The Chief Shepherd of the Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki, Most Rev. Dr. M. N. Okoro, did dust to dust to his elder sister, Granny Anne Ama (Nee Okoro) on Thursday, 25th April 2019, at her country home in Unwana Afikpo.
Addressing the invited guests before the Burial Mass, Bishop Okoro expressed his joy over those who left what they would have done and decided to come and commiserate with his family.
Bishop Okoro described his late elder sister, as someone he loves and cherishes most in life.
Bishop Okoro told the people that a day like this, is a day that is usually somehow difficult or sad to say goodbye to a loved one who has passed unto glory.
He said that his sister has answered the call of her maker, a situation which awaits everyone alive “and when we gather like this, the mother Church advises every Christian to endeavor to live a life worthy of emulation to avoid had I known on the last day”.
Bishop Okoro further stated that he was extremely happy for what God has done in the life of his sister, Granny Ama and how God used her to propagate faith in Unwana community and peaceful cordial relationship in their family, especially the role his late sister played after the death of their father.
He thanked God for his sister and mother’s life, but equally said as a human, we do offend God in many ways but God being a merciful father, would always forgive us.
He requested that everyone should join hands with Okoro’s family and pray for God’s mercy and forgiveness of sin upon Granny Anne Ama (Nee Okoro) that she may see God face-to-face and that God will bring her to his kingdom where she will feel relaxed and at home.
Bishop further reminded the congregation that as Christ rose from death so shall his sister and the faithful departed arise with Christ when the time comes.
He equally prayed God to bless those that have come to pay their last respect to his sister and asked God to strengthen their faith so that when God comes, they will be among those that will be counted worthy to follow him.
The homilist during the burial mass, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Abraham Chukwuma Nwali, the S.A to the Governor of Ebonyi State on Religious and Welfare Matters said that the words of St. Paul in the letter to the Romans emphasized that “For none of us lives for himself only, and none of us dies for himself only while we are alive, we are living for the Lord and when we die we die for the Lord and so alive or dead, we belong to the Lord”-(Rom:14:7)
This situates the life and death of every Christian in the contest of life with Christ. This means that the Christian lives all his life in the service of others and even when he/she dies, he/she bears witness in his death to the goodness of Christ through him to all those with whom she interacted while alive.
Fr. Nwali further stated that when we reflect on the kind of person who lives her life for others, we find the answer lying before us in this beautifully adorned casket.
“GRANNY AMA, as she was fondly called when she was engaged in teaching was on appointment with the Marist Brothers Academy Uturu in the girls section as both teacher and matron, a tag that struck and remains an indelible identity throughout her life.
Speaking about the birth of Nne Okoro, Fr. Nwali mentioned that she was born into the Christian family of Pa Alphonsus Samuel Agha Okoro and Madam Charlotte Okoro (both of Blessed memory) on the 4th January, 1924. She hails from Unwana, Afikpo North L.G.A. of Ebonyi State. She was the second child of a family of eight.
Fr. Nwali also noted the fact that Madam Granny Anne Ama (Nee Okoro) lies dead before the congregation is now at the end of her earthly pilgrimage, and we are gathered here to say the funeral Mass in her honour and to commit her soul to her divine creator.
The above sounds very simple when it is said, but to imagine the reality at the death of someone who was so close to her society, someone who touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, someone who was snatched at death at the height of her economic and human achievements, someone who still looked forward to achieving greater things for mankind, death becomes a very painful reality and very difficult not only to understand but also to accept.
Fr. Nwali further observed that the reality of the death of Madam Granny Anne Ama (Nee Okoro) is a painful and agonizing moment for our Lord Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Michael Nwanli Okoro, Catholic Bishop of Abakaliki Diocese and her entire family.
It is good to put on record how Madam Granny has inspired people greatly while on earth, she helped to establish the Catholic Church in Unwana, she was also pleased that the Catholic population in Unwana has increased, and that when a parcel of land had been allotted to build a church (that is the present site) she immediately got involved in the work of developing the church and strengthening the faith.
