The parishioners of St. Stephen’s (Consul) and St. Lawrence (Maple Creek) were joined by many special guests and friends to celebrate their pastor Reverend Fr. Clement’s 25th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood.
The celebration took place on Sunday 24th July 2016, but the actual date of Father’s ordination, which took place in his homeland of Nigeria, was 13th July 1991.
The celebration began with Mass at 1:00pm with Rev. Fr. Clement as chief celebrant. Con-celebrants of the Mass included Rev. Fr. Francis (Prince) Kurisinkal, Rev. Fr. Vitalis Azike, both priests of the Archdiocese of Regina; Rev. Fr. Evaristus Obi (guest homilist and classmate and fellow priest ordained with Fr. Clement in 1991, who lives in Pennsylvania) and Rev. Fr. Bartholomew Okagbuo (elder brother in the priesthood of Fr. Clement’s, from the same town, Nnobi, in Nigeria who travelled from New York)
A joint choir from the two parishioners led the music ministry for the Mass.
The Elk’s Hall was the venue for the reception, where a gathering of parishioners, special invited guests, and many priests from around the Archdiocese gathered together. Rev. Fr. Clement became a Canadian citizen in December of 2014, therefore it was most appropriate to precede the banquet with the singing of our National Anthem, followed by Grace, lead by Fr. Vitalis. The nearly 100 guests enjoyed a roast beef dinner, prepared by members of both parishes.
Laurie Benjamin of St. Stephen’s Parish, and Daryl Tumbach of St. Lawrence acted as emcees for the evening and the program opened with a history of Fr. Clement’s journey to the priesthood, prepared by Fr. Clement and presented by Marianne Gordon. A continuous theme throughout his journey to the priesthood was the influence of childhood events, such as becoming an altar server, being a member of the Block Rosary Crusade, his parents steadfast dedication to ensuring he always attended Mass, and of course the influence, prayers, and example by his mother, father, siblings, and many priests and fellow seminarians along the way. The history told of Fr. Clement’s journey to Canada, following the completion of further studies in Rome, and then eventually Saskatchewan, and the Archdiocese of Regina and how each and every individual he has met along the way, from Nigeria, to Rome, to British Columbia, and to finally Maple Creek has influenced and played a part in his priestly vocation. He paid special tribute to his now deceased mother and father, Clement and Maria Nwankwo, his deceased brother, Benedict and all of the bishops who he met along the way. He also thanked those who continue to support him – his brother priests both back home in Nigeria, and here in Canada; all the friends he has made and all parishioners he has ministered too. The history ended by reminding us that of course his journey is not over, and now we too are all included in it in no small way.
One of the highlights of the evening was a presentation of a Papal Apostolic Blessing. This is a very special document issued by the Vatican to acknowledge a special event or celebration that can be obtained by special request of an individual with a priest or diocese confirming the validity of the request. The Chancery office of the Archdiocese of Regina arranged for the blessing to be received and Allan Ruetz, chairperson for Swift Current Deanery, and Fr. Vitalis Azike fellow priest, friend, and mentor of Fr. Clement presented it. Guest speaker for the evening was Rev. Fr. Augustine Ebido, a priest who had began in the seminary with Fr. Clement, left for some time and was ordained 10 years later. He is the parish priest in Maclin, in the Saskatoon Diocese. Fr. Augustine shared many comments with those gathered but one of the most touches was when he said that “Nothing touches the heart of a priest more than being shown appreciation by those he ministers to.” Another moving moment of the evening was when all the Nigerian priests stood and sung a Latin song, which translates to “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek”. Among other occasions it can be sung as a way of for fellow priests and faithful to render honour and congratulations to a brother priest. It was a beautiful moment in an evening filled with them.
Many more tributes were paid to Fr. Clement throughout the evening, some from past fellow seminarians, parishioners from his former parish of Our Lady of Fatima (Redvers, SK); Maple Creek Ministerial Association (reps Ross and Clare Pollock); Swift Current Deanery; St. Lawrence C.W.L; Maple Creek Knights of Columbus and of course the Parishes of St. Stephen and St. Lawrence. Edwin and Justin Samson and Clare and Ross Pollock provided music entertainment, which was enjoyed by all. Finally Fr. Clement expressed his heart felt and cherished appreciation for a Spirit-filled and memorable celebration to mark this momentous occasion. The evening closed with the singing of a song, to the tune of “Morning Has Broken”, with words written by a now deceased member of St. Lawrence parish, especially for a priest’s ordination anniversary, as hands were held outstretched over Fr. Clement in blessing.
We would like to thank all who assisted, gathered and acted in any way to make this event the great success that it was.
Submitted by Marianne Gordon, Secretary/Pastoral Assistant, St. Lawrence, Maple Creek