PASTORAL MESSAGE PRESENTED AT THE END OF THE 2ND GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF ABUJA
A PASTORAL MESSAGE PRESENTED AT THE END OF THE 2ND GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF ABUJA, HELD AT OUR LADY QUEEN OF NIGERIA PRO-CATHEDRAL, ABUJA, FRIDAY, 24TH SEPTEMBER – SATURDAY, 25TH SEPTEMBER, 2021
We give thanks to God for giving us the opportunity to witness a second General Assembly that has now become an annual gathering of our Archdiocesan family. During this Assembly, all of us, the clergy, religious and laity, examined our pastoral and social programmes and how these affect our Church and the nation. After we prayerfully reflected on and discussed the theme, ‘The Archdiocese of Abuja in Ministerial and Pastoral Collaboration”, we now share the fruits of our reflection with the people of God in our Archdiocese, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and beyond.
EVENTS SINCE OUR MAIDEN ASSEMBLY
We thank God Almighty for sustaining us with a strong and living faith in these difficult and trying times. We also thank the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for declaring the year 2021 as the ‘Year of St. Joseph’ which has been a period of grace, rich with blessings and renewal not only for Christian husbands and fathers, but also for the institution of marriage and the family. We have experienced greater signs of forgiveness and love, giving strength and hope to many families in our Archdiocese. For more coordinated missionary drive and harmonious pastoral strategy in the Archdiocese, Rev Fr. Francis Kale was appointed as Vicar for Pastoral Areas and Rev Fr. Matthias Selemobri, MSP, as Vicar for Religious.
We mourn the passing away of our beloved Monsignor Anthony Onyeso whom the Lord called to Himself on Friday, 19th March, 2021. We pray God to reward his apostolic labours and continue to grant him a peaceful repose. We also commiserate with our priests, religious and laity who have lost their dear ones. May God’s perpetual light continue to shine upon them.
MINISTERIAL AND PASTORAL COLLABORATION
At the heart of collaborative ministry is fraternal solidarity and service. It is a deep spiritual and visible communion realized by those working to spread the Gospel of Christ. Collaborative ministry can be more properly understood in terms of the principle of subsidiarity, delegation of authority, communion, co-responsibility, cooperation, dialogue and service of authority and obedience. Drawing from biblical evidence, missionary activities exercised in collaborative spirit yielded phenomenal results (cf. Lk. 10:17-20; Acts 6:7). We, the people of God in Abuja, belong to different ethnic groups and backgrounds, yet are called to greater family bond because we have, ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all’ (Eph. 4:5-6). We must maximize the gift of faith in us and learn to grow beyond cultural and ethnic barriers that tend to create the walls of division rather than the bridges of love. Our multicultural diversities, unique gifts and talents should make us to be truly one Church-family, and being co-responsible in advancing the cause of God’s kingdom here in the Archdiocese and beyond (cf. Lumen Gentium, 7).
The reality of collaboration is multidimensional and could be practiced at various levels. According to our vocations, there must be collaboration between the Bishops and the priests; collaboration among priests; collaboration between priests and religious; and collaboration between ordained ministers and the lay faithful. The lay faithful are not just an appendage, but active participants in the life and mission of the Church. This is based on the Pauline teaching on the Church as the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-30). The body functions optimally when each part is functioning interdependently. The harmonious synergy of priests, religious and laity will create the needed unity and progress. This brings to mind the African proverb, ‘if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together”.
STATE OF THE NATION
By divine intervention, Africa has been spared from the widely speculated destruction by the coronavirus pandemic that ravaged every continent of the world. However, the pandemic exposed our weak political stamina and fragile economy to more difficult situations that constitute a setback towards effective evangelization and the rapid development of our people. We condemn in totality the violence and relentless attacks by insurgents, bandits, kidnappers and people with criminal and dubious motives across some segments of our country. Insecurity has crippled economic and agricultural activities, forcing the nation to depend on external loans for survival. The root causes of these crises and criminal acts are not unknown to the authorities, but the unhealthy sentiments seem to play out in the handling of the menace with kid gloves. Government and the law enforcement agencies must do all that is necessary to tackle the issue of national insecurity and restore lasting peace.
