13TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY: PASTORAL MESSAGE
A PASTORAL MESSAGE PRESENTED AT THE END OF THE 13TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF JOS, HELD AT THE SACRED HEART PASTORAL CENTRE, JOS, FROM THE 24TH – 28TH AUGUST, 2015.
In the usual family spirit of the Catholic Archdiocese of Jos, delegates to the 13th General Assembly gathered at the Sacred Heart Pastoral Centre, Jos, from the 24th – 28th August, 2015. The delegates having prayerfully reflected under the guidance of the Holy Spirit on the theme of the General Assembly: “Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization” hereby present the fruits of the General Assembly to the family of God in Jos Archdiocese and the entire citizenry of Plateau State and beyond.
We remain indebted to God for the pastoral growth recorded since the last General Assembly. Even after the creation of two dioceses out of Jos, Shendam in 2007 and Pankshin in 2014, we have recorded 6,891 baptisms in 2014 alone. St Michael’s Pastoral Area, Pwomol, was upgraded to the status of a Parish and the new Pastoral Areas of Blessed Sacrament Church, Jenta Mangoro and St Paul’s, Kwata, were created. The first graduation of female catechists at the Female Catechists’ Formation Centre, Kwall was a watershed in our catechetical endeavours. We are happy that Eucharistic adoration, Masses for the sick, youth Masses and “Know Your Faith” programs are ongoing in parishes. The Holy Childhood Association is waxing stronger with children taking their rightful place in evangelization. Parishes should encourage them to do more.
Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization
The family as a “Domestic Church” and the bedrock of the society, is obviously the fruit of a successful marriage and the proper upbringing of children. It is not however without its challenges which include: violence in the home, terrorism and insecurity, non-acceptance of Church teachings on marriage, family and marriage preparation. The good news is that these challenges are not un-surmountable. With determination and faith in God we can overcome them.
Family and Evangelization
The Family should be a home from where good and God-fearing citizens come and a very powerful place for the upbringing of children. While bad behavior of children is very often a reflection of bad parenting, the children of some parents, who make a lot of effort in this regard still turn out to be wild in behavior, perhaps because of other influences. Catholic families should ensure the smooth transmission of gospel values to their members, and teach them to share not only the gospel but also to sacrifice themselves for each other. Marriage is what gives rise to a family. Without marriage, there would not be families. Marriage therefore, should be a result of love that is natural, not forced. The youth should not therefore rush into marriage just to fulfill traditional conventions, only to be confronted with misery and trauma thereafter. The culture of stigmatization of unmarried adult girls that lead to desperation on their part must be stopped forth-with. There must be a change in mentality to respect single ladies, who may be in their thirties, forties or fifties and have not yet married or choose not to marry at all. If one decides not to marry, it is not a crime. All that is required is that they remain decent people, doing good work and living according to the teaching of Jesus Christ.
Year of the Consecrated Life and the Year of Mercy
During this year dedicated as “Year of Consecrated Life,” we congratulate the religious and we encourage them to use the period to renew their commitment to the religious life as witnesses of Christ in the society. While we encourage our religious sisters, brothers and Priests to “wake up the world” with their testimony of faith, holiness and hope, we wish to congratulate Our Lady of Fatima Sisters as they celebrate their Golden Jubilee. The Holy Father Pope Francis has declared from the 8th December, 2015 to the 20th November, 2016 as the “Holy Year of Mercy.” During this period the Pope envisions that the balm of mercy will reach everyone. We shall all be witnesses of mercy towards the sick, people with special need, the displaced, the poor and even the unborn, giving to them concrete help and assistance. We call on all those in our society who kill, destroy or violate the rights of others to repent of their evil deeds. We all need God’s grace and mercy to succeed.
The Divine Mercy Cathedral Project
As our Archdiocesan family project on the Divine Mercy Cathedral continues, the sacrifice and generosity of all even at these times when things are hard is highly commendable. While no structures may be seen on the new Cathedral ground, a lot of preliminary work not visible to the eyes has been done. The necessary approval from the ministry of Urban Planning has now been secured, the drawings have been approved and the bidding process is on. Already, expenditures running into millions of Naira have been made to arrive at the stage we are today. We urge our beloved Catholics of the Archdiocese not to be discouraged or afraid as we plunge into this huge project. We believe that with faith and great determination on our part, our new Cathedral building will hopefully come to be an edifice that will make us happy and proud when completed. We call for more sacrifices by individuals, Parishes, Pastoral Areas, Chaplaincies and Institutions.
Politics for Good Governance
Catholics on the Plateau turned to God for His mercy and guidance in the choice of our leaders and for peaceful elections, and it came to pass. We congratulate all the winners of the last General Elections. As our elected representatives settle down to face the business of governance, we appeal to them to do their best in handling the difficult assignment of leadership, to bring innovations and meaningful reforms that will benefit the generality of our people. We wish to remind them that politics is for good governance and social development. Corruption has done us very deadly harm as a nation and has messed up the lives of most Nigerians. Leaders at all levels must emphatically win the war against corruption as the Federal Government is doing with terrorism and this can only happen if we all vow to be corruption-free. Our Chief Shepherd looks forward to the usual interaction with senior Catholics in Plateau State who are in government, to discuss how they should serve with integrity and selflessness while also participating effectively in the mission of evangelization.
