The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri is a suffering church – Fr John Bakeni

The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri is a suffering church – Fr John Bakeni

… With over 90,000 Catholics displaced from Gwoza, Pulka and Madagala axis
…About 5,000 Catholics killed, lost about 22 rectories where the priests live
… Lost dioceses especially in the northern part of Adamawa where the campaign is every intense and northern Borno
… Lost about 17 schools, 4 clinics, and three convents

Fr John Bakeni

Photo: Fr John Bakeni, the secretary of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri and the Humanitarian Director of Internally Displaced Catholics in Maiduguri.

The Catholic Church in Northeast Nigeria has been facing wanton persecution and suffering in the face of the Boko Haram insurgency. Thousands of Catholics have been killed; many priests and religious have been displaced, including hundreds of local parishes, convent, rectories, dioceses and seminary schools destroyed. Recently, Nigerian Catholic Reporter’s ace writer, Festus Iyorah met with Fr John Bakeni, the secretary of the Maiduguri Catholic Diocese and the Humanitarian Director of Internally Displaced Catholics in Maiduguri. FrBakeni discussed the depth of Catholics faith despite persecution and how the universalchurch, Catholic agencies, and diocesess across Nigeria have been assisting the Diocese of Maiduguri.

How has the diocese of Maiduguri been affected by the conflict?

The Catholic diocese of Maiduguri has had its own share of the destruction of the whole campaign of the Boko Haram. Let me take you back a bit—theChristians are a minority in Borno State, more so northern Nigeria. There are challenges Christians have been living with before the coming of this insurgency. These are some challenges Christians have learnt to live with. The campaign of the insurgents accelerated and gave a pronounced level of destruction and suffering the diocese have been facing. The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri comprises of the whole of Borno State, Yobe and some part of Adamawa. It is the largest in terms of land mass. But in terms of population we have about 300,000 Catholics. Now, we cannot keep the record. At some point we have over 90,000 Catholics who were displaced from Gwoza, Pulka and Madagala axis including some parts of catholic diocese. We have been affected in terms of physical destruction. We have lost quite a number of churches and people. We lost about 5,000 Catholics, about 22 rectories where the priests live. We lost over 200 dioceses especially in the northern part of Adamawa where the campaign is every intense and northern Borno. We lost about 17 schools, 4 clinics, three convents. These are some of the records we have.

Is this why you call the victims lost to the attack Maiduguri Martyrs?

Yes, it’s deliberate because the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri is a suffering church. It’s a persecuted church. Given what we have been going through a lot of Christians have been killed, they are about 5,000 Catholics killed; some of them died in the bush in the process of running and nobody can account for them. These are some of the experiences we have and people try to place a historical timeline that it started in 2009 but before 2009 we’ve been having experiences of churches being burnt. For instance, in February 2006 one of us, Rev FrMicheal was murdered in cold blood by some Muslims hoodlums. In fact they were coordinated attacks that same day. Many churches were burnt. We had another incident where the Bishop’s house was even burnt too.   Before this whole crisis came to limelight all these were going on but people have not been able to classify them.

How is the diocese of Maiduguri reacting to the conflict?

Some internally displaced persons lives in official IDP camps of about 1.8 million and but 70 per cent of these IDPs live in host communities; they are not in official government camps. And that was the situation of our Catholics too. So we established a new camp for Catholics displaced by the crisis. They’re just in our new secretariat which is located in a town in Maiduguri with about 500 families living in the camp. At some point here in the cathedral at the beginning of the crisis we were distributing food to IDPs irrespective of their religious affiliations. So far we have about 70,000 Catholics displaced in our care. Incidentally most of the Christians find it difficult to live in the Muslim camps because of discrimination so they stay in our camp instead.

What is the Catholic Church doing to see to their welfare?

Well, I can tell you because I have been involved personally. The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri has spent a lot on displaced persons. As I speak to you now, within the last three years we have spent over aN150million on displaced persons. Incidentally when distributing relief materials we do not discriminate. We pay for medical bills. Every month we also pay for medical bills. We supplied them food and other relief items. We also have a very large group of displaced persons in Yola and thanks to the Catholic Bishop of Yolawho really did very well in providing for them. As I speak to you in terms of aid or relief materials we receive very little or nothing from the government or even from the internationalagencies involved. So all this spending is from the diocese coffers. And thanks to some church agencies that assisted us and then some because at some stage the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri was declared an emergency diocese by the Catholic conference Bishops of Nigeria. So, that necessarily meant that dioceses were obliged to contribute towards this diocese. Many of them did and most of those resources went into catering for the displaced persons. So we are trying to take care of the displaced persons not just Catholics. It may surprise you that the Catholic Church was the first agency to take relief materials to Muslim camps when these Muslims were displaced, so we have tried to do what we can do within the limits of our resource.

