March has been a hot month, but we received the first rains, signs that the upcoming rainy season will shortly be upon us. Church construction moves ahead, the gospel side wall now stands at 40ft above the floor of the church. The epistle side wall will follow shortly. The arch in the front of the church is being formed now. The children are finishing their second term of the school year. We have about 100 each Friday for Stations of the Cross, alternating every week from the Church to a different route through the surrounding villages. Our Procession this May 13th, the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, will go from Nne Enyemaka Ebebe Shrine to Holy Trinity Cathedral, about 21km, and will be capped off with the offering of the Traditional Latin Mass. Block Rosary continues to grow, with more children joining every week. The goal of the Block Rosary is to give honor to Our Lady, fulfill her requests made at Fatima, to encourage the people of each block the importance of the Rosary, and to teach the children to pray Holy Rosary. Right now, some of the young women of the St. Maria Goretti Guild are making scapulars, while the young men of the Holy Helpers continue to assist in the building of the Church.
The SECOND ANNUAL TALENT SHOW of Nne Enyemaka Ebebe Shrine took place on Saturday, February 25, 2017, which was the last Saturday before Ash Wednesday. A home-grown pig and a home-grown turkey were cooked and eaten by the youth of the parish. There were games with eggs: egg-roulette, egg-spoon race, and egg long toss (which often ended as just a short toss). Our visitor from Austria taught the boys boarding here to sing an Austrian hymn and the St. Maria Goretti Guild to sing a hymn. She also wrote and directed a wonderful play about marraige, cultural pressure, and remaining strong in the Faith. The young boys took a more hands on approach for their talents. A young boy made a toy truck out of aluminum, toothpicks, and cardboard. A few of the young boys drew and colored pictures of Our Lady or of the saints. One young man made a pair of nice sandals from scratch. One of the young adult men of the parish wrote and sang a song dedicated to Our Lady, and the need for us to remain close to her. A couple of pictures from the event can be seen here.
For the last month, we have had a visitor, a young woman from Europe, who has assisted greatly the parish and the local community. She volunteered to come and assist in whatever way she could. She assisted a local medical clinic, helping to treat patients with malaria, typhoid, and a wide variety of ailments. This young woman has been teaching some of the 12 year old boys to read, helped to sing in the choir, assisted at a palm kernel factory producing palm oil, helped a man who had broken his leg, cooked various meals, made scapulars, participated in the St. Maria Goretti Guild (young women's group), teaching hymns, teaching the girls the meaning of beauty and where to find it in everyday life, especially in the wide variety of flowers that are often passed unnoticed or even seen as weeds. We have visited the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, who run a girls' orphanage, and the Carmelites who run a nursery school and farm.
The faithful at the Shrine are eagerly following the Construction of the Church. The walls above the Sanctuary and the Choir Loft are beginning to raise up. They currently stand about 28ft above the ground, just past halfway to the ceiling. The beam is poured over one half (the gospel side) of the pillars, with the other half (epistle side) to be poured next week. The block rosary group met, about 70 children, from 3 neighborhoods on the 1st Saturday, consecrated themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A fourth block rosary site has been established and soon over 100 children in the four sites will be praying the Rosary together every day. Pictures can be seen here and here.
January has been a very busy month for Nne Enyemaka Ebebe Parish, The boys' camp dedicated to Blessed Tansi finished on January 4th, which date also marked the beginning of the girls' camp dedicated to Mater Dei. Both camps participated each night with the parish choir going door to door throughout the surrounding villages singing Christmas Carols. The girls' were priviledged to be taught by three different kinds of religious sisters over three days in the camp. On the first day, they were taught by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate. On the second day, the Missionary Daughters of the Most Pure Virgin Mary (from Mexico) came to teach them. Then, on the third day, the girls listened to the Carmelites of the Divine Heart of Jesus, (DCJ) from Croatia, an active branch of Carmelites. The Carmelites and Franciscan Sisters each run an orphanage for young girls. Over 90 houses of the parishioners were visited by the priests and altar boys from January 6th to 13th for the Epiphany House Blessings.
The parish also made a pilgrimage on the Feast of Blessed Tansi to accompany his remains which were removed from Onitsha, a large city, to Aguleri, his home town. About 10,000 faithful were there, and just over 100 of our parishioners drove 5 vans and a truck the 2 and a half hour drive from Umuaka to Aguleri. Blessed Tansi is the only blessed or saint in Nigeria, though there is a cause for canonization for Bishop Shanahan, the first bishop in Nigeria who labored about 100 years ago.
Construction of the Church continues after a few days break for Christmas. The pillars are now in place, the steps for the choir loft are being poured today, tomorrow, and should be done this Saturday, January 28th. The steps for the entrance of the church have been poured as well. After the choir loft, the next step is a 1ft wide x 2ft high beam that will sit on the pillars, upon which the bricks will be laid. The pillars are 16ft tall, 12ft apart, and 50ft across from each other. Along with the beam, the next step will include the forming of arches for the Sanctuary and the front of the Church. The goal is to have the roof on by early August or even before, so we ask for your prayers and continual support. We want to remind all that every Sunday, Holy Mass is offered for our friends and benefactors.
On the farm, we hope, before next year's dry season, to have trickle irrigation for the 2 hectors of land. The pigs are growing, many were sold during the Christmas Season, and 8 are due to give new piglets in March. Many rabbits were sold or eaten also during the Christmas Season and we still have over 20 of them. The chickens are the biggest seller, we raise and sell 200 at a time now. This last year we partook of many fruits and vegetables grown in our garden: bananas, plantains, egg plant, bell peppers, corn, lettuce, parsley and other herbs, okra, pumpkin, papaya (po-po), lemons, and grapefruit.
For the year ahead, we have a very exicitng schedule. The two main events, along with the Construction of the Church which is always progressing, are that we have our annual May 13th Procession in Honor of Our Lady of Fatima which this year, as you all know, is the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady and we are also preparing for the ordination of our Nigerian Seminarian, Reverend Mr. Charles Ike, FSSP, who has been studying at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska for the last 6 years, following a year of spirituality at Ezekial House, a house of formation, in Australia. Rev. Mr. Ike, will be the first Nigerian ordained into the Fraternity of St. Peter, and the second Nigerian Member, along with Fr. Evaristus Eshiowu, FSSP. The ordination will be the first in the Traditional Rite in Nigeria since the changes were made following the Second Vatican Council. The ordination will take place, God-willing, on August 15, 2017 here at Nne Enyemaka Ebebe Shrine. This is one of the reasons we are praying to have the roof on the church before then.
God Bless you all!