As we demand the dividends of democracy, we call on government to put into judicious and effective use, the huge amounts being borrowed externally to run the affairs of government and finance projects across the nation. Many of our young people roam the streets with dim hopes for a brighter future. We cannot in Nigeria therefore remain blind to the issues of corrupt governance, unemployment, insecurity, the discontent among the young people and the increasing inability of many to meet the basic necessities of life. Our political leaders should not feverishly dissipate energy in perfecting their costly political strategies while abandoning their social responsibilities to the people. We cannot continue to dream of a better Nigeria and gloss over the serious lacunae in the Electoral Act. It only follows that a good Electoral Act will lay the foundations for a credible election exercise to produce leaders, working for the common good.
40 YEARS OF PASTORAL GROWTH
The Archdiocese has continued to enjoy God’s blessings, particularly, in the area of pastoral growth. Founded as a Missio Sui Iuris on November 6, 1981, with only few parishes, our ecclesiastical jurisdiction has come a long way. This is a fruit of pastoral solicitude and collaboration among the shepherds, the priests, religious, and laity teaming up to do beautiful things for God. In response to pastoral needs and requests by the people of God, more pastoral areas were created. We commend the priests and parishioners who are going the extra mile, even when in some cases, have no church buildings, rectories or land. We renew our appeal to individuals or groups to sponsor a church building or rectory in any of these pastoral areas.
It is hoped that as we mark the 40th anniversary of the jurisdiction of Abuja on November 6, 2021, we could discern new pastoral and spiritual strategies and initiatives to carry the Archdiocese to greater heights, with all of us being involved – children, youths, adults, professionals, religious and the clergy.
PROGRESS REPORTS OF THE ARCHDIOCESAN COMMISSIONS
The various Commissions in our Archdiocese are up and doing. We commend their initiatives and are grateful to them.
Liturgical Commission: The Commission is committed to increasing the awareness of prescribed liturgical guidelines and adaptations approved for use in the Archdiocese. It has also taken to organizing workshops for those who undertake different roles in the liturgy. Thus far, some beneficiary groups include the members of the liturgical commission, Masters of ceremony, Archdiocesan Board of Lectors, Archdiocesan Ministers of Hospitality, and the presbyterium of the Archdiocese. A liturgical booklet is being worked on to serve as a guide (vademecum) in the Archdiocese.
Ecumenism Commission: The commission was able to mobilize Catholics from deaneries and sodalities to participate at various levels of ecumenical activities within the Federal Capital Territory. There is need for many more Catholics to show more active participation and cooperation. We congratulate Sir Jude Nnam and Mr. Chike Egolum who were elected Choirmaster and Director of the FCT CAN Mass Choir and Chairman of FCT Youth Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (YOWICAN) respectively. Participation in the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and other CAN activities in the FCT is very much encouraged.
Inter-religious Dialogue Commission: In dialogue with people of other faiths, this commission has participated in common activities to foster cooperation and harmony. The commission has engaged in a dialogue of life with the Muslim brethren and collaborated with the UFUK Dialogue group and the Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation.
At the grassroots, there have been courtesy visits and solidarity visits to some Muslim communities during their feasts and breaking of the Ramadan fast.
Pastoral and New Evangelization: Under the direction of the Archbishop, the commission prepared a review document of the COVID-19 guidelines and protocols. In collaboration with the Catholic Men Organization (CMO), the commission successfully organized the Archdiocesan activities to mark the Year of St. Joseph. There is need for more active participation, feedback mechanism, input and contributions from parishes and groups on possible areas of collaboration with the commission.
Justice, Development and Peace (Caritas) Commission: This commission has been able to raise funds through the annual Lenten campaign and other means, to help people in need, thanks to the generosity of parishioners through their Lenten boxes and various Lenten collections. The commission is engaged with widows, prisoners, internally displaced people, and provides assistance to communities with social services and victims of violent conflict without discrimination. Some internally displaced people from the Boko Haram ravaged areas who have sought refuge within our jurisdiction have consistently benefited from the generosity of the Church through this commission. The youths will be given a special attention in the face of unfortunate unemployment in the country.
Family and Human Life Commission: The commission strives in its responsibility for the pastoral care of the family and advocacy for the support and protection of human life. It has been able to create greater awareness through the celebration of the Holy Family Sunday, the maiden World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, and the 2021 Family Week.