What can you say about the level of faith Catholics here have exhibited despite the fact that they’ve been hit by the crisis and persecution?

What we have seen in our Catholics which I think it’s the only gift we have to the universal church is the resilience and the depth of their faith in the midst of this crisis. I have testimonies of many who were fortunate to have escaped from the camps under the threat of conversion but refused to convert. In fact this whole experience has purified the faith of our people. We have about 11 Catholic parishes within Maiduguri. If you go there they are always filled to the brim with parishioners in every mass. Even when there is a bomb explosion you will find Catholics going to the church; they are never deterred from even coming for church activities. So that is the kind of resilience and faith that people have really put up—theywere never discouraged. In fact all I can say is that their faith has been tested and proven. What we are going through here is for the purification of the mother church. It is in such moment that the church is defined.

Photo: Internally displaced catholics praying rosary at proposed catholic secretariat turned IDP camp for displaced catholics in Maiduguri

What is the universal church, Nigerian dioceses and Catholic agencies doing to support the church in Maiduguri?

With every sense of gratitude, agencies like Missio​, German based Catholic charity, Aidto the Church in Need,Misserio, Caritas and Catholic relief service have done a lot but our​ backbone have been Aid the church in need and Missio. Thanks to the Nigerian bishops, we have also received support from the dioceses across Nigeria, especially Lagos Archdiocese and Enugu diocese.

“Empowered through the intercession of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, and in partnership with the Holy Spirit, we began an explosive Adoration Ministry” – Rev. Fr. Lawrence Eze

“Empowered through the intercession of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, and in partnership with the Holy Spirit, we began an explosive Adoration Ministry” – Rev. Fr. Lawrence Eze

IN THIS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, THE FIRST PARISH PRIEST OF OUR LADY OF THE HOLY ROSARY CATHOLIC CHURCH ARIDA, THE FOUNDER OF ADORATION FAMILY LAGOS, MULTI TALENTED REV. FR. DR. LAWRENCE EZE, SPEAKS HOW IT ALL STARTED … HIS EXPERIENCES. EXCERPTS:

Dear Fr. We know you as Rev. Fr. Dr. Lawrence Eze, but for the benefit of our numerous readers who may not know you, can we know you more, your family background,etc.?

This could also mean, a kind of biography … Okay, my name, you already know, Rev. Fr. Dr. Lawrence Eze. Born 5th September, 1973 of fore most educationists: Remy Eze and Lucy Eze (nee Obilor), Ordained a priest 2003 by His Lordship, Most Rev. Dr. A.E. Ilonu of Okigwe Diocese. Hails from Ehime Mbano L.G.A, Imo State. The schools I attended are: Isiorie Primary School Umuezeala Owerre Ehime, Boys Secondary School Umualumaku Umuihim Ehime Mbano, St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary Ihitte, St. Peter’s Seminary Okigwe, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Ehime, Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary Owerri and concluded with three Bachelor Degrees, in Philosophy (B.Phil), Theology (B.D) from Pontifical Urban University Rome and Bachelors Degree in Religious Studies (BA), Imo State University Owerri. Others are: Masters of Arts Degree (M.A) Religious Ethics, and Ph.D, Religious Ethics in-view, Imo State University Owerri. Award of Doctor of Divinity (D.D) by Abundant Grace University of Theology Austin Texas U.S.A, L.L.B. LAW (Hons.) Civil Law, from the National Open University of Nigeria, P.G.D. Education NTI, Kaduna. Fellow EWTN USA. And has authored so many books and so manyvideo productions. The Spiritual Director Adoration Family, Victorious Family Okigwe Diocese. While on academic research, presently, the Parish Priest of St. Charles Catholic Church Umunumo, Ehime Mbano L.G.A.

