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The IHM Sisters had a Eucharistic celebration of the 50yrs Death Anniversary of Archbishop Charles Heerey CSSp., their Founder, on 11th February, 2017 at the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha, Anambra State.

Archbishop Heerey who died on February 7, 1967 founded the IHM Sisters on October 7, 1937.  The Sisters converged at the Basilica with friends and well wishers to celebrate and pray for him.  The celebration which started remotely two days earlier with symposium in his honor saw some of the Speakers and Members of the Organizing Committee in attendance.  All celebrated his legacies of Education, Health Ministries and Pastoral endeavours as means of evangelization and Nation-building.

“From the time he became a bishop, he presented Christ to the people.  One of the messages he left is the Congregation he founded.  It is because of the Congregation we are celebrating today.”  That was Most Rev. Hillary Okeke, bishop of Nnewi Diocese, speaking about Archbishop Heerey.

The prelate said that it was Jesus’ mandate to spread the Good News (Mathew 28:19) that made Heerey and his companions leave Europe for Africa where there was much suffering.  They suffered with others and some of them died not long after.  He urged the IHM Sisters to continue after the Spirit of their Founder.  “I commend you for what you have done and make it a point of duty to sacrifice yourself for others; to bear in mind the primary principle of Jesus’ compassion.”  Bishop Okeke thanked God for the gift of Archbishop Heerey and what he did in Onitsha Archdiocese and in the country at large.   

After Holy Communion, the Superior General, Mother Mary Claude Oguh, IHM, Members of her Council and the Ex-Superiors General present, laid a wreath at the grave of the Founder.

Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, the Archbishop of Onitsha and Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province led in the celebration.  He concelebrated with a host of Monsignori and priests from Onitsha Archdiocese, Enugu, Awka, Ahiara and Nnewi dioceses.  Some Holy Ghost Fathers, a Pallatine Father with their Postulants and IHM Associate Members were present.  Members of the IHM Institute were fully represented; Aspirants, Postulants, Novices and professed Sisters.

The Superior General, appreciating all said, “It is a coincidence that we are having this celebration on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, a day we pray for the sick.  It was at Lourdes that our Founder conceived the idea of starting an Indigenous Congregation and care of the sick is one of the principal legacies he bequeathed to our Congregation.”  She also welcomed Igwe Alfred Achebe (Agbaogidi), the Obi of Onitsha.  She pointed out that he represents the Onitsha indigenes that are remembered for their positive reception of the Missionaries.  “I have a reason to say that they put us in line and match to civilization”, she remarked.

The Archbishop echoed the prayer of Bishop Okeke that Archbishop Heerey may one day be raised to the status of a Saint.  There were group pictures after the Mass.  Indeed, the celebration was a remarkable part of the history of the Institute.


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