She established the Block Rosary Crusade, the Legion of Mary and further organized periodic visits to non-Catholics, especially to elderly men and women.
She helped set up the welfare group, whose main task was to visit the poor, the sick and the less-privileged in the community. And through the help of God and intercession of our Blessed Virgin Mary, many of those persons visited later converted and became Catholics.
Granny not only remained a strong pillar in the Church Community, but also offered a listening ear to all who had issues to address or who wanted to be heard.
Late Granny played a very vital role in Abakaliki Diocesan Catholic Women Organization (CWO) despite her numerous engagement in teaching assignments in various schools between Afikpo and Abakaliki.
She was actively involved in the activities of the CWO both at the Parish and Diocesan levels.
She was often nominated to represent the Abakaliki Diocesan Organization (CWO) at provincial and national congresses. She held several positions in the CWO.
Fr. Nwali concluded by saying that we have every reason to cry at the death of Madam Granny Anne Ama (Nee Okoro).
“But when we cry, let us remember the words of St. Paul in his First Letter to the Thessalonians who says that, about our dead brethren, we should not cry as people who have no hope because since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through the same Jesus, God will bring with her all those who have fallen asleep (1 Thess 4:13-14).
In a condolence message, the President of Association of Nigeria Priests, Abakaliki Diocese (ANPAD), Very Rev. Fr. Matthew Uzoma Opoke, on behalf of the Association commiserated with His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. M.N. Okoro, the Catholic Bishop of Abakaliki Diocese whose elder sister died and prayed God to give him the fortitude to bear the loss.
In the same vein, Sir Bartholomew Okoro, the First Vice Chairman Parish Council of St. Thomas Catholic Community, Unwana, on behalf of the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Basil Okoye and the entire parishioners expressed their joy over the large turnout of people from different parts of the world, especially the Catholic Community of Abakaliki Diocese who came to mourn with them and prayed for successful journey of their mother, Granny Anne Ama (Nee Okoro) to her father in heaven and also a successful journey to their different abodes for those who graced the occasion.
Furthermore, the Ebonyi State government were not left out, as the governor of the state, Engr. Dr. David Nweze Umahi, who was represented by his Deputy, Barr. Eric Kelechi Igwe and his entourage told Bishop Okoro, the entire Unwana Catholic Community and Catholic Diocese of Abakaliki at large that Governor was unavoidably absent because of some emergency issue at the national level.
Barr. Igwe noted that the Ebonyi State government was shocked when it heard the sad news, and that Granny had touched many lives positively while on earth and now her presence and contributions are needed most that death has taken her away.
He therefore prayed God to forgive Granny Anne Ama in any way she had gone astray while on earth and grant her eternal rest in his kingdom.
Speaking with Citizens’ Advocate reporter, Mrs. Grace Ama, the daughter of late Granny Anne Ama (Nee Okoro) in tears stated that she so much loved and cherished her mother, and that her mother was a role model, a philanthropist, a community church builder and today she is nowhere to be found but she is still in their hearts.
Grace Ama further stated that she could remember that when her father died, she was still young that her late mother played a very good role in their upbringing and education.
She said that her mother was a quiet woman, very prayerful, always recited her Rosary, she always attended morning masses and always liked to share what she had with people around her.
She said that what gave her courage even though she has gone to eternity is that when her mother was alive she really founded people’s life in a Christian way in order to make sure that you accept our Lord Jesus Christ.
In their contributions, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Inyanwachi and Rev. Sr. Amaka Asike, said that it is good to live a life worthy of emulation as manifested in the life of Nne Okoro, making her attract a very uncontrollable crowd that gathered to pay their last respect to our dear sister Granny Anne Ama.
They prayed God to grant her eternal rest and give Bishop Okoro and the entire Abakaliki Diocese the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
The event featured the presence of the immediate past Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief Martin N. Elechi, the former Deputy Governor of old Imo State, Chief Francis Orji, Chairman of Edon Group of Companies, Arch. Sir Dr. Edward Nkwegu (KSJI), top Ebonyi State Government functionaries, knights of the church, CWO, CMO CYON and different cultural groups.