Fr. Ephraim Ukpe @ 25: The Man, The Priest, The Administrator...

More than half a century ago, in the wet seasons of September, the family of Mr.  and Mrs Gilbert Ukpe, received, with utmost joy, the birth of a lovely son, who came as the fourth in the line of children that was to end, satisfyingly, at eight.
Characteristic of a normal Christian Family of which Catholicism had eaten deep into the hearts that were evangelized by the burning and reproducing Faith of the Irish Fathers, Mr. Gilbert and Mrs. Margaret Ukpe agreed to baptise the baby boy with the name Ephraim – the fruitfulness that the present generation are witnesses to since his ordination into the Priesthood of the Catholic Church, for the past twenty-five years.
Being fully aware of the needs for education and, with a vision of having a son who would grow up to be a Catholic priest, nursed by his prayerful mother, the young Ephraim was enrolled at East Itam Primary school, an institution that he spent six years to learn the foundations of scholarship and discipline. 
Still gripped with the strong desire to be parents of productive scholars, Mr. Gilbert and Mrs. Margaret Ukpe stopped at nothing to enrol the young Ephraim, at Cardinal Ekandem Seminary College, an institution established in 1976, by the then Bishop of Calabar Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Brian Usanga to cater for the teeming indigenes of the mainland part of the Calabar diocese, who had the choice of pastoral vocation but could not access the then Calabar diocesan minor seminary because of its distance.
Furthermore, when he had completed his primary and secondary education, the young man made a rather unpopular choice to lead the relatively rough path of the Catholic Priesthood -- a vocation that very few could fully appreciate as at that time.
The choice led the young man to spiritual year formation at Ekpoma, where he spent a year before proceeding to the prestigious SS Peter and Paul Major Seminary at Bodija, Ibadan – an institution that has formed formidable pastors in the likes of Very Rev. Fr. Justin Udoma, under the iron fist of the all-round formator and scholar – Rt. Rev. Monsignor John Aniagwu.
Monsignor John Aniagwu
After almost eight years of rigorous studies in the pastoral and scholarly formation, Ephraim Ukpe, graduated with flying colours in Philosophy and Theology.
Subsequently signed on by his superiors to be of good academic, behavioural and moral standing; and ordained to an eleven-month diaconate, Rev. Ephraim Ukpe, now a poised and dedicated young man, was published on bans for the ordination into the highly respected cult of the Catholic Priesthood.
On the Eleventh of December, 1994, blessed by the Apostolic Visitation of the then Pontifical Ambassador of Pope (St.) John Paul II, His Excellency, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, placed his consecrated hands on Rev. Ephraim Gilbert Ukpe, in the presence of the enthusiastic congregation of the Catholic Diocese of Uyo, under the leadership of the then Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Effiong Ekuwem.
That was a birth of a new child; a bundle of talents, a pragmatic and dedicated leader whose self-denial and passion for excellence have sprinkled the oil of his consecration on many apostolates that he has led.
Recognising his limitations in industrial productivity, leadership and capacity building, Fr. Ephraim Ukpe furthered his studies in Industrial Sociology and Personnel Management at Imo State University – a Masters’ Degree that he has perfectly put to use in the different managerial capacities that he has led for the past twenty-five years.
With equal time in pastoral work and in administrative capacities, Fr. Ephraim Ukpe has served the Holy Catholic Church in the diocese of Uyo, with landmark achievements that posterity can bear witnesses to. 
At the commissioning of the water factory
They include
a.    Manager Catholic Secretariat, Uyo, 1994 – 1995
b.   Assistant Pastor, St. Peter Parish, Ibiono, 1995 -1997
c.    Parish Priest, Holy Family Parish, Etinan, 1997- 2002
d.   Parish Priest, St. Mary Parish Obio Ofot (Standing in for Fr. Ryan)
e.    Charge D’ Affair for Diocesan Chancery
f.     Diocesan Chancellor, Catholic Diocese of Uyo, 1998-2002
g.    Administrative Manager, St. Luke Hospital Anua, 2002 -2008
h.   Principal, SS Peter and Paul Technical College, Mkpang, 2008 – 2012
i.     Rector, Cardinal Ekandem Seminary, Uyo

Seminary Bottle Factory
Other crucial services worthy of mention include the chaplaincies of Cornelia Cornelly College, Uyo, College of Education, Afaha Nsit and at present, the Catholic Women Organisation of Nigeria both at the diocesan and at the provincial levels. Correspondingly, the services of this industrious gentleman could not escape the demands of the Uyo Diocesan Presbyterian Counsel, Diocesan Hospital Management Board, Uyo Priest Personnel Board, Uyo Diocesan Vocation Team, Justice Development and Peace Commission.
Encouraged by his dedication and conspicuous accomplishments in all responsibilities given to him, the then Bishop of Uyo, Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Effiong Ekuwem, appointed Fr. Ephraim Ukpe, the Rector of a school he (Fr. Ukpe) was once a student – Cardinal Ekandem Seminary, Uyo.
Marching on the experienced feet of an old boy, Fr. Ephraim Ukpe was to begin a new and scholarly profile that rekindled, both in the life of the students and the teachers, the enterprisingly formative soul of his Alma Mater, thereby placing the school today, as a model of basic and post-basic education in the state.
Seminary Science Labs built by Fr. Ukpe
To satisfy the needs of an establishment that was put under his care, Fr. Ukpe went on a massive renovation of buildings, from hostels to the chapel, to class block; erecting new buildings to serve as the school library and laboratories and most significantly, the building of the ultra-modern, one thousand capacity auditorium and eight dedicated classroom blocks.
Seminary Chapel, renovated by Fr. Ukpe
Faced with the reality that seminarians may be limited in today’s society, Fr. Ephraim Ukpe went on to incorporate Commercial and Entrepreneurial studies into the seminary curriculum, offering the students the full range of academic scope that was only characteristic of comprehensive secondary schools.
Students Receiving classes in the English Lab
In sports, the pragmatic priest and social worker conceived and executed to formal standard, modern sports facilities, to serve the purpose of practical demonstrations of classes in Physical and Health Education and for the psychomotor development of seminarians.
Bishop John Ayah, commissioning the water factory
Rising to the twin needs of a practical outlet for the demonstration of contents thought in entrepreneurial subjects like Accounting and Business Studies and to serve the need of a good drinking water for his students in an age when United Nations has recorded 1.5 million deaths on daily basis as a result of water-born disease, Fr. Ephraim Ukpe conceived the idea of a water factory.
Seminary Water Factory, Bottle Line
Within one year of its conception, he opened a giant water factory with one of the best sterilizing plants any way in the world, as one of the business outlets of Cardesem Enterprises Nigeria, secured within the ambience of Cardinal Ekandem Seminary, christened, Aqua Cardinale, a Latin designation translated in English as Cardinal Water.
work in progress at the seminary auditorium and dedicated classroom blocks
Today, the factory has grown to include an ultra-modern bottle line, a bottle blowing factory, a heavy-duty truck for long-distance supplies, and four daily functioning supply buses that service the entire Uyo local government and its environs.
Seminary Water Factory
For these past twenty-five years, many more of the accomplishments of Rev. Fr. Ephraim Ukpe can be numerated, therefore, as we celebrate the successes and triumphs of an astute administrator and priest, as he marks his silver jubilee celebration, we thank God, for it is only by Him alone that all these success stories are told!
Bishop John E. Ayah, 
Catholic Bishop of Uyo


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