Education Commission: The education commission is presently preparing a policy document to harmonize all Catholic educational activities within the Archdiocese. Given the present statistics, there is need for support to establish Archdiocesan owned schools in needy settlements across the Archdiocese. The commission has successfully obtained an exemption from tenement rate and some other payments from our schools in the Municipal Area Council. It is hoped that same exemptions will be obtained for Catholic schools in other Area Councils. The older schools in the Archdiocese should help by contributing funds to support the Archdiocese to establish schools in rural and marginalized areas.
Youth Commission: The commission coordinates the activities of all the youth groups in our Archdiocese, and we congratulate the members of the Youth Commission for successfully organizing the maiden Archdiocesan Youth Day on Saturday, 7th August, 2021. The commission has organized a number of activities to animate the children and youth. A draft manual for the formation of children has been produced. There is need for greater awareness and more active participation of the teaming population of our catholic youths and children. Monthly Youth Masses in all Parishes, Pastoral Areas and Chaplaincies are encouraged.
Catechetical Commission: The catechetical commission, saddled with the responsibility of transmitting the faith, has successfully organized an annual seminar, a refresher course and Lenten retreat for all Catechists of the Archdiocese. To harmonize Catechism instruction, the commission has completed a draft catechism curriculum for the first year towards the implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) in the Archdiocese. We appeal to Parishes, Pastoral Areas and Chaplaincies to scout for and identify more volunteers to be recruited for training as Catechists and Catechism teachers.
Communications Commission: The Communications Commission overseas the Good Shepherd Newspaper, Catholic Television, Information Communication Technology (ICT) Unit and Studio Veritas which produces “A Light to the Nation” programme on radio. All these instruments are employed by the Communications Commission to aid in enhancing evangelization and keeping thousands of faithful constantly informed about the activities and progress of the Archdiocese. The commission successfully hosted activities to mark the World Communications Day. We continue to solicit for support to sustain and improve the media outfit of the Archdiocese.
Health Commission: The health commission is saddled with the responsibility of carrying on with the healing ministry of Jesus Christ through its provision of preventive and curative healthcare services in our Archdiocese. In collaboration with the Catholic Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (ACMPN), Guild of Catholic Nurses, CARITAS, Parishes and the Catholic Television, the commission has been able to organize medical outreach programs, implement COVID-19 preventive measures and health education interventions across the Archdiocese. We urge those who need medical attention to patronize our hospitals, clinics and indeed all healthcare centres.
i. We urge all Catholics to intensify prayers for a greater sense of collaboration and bonding as a family of God. No individual priests, religious congregations, church societies, etc are to work in isolation but in collaboration. Catholics must also continue to pray for a more peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.
ii. Drawing from the teaching of the Holy Father, Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, we call on all priests, religious and laity to move away from the culture of exclusion towards a culture of encounter to foster a true spirit of collaboration and common witnessing. This is a call for proper integration into the missionary life of the Archdiocese and being conversant with her pastoral policies, regulations and guidelines.
iii. Pastoral collaboration is fostered by accountability of persons, apostolates and properties. We encourage deaneries, parishes, pastoral areas, apostolates and sodalities within our jurisdiction to give full cooperation to the various segments of the Archdiocese in this regard.
iv. Given pastoral realities, there is need to draw up or review the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Archdiocese and Religious Congregations, missionaries and other pastoral workers in the Archdiocese.
v. Even though not materially equipped to cater for all the social welfare and basic needs of the poor and needy, the Church will continue to do her best for them. We renew our call on the Government to partner with the Church and other credible faith-based organizations as is done elsewhere to consolidate efforts in favour of the poor, unemployed, and young people.
vi. The initiatives of the Archdiocesan Commissions are noble and commendable. We solicit the cooperation of all priests, religious and the laity in a unified approach to create a significant impact that can be felt within the FCT city centre and its peripheries.
vii. We appeal to all parishes, pastoral areas, chaplaincies and institutions within the Archdiocese to key into the vision of the General Assembly, our annual moment for prayerful reflections and interactions.
viii. With the suggestions of the Archdiocesan economic team, parishes should consider the establishment of small business investments for greater self-reliance.
ix. We should all be involved in supporting the new Pastoral Areas to enable them transform into parishes soon.
As we continue to pray and work together for greater cohesion and collaboration according the prayer of Jesus, that ‘they may all be one’ (Jn. 17:21), let us properly dispose ourselves to the workings of the Spirit within us.
We commend our Archdiocese in all her ministerial and pastoral endeavors to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph her spouse, that our missionary tasks may yield an abundance of spiritual, social and pastoral fruits.