Homily at the Perpetual Profession of Vows
Perpetual Profession of Vows of Sr. Rosemary Edem Bassey and Sr. Sarah Nguhemen Akombo, as Daughters of St. Paul, Holy Family Church, Life Camp, Abuja, 11th June 2022. Homily by Most Rev. Ignatius A. Kaigama, Archbishop of Abuja.
At the invitation of the Daughters of St. Paul in Nigeria, we are here today to witness the final profession of Sr. Rosemary Bassey and Sr. Sarah Akombo, in the Congregation of the Daughters of St. Paul, “called to live, communicate and proclaim Jesus, through the means of social communication.” We are to support them with our prayers and encourage them to go on working for the salvation of souls, by proclaiming the Gospel in the spirit of St. Paul and in imitation of the founder of the Pauline Family, Blessed James Alberione, who dedicated himself to putting the technology of the modern means of mass communication to spread the Gospel message.
Sr. Rosemary and Sr. Sarah are prepared to spend the rest of their lives leaning on Jesus the Master, the Way, Truth and Life, and using the press, radio, TV, films, internet to proclaim Him. They will draw from a spirituality that is rooted in the Word of God and in the Eucharist, namely, by the meditation of scripture, participation in Eucharistic celebration and adoration. In our secularized world today where people prefer their will be done instead of the will of God, we need to redirect our attention to the importance of the Word of God, a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (cf. Psalms 119:105), the reason why Pope Francis established the Third Sunday in Ordinary time to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God.
Our two sisters making their final vows are first called to holiness; to give all they have in serving God and His people selflessly especially in the poor and the young. By their sacrifices of giving up the joy of marriage, having their biological children, financially profitable careers, and serving Jesus with irrepressible joy in a total and unconditional way, Jesus assures them that they will sit on glorious thrones in heaven, and even in this life, the Lord will do for them more infinitely more than they ask or imagine (cf. Eph 3:20).
The two sisters are declaring clearly and openly that NOTHING can separate them from the love of Jesus. It is a lifelong commitment of an inseparable bond with Jesus, clothed with Jesus, in a manner that one can say with St. Paul, “I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).
Remember how the 75 year-old Abraham was called from his village Haran, to leave his country, his people, and his father’s household. He was not even told where he was to go. He left without an assurance of social security, but assured that he should have no fear or anxiety about where he would end up. The Lord would be present with him and for him. These sisters have been called by God in their youth, complete with physical energy, spiritual and emotional intelligence, from Benue and Akwa Ibom States to be sent where the Lord pleases (Ghana, Tanzania, Angola, Kenya, Zambia, South Sudan, etc).
They need to have the disposition of Mary who submitted herself unconditionally to God. Religious life is a call to a happy service, a pouring of self, a total self giving. It is not a privileged place to get something for oneself, but to give out lavishly, just like Mary who did not seek to take but to give. She gave up the social life of a girl of her age and above all, she gave up her will to allow God’s will to dominate in her life. She could no longer say “I want this to be done”. It was always “let the will of God be done.”
Pope Francis in his message for the opening of the Year of consecrated Life, 30 November 2014, provided three programmatic attitudes for a consecrated person: Be joyful! Be brave! Be of communion! He advised that a religious should be serious about his or her relationship with God; behave well in community, be open when someone calls you to reflect on certain aspects of your life, and treat others with respect and dignity. Is it not about insisting on getting your rights while forgetting your responsibilities and the very person you have committed your life to follow.
In our world of “what is there for me,” some people think it is foolishness or madness to embrace a vocation that neither promises power, wealth or material enjoyment, just as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is foolishness and a stumbling block to many. The step dear Sisters you are taking is not foolishness. God says, “I have called you by name, you are mine. …you are precious in my eyes and honoured, and I love you….Fear not, for I am with you” (Is 43:1-5).
The Gospel today calls us to remain in Jesus and bear abundant fruits; a call to draw our energy from Jesus, abide in Jesus, to be rooted in Jesus. The Congregation of the Daughters of St. Paul has formed these sisters well. The rest is for the sisters to follow and serve Jesus the Way, the Truth and the Life, in order to bear the fruits of love and holiness, much more juicy than mango, apple and banana.
While thanking the Congregation for a job well done, we also thank the parents of these sisters for giving their daughters for service. Similarly, we commend the Pauline Cooperators, men, women, adults and young people, single and married who share in the spirit and mission of the Pauline family and support the Pauline apostolate by proclaiming the gospel with their lives and through the media. We need more people inflamed with the same missionary passion that motivated St. Paul.
With St. Paul in Ephesians 3:14-20, we ask God from the wealth of His glory to give Sr. Sarah and Sr. Rosemary power through His Spirit to be strong in their inner selves, and for Christ to make His home in their hearts that they will be completely filled with the very nature of God, and serve without counting the cost. Congratulations dear Sisters.