Commendable Works of Commissions
The various Commissions in the Archdiocese have been our reliable and dependable channels of reaching out to humanity in our pastoral endeavours. The Commissions include:
We are happy with the achievements of the Commission ranging from seminars to workshops. We condole with the Commission and the families of the choir members who lost their lives in active pastoral service in the course of the year. May the Lord reward them with His beatific vision! We continue to pray for quick recovery to those who sustained various degrees of injuries.
Our youth have displayed a great sense of initiative in recent times by embarking on programs and activities that uphold self-reliance as against those times when they demanded for help for every little thing. In view of the austerity measures now in place, this is quite commendable and we encourage more of such initiatives. We envisage a self-reliant Church and we are glad that our youth on whom the future of the Church depends, are the ones taking the lead.
‘Health,’ they say, ‘is wealth.’ A healthy family begets a healthy society. We commend our health institutions for assisting the Church in her ministry of healing to the children of God. Needless to say, our clinics and hospitals need our patronage.
Justice, Development and Peace/Caritas (JDPC)
This Commission is our means of rendering social services and advocating for human rights irrespective of religious, ethnic or racial affiliations. Our terrain has witnessed crises as people in some communities are under constant attacks by inhuman elements. We have also assisted many who have been displaced from other places by attackers. We appreciate the contributions of JDPC in coming to the aid of these people traumatized by man’s inhumanity to man, through the distribution of relief materials to internally displaced persons, in the area of women empowerment among many others.
The essence of marriage is for love and the procreation and education of children; our institutions of learning have been complementing the educational aspect of marriage. We continue to encourage parents and guardians to patronize our schools, where nothing short of excellence in both academics and morals is guaranteed.
The tireless efforts, commitment and dedication of the Commission in ensuring happy families are commendable. We join the Commission in appreciating the Archdiocese for sponsoring the Chairman of the Commission to attend the forth-coming World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, USA.
Report from the Commission, touching on the Catechists, Female Catechists’ Formation Center, Kwall and workshops for Evangelists is laudable. While we congratulate the Commission for graduating the first set of Female Catechists from the training Centre, we still call on Parishes, Pastoral Areas and Chaplaincies to identify interested women with minimum qualification of Secondary School Certificate and send to the Centre. In the same vein, we appeal to Parishes that are yet to off-set the tuition fees of their candidates who have graduated or are still in the Centre to do so. We encourage Parishes to key into the RCIA program.
We recognize the efforts of the Archdiocesan Communications Department in covering and reporting major events in and around the Archdiocese and encourage all Catholics not to relent in patronizing and reading “The Word of Life Newspaper,” which remains the main instrument of Communication in our Archdiocese. The website of the Archdiocese is up and running. Catholics are encouraged to visit this site at www.josarchdiocese.org to follow activities of the Archdiocese and drop in their comments. Parishes, Organizations, Institutions and Commissions can send articles on their various activities to the Communications Office for upload and global accessibility.
Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre
We commend the Centre for being at the fore-front of promoting the culture of dialogue, regular consultation and friendship among different groups cutting across religious, ethnic, tribal and political divides.
- We wish to see the entrenchment of the culture of personal Bible reading in homes and during society meetings.
- In the spirit of the Year of Mercy, we appeal to the Governor of Plateau State, Barr. Simon Lalong and the Chief Judge of the State to exercise the prerogative of mercy and grant amnesty to deserving prisoners.
- The culture of “same sex union” is alien to our understanding of the family and should not be imposed on us as a nation. We re-emphasize our position by saying an emphatic ‘NO’ to same sex unions.
- In continuation of the Cathedral project, as from January 2016, we appeal that the contribution of one block per individual and bag of cement per family should resume.
- We support the strong current national wave against corruption in Nigeria and we appeal to all security and law enforcement agents to identify those who have corruptly enriched themselves to make comprehensive restitution.
- While appreciating Parishes, Pastoral Areas and Chaplaincies for stepping down the proceedings of the 12th General Assembly, we call on them to do same with the proceedings of the 13th General Assembly between September and December, 2015.
- Prayers are requested for the success of the October Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome.
- While we urge all Catholics to intensify their prayers for Plateau State in Distress, we appeal for all hands to be on deck to end the incessant killings of innocent lives.
- Catholic professionals in different fields of endeavours, such as lawyers, medical doctors, nurses and teachers are urged to join their professional bodies in our Archdiocese in order to readily key into our Archdiocesan activities such as the General Assembly.
We wish to thank, appreciate and commend all of us for our various contributions amidst every kind of challenge in these difficult times. The family remains the best gift of God to all humanity; we need to guard, protect and appreciate it. We encourage parents to be exemplary as children learn more by imitation. We are aware of the joyful but challenging experience of parents in the upbringing of their children. We ask the intercessions of Mary and Joseph – the Holy Family of Nazareth, for all our families to truly live out our vocation as the first school of religious and civic virtues.
Most Rev. Ignatius A. Kaigama Very Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ray Ikpa
Archbishop of Jos Chancellor, Archdiocese of Jos