Though, as a Priest where you work is not a matter of choice. A Priest must be ready to work within the geographical jurisdiction of his incardination. As Priests we submit to the directives of the Bishop who knows best where our services are needed most within the Church. Inconveniencing as it was, to tidy up to move as a young missionary Priest to the Archdioceseof Lagos, immediately after my ordination, I had no objections but to obey my Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Anthony Ilonu of blessed memory. Remember Obedience is the greatest of the three Evangelical Vows, others being Poverty and Chastity. And thanks to His Eminence Anthony Cardinal Okogie, who welcomed us with all the fatherly care and Christian love. I worked firstly as the Assistant Priest of S.S. Joachim and Anna Marian, later as the Parish Priest of the following Parishes: St. Michael’s Parish Lafiaji Lagos Island, the Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Ogba Ikeja, and next was the newly created parish which has the same name with Ogba Parish – Holy Rosary Arida, not very much known earlier by us and too many people. Now let us begin the story!

How did you feel when you were posted to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church as the First Parish Priest, coming from a bigger Parish?

Firstly, I don’t believe in anything like bigger parish, because the anointing makes a place big and great. If you are anointed in the Spirit, every opportunity is to make a place, or people great. Moreover, I like facing challenges forcefully and frontally too. My success in life is attributed to God’s grace and sheer will-power to face challenges. I was so delighted to start from scratch, and my joy was in the love of Mother Mary and her maternal care, the newly created Parish has the same name “Our Lady of the Holy Rosary” from Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Ogba Ikeja to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Arida. I don’t want to rule out the fact that every new beginning has its problems and challenges, thanks to God’s words that says “I will be with you … as I was with Moses…”

During your stay in the Parish can you share your experiences with us.

Empowered through the intercession of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, and in partnership with the Holy Spirit, we began an explosive Adoration Ministry. Thus, an adoration ground was opened which laid the spiritual foundation of this great parish, thanks to the members of the Adoration family and the good members of the C.C.R.N of our Parish. Suddenly, Holy Rosary became a spiritual pilgrimage centre for all. We made a lot of conversions and so, Holy Rosary Arida became so spirit filled that made many members of other religious sets and other Christian denominations to return to the Catholic faith. We started with a very few worshipers (members) in an ugly batcher, but in a couple of months we started counting and recording thousands of worshipers.A very unprecedented growth, both spiritually and physically was recorded. And so, my experiences are tripod experiences namely: Spiritual, Pastoral and Developmental experiences.

Spiritually, we discovered some spiritual infestations of demonic forces in various manifestations; we victoriously over powered them in Christ Jesus, through prayers of Adoration and the Mercy of God. Thus Holy Rosary Arida became a Parish built on a strong Christian Faith and Prayer.

The evidence of the Spiritual Foundation of Holy Rosary Arida is visible in its rapid structural development and the number of worshipers who joined us every day at the Mass and other Spiritual activities.

Developmentally, as you already know very well, within a space of one year plus, we not only completed the Reverend Father’s House, donated a set of Lister generator, but also finished the newly acquired uncompleted school building, where we presently have the Maryhome Schools, started one of the biggest and finest Church (complex) buildings in the Lagos Archdiocese, which was rapidly moving towards its decking completion, before I was recalled to my home Diocese for greater assignments, in and outside the Diocese. Thanks to the present Archbishop of Lagos who refused and rejected my request for incardination here in Lagos.

I like to say pastorally, Holy Rosary though a very young Parish was so exemplary to many neighbouring Parishes and their Priests. You will also recall that I always devote a greater part of my Pastoral work to helping those who fall victim to the devil through deliverance prayers. Among other things, helping the younger ones to find their vocations in life, especially those who wish to become Priests and helping the less privileged who came knocking at our Church doors every day for help,were too many … I believe not only in Structural Development, but also in the Integral Development  of the Human Person.

Fr., as the first Parish Priest that started the foundation of the Church Holy Rosary Arida, how do you feel about its dedication today?

As the first Parish Priest of Holy Rosary Arida, and the one who started the Foundation of the Church Holy Rosary Arida, I am very happy about its Church Dedication because it takes a visionary leader to start this gigantic church edifice; it is my mission, my vision, and my dream! Besides,who would not be happy that the good seed he/she planted has now grown into a mighty tree, like the mustard seed of the Bible? I am happy that I started a Parish just like the early Irish Priests and Missionaries that came to Nigeria. This Church structure in its gigantic nature, is a legacy of selfless service to God and to the Church.

