MEETING OF ARCHBISHOP IGNATIUS A. KAIGAMA WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF THE LAITY, CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF ABUJA
My dear people of God, Good evening! Thank you for coming here today at my own invitation. I very much appreciate your inspiring presence. I have met separately in this hall with priests and religious of Abuja Archdiocese to acquaint myself with them and to discern from our interaction the pastoral and spiritual orientation we all desire during my tenure as the Archbishop of Abuja. You are a gift and a crucial part of the success of my mission here, which is why I am inviting you to come and share with me your insights, aspirations and good intentions for our beloved Archdiocese.
I am aware of the different pious organizations, associations and movements which have served the Archdiocese pretty well and I hope they will continue to be a very great help during my time for us to foster more ecclesial unity, harmony and progress. As it was in the early Church, we need to be guided to greater success by being of one mind and one heart, being attentive to the needs of one another and as St. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, to consider others first and not to be unduly concerned about our own narrow interests but the common good of all of us.
A lot has been done but a lot still needs to be done. I am optimistic and confident that together we can build a stronger and united Archdiocese by the grace of God.
Challenged to find God’s hand in it all
By my succeeding His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Lord ensures the unbroken line from the Apostles appointed by Christ Himself to my unworthy self as the Archbishop of Abuja. This is however, not something that I personally chose for myself. There was no job application filled in. The position was never advertised and interviews were not held. That is not how a new Archbishop gets the job! All I know is that, many years ago, I chose to be a priest of Yola diocese; it was the Holy Father who chose me to, first be bishop of Jalingo, then Archbishop of Jos and now, Archbishop of Abuja.
When His Excellency, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, broke the news to me that the Holy Father would like me to become the next Archbishop of Abuja, to say I was shocked, would be an understatement. What matters now today is that I am at your spiritual and pastoral service and I believe together we shall succeed.
Abuja, my new home
A new chapter opens up in my journey of life. So too a new chapter opens up in the journey of the people of God here in the Archdiocese. Although, I have lived in Jos for many years, Jos or Plateau State is actually not too far from Abuja. Nevertheless, I am very conscious that I have come to an Archdiocese, which has made tremendous progress.
We must be the fulcrum of unity in diversity. There must be unity of spirit among us. Abuja being the administrative headquarters of Nigeria is the legitimate constituency of all Nigerians irrespective of race, region and religion. It is, therefore, our sacred duty and our corporate responsibility to make the Catholic Church in Abuja Archdiocese an ecclesial home for all and sundry.
The clergy, consecrated persons and the laity must lovingly accept and embrace one another as a mode of the Church’s presence in Abuja. The Archdiocese belongs to all; it is not a colony of a specific ethnic group or region.
No one is and should feel alienated in the Church or insignificant no matter your minority status. All must love and be loved. We should collectively champion, with great enthusiasm, a culture and civilization of an all-embracing love by eschewing the embarrassment and scandal of chauvinism of all sorts.
Priests and religious should always be available to the people of God and be responsible stewards of the goods of the Church. Likewise, the laity should put at the service of the Church their time, talents and resources and effective personal participation in Church matters.
So, my dear people of Abuja Archdiocese, with immense courage, let us together set out in faith on this journey of life with an abiding sense that no matter what the future might bring God would be in it all. As a people of faith, the waters we are called to traverse today and the future are and will be very different from those of the past. They are ever changing and may be difficult to negotiate sometimes.
The journey ahead of us
The journey ahead will require all of us – priests, religious and laity to become, each in our own way, navigators of a new and ever deeper evangelization. It will require us to work together, shoulder to shoulder, to renew our own hearts in the faith. With hearts renewed, perhaps our greatest challenge will be to show forth in deed and word the value of knowing Christ and the life-changing potential of the Gospel, to all the inhabitants of our beautiful city and especially to those who are on the edges of both Church and society.
Everywhere I have lived and worked (first in Jalingo, then in Jos), I am a strong believer in the power of unity and working together irrespective of our ethnic backgrounds and our geographical origin. No matter where we come from, there is a place in the Archdiocese for everyone. In spite of our differences, we can be united and we can work together. To do so, we all need to eschew ethnocentrism and clannishness.
Ethnocentrism and clannishness, we all know have considerably hampered the spirit of patriotism in Nigeria. They have prevented us from producing the right leaders who operate above sentiments and narrow interests. They have many times bred acrimony, political favouritism and prejudice in the public service and overall government affairs. Merit at this point is sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity. We must never allow this mistake to be repeated in our Church.
On my part, I promise to be a father to all. As father, I will listen to everyone and do my best to ensure a level playing field for all to give their best. For this to happen, I also crave your maximum support and cooperation. The prospects for growth in our Archdiocese are quite huge. In the coming weeks, months and years, we will together, with the input of everyone, work out a pastoral strategy that will guide our work in the future.
Philippians 2:2 – “complete my joy by having the same understanding, holding to the same charity, being of one mind, with the same sentiment”.
Philippians 2:3 – “Let nothing be done by contention, nor in vain glory. Instead, in humility, let each of you esteem others to be better than himself”.
Philippians 2:4 – “Let each of you not consider anything to be your own, but rather to belong to others”.
Please pray with and for me. I have come to you, “announcing to you the testimony of Christ, not with exalted words or lofty wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1).
Let us also pray for our beloved Archdiocese of Abuja, its people, priests, religious and all those men and women of good will who call its environs their home. Pray for me, that in spite of my weakness or shortcomings, God may strengthen me for the task ahead. Pray that we may be good companions on the journey and that our future will be blessed because we, together with Christ, will go a long way.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May he look upon you with kindness and give you his peace.