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Gerald Okoli Ordained Deacon
Gerald Chigbogu Okoli was ordained a transitional deacon by Bishop Bernard A. Hebda on Saturday, January 9, 2010 at Holy Childhood Church, Harbor Springs. Rev. Joseph Graff, Pastor of the Catholic Communities of L'Arbre Croche which includes the parish of Holy Childhood, welcomed the congregation before the liturgy and spoke of Gerald as a wonderfully gifted and charming man who will be a great addition to the clergy of the Diocese of Gaylord. The Knights of Columbus Color Guard led the procession entering the church in their vibrant colors and full regalia. Six deacons gathered for the Ordination to welcome Gerald and ten priests currently serving in the Diocese of Gaylord concelebrated the Eucharistic Liturgy. Seminarians, who are preparing for priesthood and were assisting with the annual St. Andrew Task Force Retreat the same weekend, served at the altar. The date coincided with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In his homily Bishop Hebda pointed out that the Baptism of Jesus is recorded in all four Gospels suggesting that it is one of the central events in Jesus life and also holds great importance for each of us. As we listen to the Father proclaim, this is my beloved son, we know those words are meant for Jesus, but they are also meant for us in that they clear up any ambiguity about the identity of the child born in Bethlehem, Bishop Hebda said. Were gathered here today for this ordination because Gerald recognized Jesus as God the Fathers beloved Son, Bishop Hebda continued. Throughout his life, hes drawn close to him, to the point that Jesus is no longer just the beloved Son but also the beloved brother. Bishop Hebda focused on Geralds call to the priesthood and how by making these tremendous commitments, he will be blessed with corresponding graces. As I reminded the high school students gathered for the St. Andrew Task Force retreat last evening, God is never outdone when it comes to generosity, Bishop Hebda stated. We can see that the Lord has already been blessing and preparing Gerald for the life of service that he begins today. Hes blessed with a loving and Catholic family who are remembered in a special way at this Eucharist. He was bestowed with a wonderful intellect, a contagious smile and humble disposition, and so many natural gifts. Seeing how the Lord has blessed him in the past, we can expect that the Lord will continue to bless Geralds efforts. My heart is overflowing with gratitude this afternoonand I suspect that yours should be as well, Bishop Hebda continued. How wonderful God is that he would entrust our local Church, the Diocese of Gaylord, with Geralds vocation; that he would enrich our local Church by his ministry in imitation of Christ the Servant; that he would bring Gerald halfway around the world to serve us and to inspire us. My gratitude extends, obviously, to Gerald as well, the Bishop added. I cant think of a place any more foreign to Nigeria than Northern Michigan and yet he has been so willing to do whatever it takes to respond to the Lords call. How beautiful it has been to see how the parishioners at Holy Childhood have welcomed him into their parish. As I ordain Gerald today, I claim him for the whole diocese and indeed hope that hell always receive in each of his future assignments the loving affirmation that he has found in Harbor Springs. Following the homily, the Rite of Ordination continued with the Examination of the Candidate, Promise of Obedience and Litany of Saints before Bishop Hebda laid hands on Gerald. By this holy gesture, ancient in Scripture and Church Tradition, the office of deacon is conferred. The Bishop then offered a solemn prayer of ordination before Gerald was invested with the deacons stole and dalmatic. Deacon Sylvestre Obwaka served as the vesting deacon. Bishop Hebda then handed on the Book of Gospels to Gerald, an act which signified the office of the deacon to proclaim the Gospel in liturgical celebrations and to preach the faith of the Church in word and deed. Finally Gerald received the Kiss of Peace from the Bishop followed by all of the deacons present sealing Geralds admittance to the diaconate and welcoming the newly ordained deacon to a common ministry. Deacon Gerald Okoli then took his seat alongside Bishop Hebda in the sanctuary to serve as the Deacon of the Mass for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At the conclusion of the ceremony, everyone was invited to a reception in the newly constructed Holy Childhood Parish Center which was joyfully served by parishioners despite the challenge of a water pipe breakage earlier in the week. Deacons Gerald Okoli and Sylvestre Obwaka are scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Gaylord at St. Mary Cathedral in Gaylord on June 12, 2010.