By Rev Fr Robert Anagboso
The Catholic Bishop of Awka, His Lordship Most Rev Paulinus Chukwuemeka Ezeokafor, has scheduled a date for a magnificent send-off of his erstwhile auxiliary, His Lordship, Most Rev Dr. Jonas Benson Okoye, now bishop of Nnewi Diocese. The auspicious event will take place on the Saturday 20th May, 2023, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Awka by 3.00pm.
‘His Lordship, Bishop Okoye, had requested for a very low key event, even a private send-off,’ Bishop Ezeokafor had said, indicating that he and Awka Diocese would not have what he described as a Nichodemus celebration in honour of such an illustrious son of Awka Diocese.
Fides recalls that Bishop Okoye was born on 25th January, 1963. His journey to the priesthood began when he gained admission to the prestigious St. Paul’s Minor Seminary, Ukpor, in 1976, completing the first phase of his priestly formation at All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha in 1981. In 1983, Bishop Okoye was sent to the then Bigard Memorial Seminary, Ikot Ekpene (now St. Joseph’s Major Seminary Ikot Ekpene), where he obtained his Bachelor of Philosophy.
His seminary formation ended at the famous Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, where he came out with 1st Class Honors in Theology. He was subsequently ordained a priest of Awka Diocese on August 29, 1992.
After ordination, Bishop Okoye’s priestly ministry was laced with various assignments and studies, culminating with 1st Class Honors in Canon Law in 2004. On coming back from studies in 2006, he was naturally saddled with many assignments. Notably, he served as Judicial Vicar for Awka Diocese and a Judge in the Onitsha Inter-Diocesan Ecclesiastical Tribunal from 2007 – 2014.
The high point of his priestly ministry came on Friday, May 30, 2014, when His Holiness, Pope Francis, announced him as the Auxiliary Bishop of Awka Diocese. He was subsequently consecrated on 29th August, 2014, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Awka.
Bishop Okoye then became an auxiliary to Bishop Ezeokafor. But Rome had other ideas. On the 9th of November, 2021, Pope Francis proclaimed him the Catholic Bishop of Nnewi Diocese.
One of his many achievements as an Auxiliary to Bishop Ezeokafor was overseeing the building of Peter University, a project that will forever see the two great bishops’ (Ezeokafor’s and Okoye’s) names written in gold.
It is indeed for such meritorious excellent services that the Catholic Diocese of Awka, led by her ebullient Bishop Ezeokafor, wish to heartily thank Bishop Jonas Benson Okoye and wish him well in his new and higher office of service.