THANK YOU MOST SINCERELY CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF JOS!!!
As I celebrated Mass this morning in Jos, 3rd April, 2020 and thanked God for all those who helped me in my pastoral ministry, I prayed for you all in the Archdiocese of Jos and beyond.
As I entered the car from Jos to Abuja with the kind permission and the escort of security officials (considering the lock-down in Abuja due to coronavirus), having successfully handed over to my successor after almost twenty years of episcopal ministry in Jos, I promised that you will always be prayed for and warmly thought of. While packing my books, I found a file containing the speech I gave after my installation as the Archbishop of Jos on the 22nd of June, 2000:
I give thanks to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merciful Father, the God from whom all help comes (cf 2 Cor. 1:3) for this ceremony today. I deeply appreciate your presence here and your prayers for me, the clergy, the Religious and the Laity of the Archdiocese of Jos.
I thank the Holy Father, Pope John Paull II, who has appointed me to this position of service in the Archdiocese of Jos, even though I feel grossly inadequate to be entrusted with the office.
When the Apostolic Nuncio in Nigeria, His Excellency, Archbishop Osbaldo Padila, told me on the eve of Passion Sunday that I was appointed as the new Archbishop of Jos, I struggled a lot to come to terms with the meaning of the appointment. The Passion Week became for me a real passion. Several questions ran through my mind. Is it really I that the Holy Father has appointed? Is there no mix-up in names? Having been only five years a Bishop in a new diocese, is it really time to move elsewhere? Do I have the charisma, the intelligence and even the physical stature of the Late Archbishop Gabriel Gonsum Ganaka who was not only a highly respected Bishop in Nigeria but was an international ecclesiastical guru? Many days of agonizing over my appointment brought me to the words spoken by the Lord to St. Paul in 2 Cor. 12:9 “my grace is all you need for my power is greatest when you are weak”. With this scriptural assurance of the Lord’s grace and your prayerful support demonstrated here today, I feel strong enough to say like Prophet Isaiah, “Lord here I am, send me” (cf. Is. 6:8).
I wish to thank the Apostolic Nuncio in Nigeria for the very gentle manner in which he gave me the news of my appointment, I thank him for presiding over this ceremony today and for his assurance of prayers and support for my new mission.
It is my earnest prayer and hope that all of us Catholics in Jos Archdiocese will work together as a united family. I beg for the fullest cooperation of all the Clergy, the Religious and the Laity. I will count too on the support of my brother Bishops in Jos Ecclesiastical Province and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria who are present here in good numbers.
It is only fitting that I should begin my work in this Archdiocese with the installation ceremony which is a spiritual function. This in clear terms indicates the direction and orientation of my apostolate in the Archdiocese. I see myself as a spiritual father, called to follow in the footsteps of Christ the Good Shepherd, to serve the flock here. I therefore appeal to all of us in the Archdiocese of Jos to work harder towards building a Church that is a home to all. Today, a good number of Nigerians prefer to identify themselves only with either their ethnic group or clan or families. The concept of the common good is eroding very fast. Nearly everything is reduced to tribal politics. Sadly, this attitude is infiltrating the Church. If there is one thing that I personally hate, abhor, detest, despise and reject, it is tribalism and whipping up tribal sentiments. As a Church, we must see ourselves as a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. In the body of Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile and so we must give each other the right hand of fellowship to build our Archdiocese to the glory of God. Where we allow the Holy Spirit to be our only guide, the fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self control (cf Gal 5:22). But where we allow worldly considerations to take over, the fruits will be anger, hatred, jealousy, ambition and division (cf Gal 5:20). May the Lord spare us from all these vices.
When and where someone feels strongly against a pastoral plan or decision, dialogue is the best option or at least he or she should seek correct information about the matter. Confrontation, rumours, gossips, damaging remarks are only capable of generating tension and animosity among the people of God. May the Lord keep us all united in His Love and service. May our Mother Mary intercede for us.
I wish to thank Mons. Emmanuel Udeh and his collaborators for piloting the affairs of the Archdiocese to this day. Having worked so hard, Monsignor Udeh has asked for a holiday and a sabbatical. He rightly deserves this and so he will begin his holidays and sabbatical. To enable me settle down properly, I have requested Rev. Fr. Jeremaiah O’Connell, S.M.A, to serve as Vicar General and Financial Admibistrator of the Archdiocese until the end of this year. He has kindly accepted these interim appointments. The body of consultors will soon be constituted. May I say that appointments or changes will only be done in so far as they can contribute to the overall pastoral good of the Archdiocese and I hope that these will always be received in the correct spirit.
I wish to thank most sincerely, you individuals and groups who have worked very hard within so short a time to prepare this ceremony. This meant a lot of sacrifices on your part. May the Lord bless your efforts.
As you who came travel back to your respective destinations, may the good Lord grant all of you His travelling mercies. I will be travelling to Rome for the reception of the Pallium from the Holy Father on the 29th June. A few people from Jos and Jalingo will come with me. Please pray for our safe journey.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit remain with us now and forever.