily.
Cardinal Onaiyekan, radiating joy, expressed the rarity of the occasion, emphasizing the significance of living through fifty years of episcopacy. He led the congregation in a holy mass, offering gratitude to the Almighty for the grace bestowed upon Most Rev. Anthony Okonkwo Gbuji. Drawing inspiration from the Scriptures, he likened Bishop Gbuji to the figure Isaiah spoke of, stating that the spirit of God is undoubtedly upon him to bring good news to the oppressed.
Continuing his Homily, His Eminence highlighted that Bishop Gbuji’s story extends beyond the fifty years of episcopacy, spanning an incredible ninety-three years on Earth. Cardinal Onaiyekan painted a portrait of a man called, prepared, and equipped by the Lord to bring good news to God’s people—a Doctor of Canon Law. Bishop Gbuji’s journey led him to be ordained as a Catholic Bishop in the Diocese of Issele Uku in 1973, ultimately retiring in the Enugu Diocese.
Cardinal Onaiyekan paid tribute to Bishop Gbuji’s pivotal role as the pioneer Bishop of the new Diocese of Issele-Uku during the tumultuous times of the civil war. Along with his contemporaries from the famous class of 1971, Bishop Gbuji played a crucial role in shaping the church into what it is today. Cardinal Onaiyekan pondered whether the growth and development seen in the church could be mirrored in the country, urging a revival of the electoral system and a focus on competence over power.
Bishop Gbuji’s forty years of exceptional episcopacy, spanning Issele-Uku and Enugu Dioceses, were highlighted. His approach, characterized by moving when the spirit leads, has left an indelible mark. His ability to navigate tricky situations within the church, coupled with a keen eye for spiritual details, was lauded.
In a goodwill address, His Eminence Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and the Archbishop of Owerri ArchDiocese, recounted how Bishop Gbuji became synonymous with Canon law. Describing him as a living encyclopedia, Archbishop Ugorji praised Bishop Gbuji’s dedication to the New Evangelization drive of the church.
The host and Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga, delivered a vote of thanks filled with faith, declaring with faith that the celebrant, Bishop Gbuji, now 92, will reach the age of 100. Expressing deep gratitude, Bishop Onaga acknowledged the presence of dignitaries, priests, members of religious communities, and political leaders, including the Executive Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Peter Mbah, and former Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi.
Enugu State Governor Dr. Peter Mbah, in his address, praised Bishop Gbuji’s enduring legacies, specifically highlighting his pivotal role in the establishment of Godfrey Okoye University. The governor expressed delight in the positive influence the university has had on the academic landscape.
As the celebration unfolded, the governor’s address added a profound layer to the tribute paid to Bishop Gbuji, highlighting not only the spiritual leadership of the bishop but also his far-reaching influence in the realm of education, underscoring the holistic impact of Bishop Gbuji’s legacy on both the church and the broader Enugu community.
The event continued with an exquisite reception where many speakers continued to pour encomiums, reminiscent of the emeritus Bishop’s legacies. This fitting celebration in honor of the Golden Bishop left a lasting echo of gratitude, praise, and commitment, affirming a life well-lived in the service of God and humanity.