BRIEF ON THE ARCHDIOCESE OF OWERRI
The Catholic Church arrived Owerri in 1912 through Fr. Feral and Bro. Joseph. In 1937, the first indigenous priest of Owerri, Msgr. Joseph Nwanegbo of Ubomiri was ordained. In 1948, Owerri became a separate Vicariate from Onitsha and two years after in 1950, she became a diocese with Most Rev. Joseph B. Whelan, CSSp of blessed memory as its first Bishop. With the expulsion of the expatriate missionaries at the end of the civil war by the Nigerian Government, Bishop Whelan appointed Msgr.
Ignatius Okoroanyanwu the Vicar General and Administrator of the Diocese to look after the vacant See of Owerri from January till September 1970 when Bishop Mark O. Unegbu was appointed by Pope Paul VI to succeed him. In 1993, Bishop Unegbu retired and Bishop Anthony J. V. Obinna, was appointed by His Holiness Pope John Paul II as his successor. On March 26, 1994, the Pope raised Owerri Diocese to an Archdiocese, making it at the same time the Metropolitan See of the newly created Ecclesiastical Province of Owerri. His Holiness equally appointed Most Rev. Anthony J. V. Obinna the first Archbishop of Owerri and head of the new Ecclesiastical Province.
Today Owerri Archdiocese has aCatholic population of about 1,049,213 with 138 Parishes and 25 Chaplaincies,Â 5 Special Jurisdictions. It is blessed with 318 diocesan priests and 55 Religious priests. Eight male Religious Congregations and nine female Religious Congregations are working in the Archdiocese.Â Owerri is also blessed with about 194 Senior Seminarians and numerous minor seminarians, a good number of Sisters, Brothers, Catechists and Catechizers. Two Major Seminaries are located in this diocese, namely: the Seat of Wisdom Seminary Owerri and the Claretian Institute of Philosophy, Maryland Nekede. The Archdiocese has to its credit numerous primary and secondary Schools, Whelan Research Academy, Schools of Nursing, Midwifery, Laboratory Assistant Technology, Hospitals, Maternity Homes, Farms, and so on.
Mt Carmel Catholic Parish, Emekuku.
(The Mother Church of The Archdiocese)
The First Missionaries Settled in Emekuku in 1912 at the invitation and warm welcome of the paramount ruler of Emekuku, Chief Obi Ejeshi Ajoku Abuba, the then Ezeukwu 1 of Emekuku.
The seed of the Catholic faith was sown and nurted under the reign of HRH Eze Kelly Gogo Amadi-Obi, the Ezeukwu II of Emekuku from 1923 – 1981. The Obi Royal family of Emekuku under the ruler of Eze Peter Ugochukwu Obi , Ezeukwu III of Emekuku celebrated the centenary of Catholic faith in Owerri Ecclesiatical Province.
To the greater glory of God, the Son of Emekuku His Grace Most Rev Dr Anthony J.V. Obinna, has since 1993 been theÂ Chief Shephard of the Archdiocese.
MAJOR ARCHDIOCESAN CELEBRATION
The Archdiocesan Day/Odenigbo Lecture
Apart from the normal and usual liturgical and sacramental celebrations of the Church, there is a major event fondly celebrated by the Archdiocese. This is the ARCHDIOCESAN DAY/ODENIGBO LECTURE SERIES CELEBRATION. The event is the occasion for the Archdiocese to celebrate its Day. But at the heart of this Archdiocesan Day celebration is the ODENIGBO LECTURE SERIES, founded by His Grace, Anthony J. V. Obinna in 1996. This is an annual Lecture aimed at making CHRIST, who is the Odenigbo per excellence, to take complete root in the life and culture of the Igbo people. The Lecture is rendered totally in Igbo Language and by renowned Igbo Scholars, taken from all parts of Igbo land. It attracts people from all walks of life, local and international.
The Archdiocesan Day is celebrated on the First Friday and Saturday in September. This date in a way recalls the elevation of His Grace, the Archbishop to Episcopacy 4th Sept. 1993. The event begins with Odenigbo Eve celebrations, that features Cultural displays like Mgba Odinala, Songs and drama. The next day, and the high point of the celebration, features a Holy Mass, Odenigbo Support Fund-Raising and the Lecture proper. The Lecture, which has undergone its 19th series, has succeeded in awakening many Igbos to the responsibilities they have as Igbo Christians, and the duty they owe towards keeping alive their God-given Igbo language.
However, the event is very Capital intensive. The lean resources of the Archdiocese and the goodwill of the faithful, especially of the Archdiocese, have so far sustained the Odenigbo Celebration. But its advantages touch on all. The Archdiocese looks on her many sons and daughters and indeed all Igbos, especially those living outside the State and the Country, to support the project.