INTRODUCTION
 
It is often said that “health is wealth and that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation”. Buoyed by this incontrovertible truth, the Catholic diocese of Gboko on the 7th of October, 2016 held her Health Summit at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Baptist, Gboko. The occasion was attended by a large number of priests, religious, lay faithful and many eminent sons and daughters as well as friends of the diocese.

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION
 
The occasion began with the celebration of the Holy Mass by the Bishop of Gboko diocese, Most Rev. William Avenya.
 
Preaching at the Mass, Bishop Avenya said that the Church has multiple ministries through which She evangelizes the world, prominent among which include “the ministries of educating and healing the nations and people of God”. Hence, the abundant centres of learning and health units found throughout the breadth and length of the diocese.  Basing on the Gospel text of the day, (Lk.11:15-26),  the Bishop stated that “like her Master, Jesus; never allowed anyone infirmed either in body or spirit to go unattended to, so also the Church cannot minister effectively to a people stricken by sickness and demonic possessions with blithe disregard for their physical condition”.  He also said that “the Church too recognizes God’s healing mercy and power in orthodox medicine and the constant medical breakthroughs that are in line with God’s laws.” Bishop William averred categorically that “the ministry of care of the sick is indeed our apostolate” and encouraged everyone to take it as a personal call by Christ to show mercy, care and love to the sick and dying.
 
RECEPTION

At the end of the Eucharist celebration, another important segment of the ceremony unfolded; namely “Presentation of Speeches and Launching of the Gboko Diocesan Health Initiative/Plan spanning 2016-2020. While delivering his Welcome Address, the Health Coordinator of Gboko diocese, Rev. Fr. Michael DOGO thanked everyone for honouring the invitation to the Health Summit in spite of the obvious economic challenges of the moment. He asserted that the vision and mission of the Diocesan Health care Initiative is to provide and maintain the integrity of delivering quality health care services to the masses; while at the same time maintaining its spirit of charity…” He also highlighted the challenges of the diocesan health initiative to include “Unstable workforce… and inability of patients to pay even for the highly subsidized services offered them”. He therefore appealed to the magnanimity of the guests to help cushion the challenges of health care in the diocese.
The Chairman of the occasion, Dr. Paul Angya in his Address said that the Church is both an instrument and sign of salvation for mankind. Therefore, the Church does not only preach the salvation of souls but also accompanies her preaching with practical measures aimed at saving souls through the establishment of health centres that facilitate the wellbeing of the body. He lauded the innumerable contributions the Church has made in the area of restoration and maintenance of health. According to him, “I am proud to be a Catholic and would gladly render my support whenever it is needed”.
 
In his keynote address, the Catholic Bishop of Gboko diocese, Most Rev. William Avenya while re-emphasizing the Chairman’s Address said “the Church is out to save souls both spiritually and physically through health facilities and personnel”. This is because the salvation of each man and woman is her supreme mission. He also thanked the State government for creating an enabling environment and being disposed to partner with the Church on health matters. On another note, he decried the obscene tax levied on the health care centres of the diocese, since they are simply too high. This unnecessary tax on Church facilities seems to constitute a challenge for the Church to make her contribution to the citizenry. He finally called on government to try and win back the hearts of the people by investing the proceeds of the tax in visible structures. 
 
While making his own presentation, one of the Guest Speakers, Professor Armstrong Adejo said Gboko diocese is located in a strategic place, bordering the Cameroons and further commended the bold step taken by organizing a health summit. The Church’s involvement in the health care programme he continued follows absolutely the way of Christ; who healed the sick while he walked the earth. Since the first Catholic health care centre (Sacred Heart Hospital, Abeokuta) was established as far back as 1895, the Catholic Church in Nigeria has made giant strides in the health sector. The professor concluded his lecture by giving the audience a tip for going to heaven: “a clue to making heaven is by taking care of the sick". 
 
On her part, Dr Member George Genyi using the famous American slogan; “if not now, then when and if not us; then who?, challenged the audience to donate generously to the cause of the Gboko Health Care Initiative.  She then added that the Church cannot do it all alone, but together with the sincere efforts of everyone. The Governor of Benue State His Excellency Samuel Ortom represented by the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mrs. Cecilia Ojabo congratulated the diocese of Gboko on the occasion of her First Health Summit; which demonstrates the readiness of the Church to continually add meaning and value to the lives of the people. The Governor further reiterated his administration’s commitment to boost the Health Sector and safeguard the health of Benue people.
 
One of the highlights of the ceremony was the presentation of awards to certain individuals because of their enormous contributions to the Church and society at large. Those honoured were; Mr Andrew Ayabam; Mrs. Regina Akume, Dr. Paul Orhii, Mrs Elizabeth Shuluwa, Prof. Charity Angya, Amb. Michael Gbasha, Prof. Armstrong Adejo, Lady Victoria Pilla, Rev. Fr. Daniel Agber, Mr. Abraham Akor, Bro. Philip Achoo, Mr. Frank Mku, Sir. Christopher Tyokase, Rev. Fr. Ukeyima Solomon, Mr. Terkula Adoo and St. Mary’s Church, Naga. The zenith of the occasion was the Health Summit Launching and Appeal Fund during which many persons and groups contributed generously towards the realization of St. John’s Hospital, Gboko.
 
The Vicar General of Gboko diocese Rev. Fr. Emmanuel UDU delivered the vote of thanks, during which he appreciated all the invited guests for their presence and meaningful support and contributions. He equally thanked the organizers of the event, particularly Rev. Fr. Michael DOGO for the success of the event that hitherto looked bleak. The Chancellor of Gboko diocese, Rev. Fr. Isaac DUGU said the closing prayer, while the Bishop; Most Rev. William AVENYA gave the benediction thereby bringing the occasion to a successful close.
 
With kind regards and prayerful best wishes; I remain,

Rev. Fr. Isaac DUGU

Chancellor, Catholic Diocese of Gboko