To God be the Glory! on this note, I want to thank God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for making me His Priest and for using  me this far. And to congratulate the present Parish Priest Fr. Usman, for completing this wonderful edifice. I will not forget the support of Barr. Emeka Maduabuchi (KSM); who was the first Vice Chairman of this church, and Chief Emma Ibegbu, the first C.M.O Chairman and the leader of C.M.O. for their great support at those difficult times. Special thanks to Chief Dr. (Lord Mayor) O.C. Godson, who spent a lot of his time and resources in the building of this Church. With him are men and women of good will. Thanks to Okey Emeribe for really doing the workings. May God bless all the members of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Arida, the Adoration Family, Victorious Family.

Fr. what words of advice do you have for your beloved Parishioners?

My words of advice are words of Faith, Love and Holiness of life as you begin to use this dedicated Church. In the words of the Psalmist: “who has the right to go up the Lord’s hills? Who may enter His Holy temple? Who are pure in heart and thought, who do not worship idols or make false promises. The Lord will bless them and save them. God will declare them innocent. Such are the people who come to God. Who come into the presence of the God of Jacob” (Psalm 24:3-6).

It means we must be sincere Christians, sincere with Our God and sincere with our neighbours. We must aspire everyday as we use this Church to be holy onto God. And to all I say: Stop Hating People! Learn to love and appreciate others who are not from your own tribe. We must as good human begins appreciate people who help or helped us in any way in life. Appreciate the good things others do, it attracts blessings. You must thank people when they have done well. The culture of appreciation, not “the use and dump” culture…

Take note: whatever we are doing as Children of God, we must try and make Heaven at last. May we not reduce our Christian faith and our universalistic philosophy of our Christian brotherhood, taught by the Word of God and our Catholic Doctrine, into ethnic content, tribal content, leading us (Church leaders and followers) to loss of Christian spirituality and a gain of hell fire. Note: these sentiments tribalor ethnic are dangerously affecting the Nigerian Church today, and may prevent us from asking the right questions, so as to get the right answers. This can never produce the best or give excellence and merit a chance; rather they become factors that breed mediocrity and divisions, a good chance for the mediocre to be a leader.

My dear Parishioners, no man grows by destroying others or the good works of his fellow man and no Christian will succeed without the love of his or her neighbor. Learn to forgive others.

Hatred for others because of anything at all, does not make you a Child of God. And the idea of using others as a means to an end will only provoke God’s anger. Try to see the good qualities in others and encourage them. Help, not hinder. “Do unto others as you wish to be done unto you” the precepts of fairness and equity will override the wickedness in the world today especially in Nigeria, where the Christians are killed every moment by “unknown gun men”, in a country we have security men, security system and a government. As a good Parishioner, be your brother’s keeper, protect your Catholic/Christian faith, through regular Daily Masses. Keep all the Christian doctrines that we know. There is nothing new that has not been said so far. But then, we try to do these things well now. That is it.

Thank you and God bless you.

Interview with Msgr Gabriel Osu: Can a Christian pay his or her tithe in another Church & Can men of God be trusted with confidential issues?

Interview with Msgr Gabriel Osu: Can a Christian pay his or her tithe in another Church & Can men of God be trusted with confidential issues?

Speaking strictly as a Catholic Priest, we encourage the people of God to support their parish and the Church, using their time, treasure and talents.  See 2nd Corinthians 8 and 9.

The faithful have a primary responsibility to support the local Catholic community to which the Lord has called them. Such donations (like tithes) are used to support the priests, pay workers salaries, construct relevant structures and embark on charity and missionary activities, within and outside their immediate dioceses. However, that does not mean that a Catholic is forbidden from donating to other worthy courses outside of the Church where expedient. It is a matter of one’s conscience and not a matter of compulsion.

The Roman Catholic Church, being the Mother Church, does not discriminate. Her doors of mercy and compassion are open to all of God’s children. This is why she operates the highest number of charity based-endeavors across the world.

Can men of God be trusted with confidential issues?

Again, I will only respond as a Catholic Priest. By virtue of our training and calling as Priests, we are disposed to hearing all forms of confidential issues and confessions from the faithful. Confessions, for instance, is a very private affair. It is therefore forbidden for a priest to disclose information — under any circumstances — obtained in the form of religious confession. It is called “the sacred seal of confession.” Any priest who breaks such seal would attract the wrath of the Church’s hierarchy. It is even more sacred than the relationship between a Doctor and his patient or a Lawyer and a client.http://catholicherald.com.ng.

