Fr. Peter Hassan’s Silver Jubilee of Priesthood

Fr. Peter Hassan’s Silver Jubilee of Priesthood, at Our Lady Queen of Peace Cathedral, Jalingo. Homily By Most Rev. Ignatius A. Kaigama, Archbishop of Abuja

Readings: Is 63:7-9, Eph 1:3-14; Jn 21:15-17

Perhaps many of you were present in Zing on the 20th of June 1998 for the priestly ordination of Fr. Peter Hassan. I am so glad that after 25 years of consistent and unbroken years of priestly service we are gathered to celebrate Fr. Peter as we thank God for him and with him. Congratulations Fr. Peter.

Jesus asked Simon Peter a question in our Gospel today, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ (Jn 21:15). Peter said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus then said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ Today, Fr. Peter Hassan, with the support of the Diocese of Jalingo has called us here to publicly answer Jesus’ question. He is repeating his “yes” to Jesus: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” and he is pledging his continued loyalty to Jesus to feed His lambs. With the words of Psalm 145:1 Fr. Peter is saying, “I will extol thee my God O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.”

The 1st and 2nd readings Fr. Peter selected for today shows how he desires to express profound gratitude to God. Isaiah 63:7 says, “I will remember the compassion of the Lord, the praise of the Lord over all that the Lord has bestowed on us, and over the multitude of his good things ….” Ephesians: 1: 3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens…”

Since Fr. Peter Hassan was trained and ordained a priest for Jalingo Diocese, I wish to congratulate the Diocese of Jalingo for producing such an outstanding priest. More than 28 years since its creation, Jalingo has more priests, more religious, more parishes, more schools, hospital, etc. and only recently, she gave birth to a baby called Wukari Diocese. Congratulations to Bishop Charles Hammawa, the chief shepherd; the priests, the religious, the laity of Jalingo diocese for the progress recorded so far. May God continue to bind you together in unity, peace, and development.

I met Peter for the first time when as a minor seminarian he came to Wukari to visit Fr. Paul Beyeh, his uncle, who was then my assistant parish priest in St. Mary’s parish, in 1988. I took to liking Peter immediately, because he was lively, cute, and intelligent. As a priest, he worked very closely with me. I remember how we used to work well into the night, typing, and duplicating documents. Fr. Hassan has shared his talents with me and helped me as the Bishop of Jalingo, Archbishop of Jos and even now as Archbishop of Abuja. Thank you for the good work you do quietly when I ask you to help me.

I am not the only one that say he is good. When Pope John Paul II visited Nigeria in 1998, he was chosen to serve as a deacon at the Mass of the Pope in Kaduna, and he read the Gospel. He excelled in St. Augustine’s major seminary as a professor, dean of formation, dean of studies, acting rector, head of the department of theology, etc. It has been this unwavering dedication to duty that has led to Fr. Peter’s recent appointment as the rector Magnificus of St. Augustine’s Major Seminary, Jos. To God be glory and praise!

Fr. Hassan is loved even beyond Nigeria. He has just returned from his sabbatical leave in Ireland where he is often invited to visit again and again. As a Dean in Jalingo deanery cathedral administrator, chaplain to various groups, diocesan secretary, education secretary, parish priest of Kona parish and in many other assignments he blended so very well with the people. This is because of his maturity, broad-mindedness, and the ability to embrace all without prejudice, jealousy, or hatred. He is indeed a priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Since Fr. Hassan whom we celebrate today has the capacity to transcend narrow ethnic boundaries, let me encourage the various tribal groups which make up Jalingo Diocese to strongly unite: Jenjo, Wurkum, Karim, Mumuye, Kutep, Tiv, Ichen, Jukun-Kona and others. I would like to see more friendship and harmony between Mumuye and Jukun-Kona of Jalingo Local Government. There was an association called KOMU (Kona/Mumuye Association) which Fr. Pius Nyarere and people like Pius Isa Dauda championed. It should be revived. Recently, I was so glad to preside over the Holy Mass in Kona for the wedding of my nephew, Kenneth Kaigama, to Juliet Ignatius Jella of Zing. Let us not forget that Mr. Columba Tari married a Kona lady. Mr. Ferdinand Nyame married a Kona.

Teachers from Kona taught in Mumuye land and similarly teachers like Gandisho, Bonzena, Latoba, Nyame and others taught in Kona land. There must be a healing of memory, forgiving the past so that we can be a formidable force in the economic, political, and social spheres. Two things give the Kona and Mumuye a common identity and unity: burukutu and dodo. But Christianity should even do more to unite us, because the water of baptism is thicker than the blood of tribe. I have seen videos suggesting that Taraba State should not be ruled by a Christian because Christians are a minority. Perhaps our lack of unity is what gives that impression. Our Christian religion should bind us strongly together.

Fr. Peter, as you continue to serve God, remember that people only throw stones at a fruitful mango tree and not a barren one. People will throw stones at you because you have fruits. Remember also that no matter how good you are, not everyone thinks you are good. “Do not worry about who is and is not on your side: simply make sure that God is with you in all you do. Have a clear conscience and God will defend you….” (The imitation of Christ). The sword of unfair and uncharitable criticisms may occasionally pierce your heart. As the Lord said to Paul, he says to you, “do not fear, for I am with you” (Acts 18:9,10). Dear Fr. Peter, go about doing good as Jesus did.

Dear people of God, please keep Fr. Hassan and all priests in your prayer, and may God bless you and your families too with an abundance of graces and multiple material favours especially in these harsh economic times.

I pray that by God’s grace, we shall see many more priestly Silver and Golden Jubilees in Jalingo Diocese.

Song: Shon do ba mu yupata.

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