How likely is someone to sexually harass others? This scale determines

How likely is someone to sexually harass others? This scale determines

The stories of sexual assault and harassment that emerged last year seemed to touch every industry — Hollywood, hotels, restaurants, politics and news organizations, including this one. Many of those stories focused on what happened, but most didn’t or couldn’t get to the question of why: Why do some people, mainly men, sexually harass their colleagues?

Psychologist John Pryor has been thinking about this for more than three decades, and he has created a test in an effort to measure a person’s tendency to harass someone. It’s called the “Likelihood to Sexually Harass Scale.”

Pryor, who is a professor at Illinois State University, created the scale in the 1980s, a time when many researchers were looking at rape.

“There was a scale that was developed then to measure the likelihood that people would rape if they thought they could get away with it,” he says. “So that inspired me to think about sexual harassment.”

Pryor spoke with NPR’s Michel Martin about his research and his thoughts on the national conversation about harassment and the #MeToo movement.

Interview Highlights

On what the scale looks at and how he created it

Now, the “Likelihood to Sexually Harass Scale” focuses only on one kind of sexual harassment, something that researchers used to call sexual coercion – a quid pro quo situation where someone is offering a bribe or maybe threatening a punishment for sexual cooperation. So I designed the “Likelihood to Sexually Harass Scale” using some common stereotypes about men in power situations. So I asked college men to imagine that they had such a job, and one of the things that let me know I was on to something when I first started working on this was that there was a high level of consistency. Men who would say that they would perform this act in one situation were highly likely to say they would do it in another situation.

On his reaction to the #MeToo moment

I’m not surprised at all that many women across all different kinds of walks of life are coming forth to say this has happened to them, because we know that the majority of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Admitting that you are a target or a victim of sexual harassment is somewhat of a stigma, but when you start to see people coming forth in public, one of the things you start to do is remove some of the stigma. When women hear other women say, “Oh this happened to me,” they think, “Yeah, it happened to me” and they’re less likely to think that they’re going to be treated negatively for coming forth and saying it happened to them.

On if there are specific characteristics harassers share

There are a series of beliefs that people have about sexual harassment that represent kind of a psychological underpinning — basically justifications for the behavior. So beliefs like women asking for it or women making false complaints. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve been interviewed by who ask me,”What about the false complaints?” Well, there are not many false complaints. There are not many complaints period. We can reduce the willingness of men to engage in sexual coercive sexual harassment by inducing them to think long and hard about perspectives of women.

NPR’s Isabel Dobrin produced this story for the Web. Adhiti Bandlamudi, NPR Kroc Fellow, produced for it for radio.www.npr.org

Why I Have Special Love For The Media – Josephine Olagunju, SHCJ, Executive Director, Lumen Christi

Why I Have Special Love For The Media – Josephine Olagunju, SHCJ, Executive Director, Lumen Christi

Rev. sister Josephine olagunju, SHCJ is a nun with a difference. Like Mother Anjelica of EWTN who had a vision of assuring the gospel is brought to every home via technology, she is very passionate about  the media, in this interview, she takes us back to her humble beginning, her journey to the convent and living each day for Christ.

Excerpts!

Early years

Some 63 years ago, I was born into the family of Prince Michael Bolarinwa Olagunju of Offa Kwara State and Princess Maria Arinola Olagunju (nee Oladejo of the royal families of Ire and Oyo). My early days were spent in Mushin, Lagos, until I left for Jos after my Ordinary National Diploma studies.

 What was it like growing up?

Growing up in Mushin was an interesting experience that I recall with gratitude to God.  I had a loving father who was always with us, regaling us with moonlight stories that usually make a child’s eyes open wide sometimes with wonder, other times with awe or fear. We lived on Aiyetoro Road, seven minutes walk from Igbobi area of Ikorodu Road, in a typical Yoruba compound with face-me-I-face-you buildings. Interestingly enough we were the only Christian and Catholic with six Muslim families. Those were the days when religion was sacred to the holder, with no discrimination whatsoever. I guess we shared a common destiny of limited resources and depended on one another for support – the solidarity of the poor!

Outstanding for me were the joys of going to school, playing table tennis with other kids (mainly boys, I guess because I have four brothers – my sister Christy was still small and my brother Peter was yet to be added to the number of siblings). I also remember vividly the neighbourhood search for scarce water where those with wells made pretty pennies from selling to those without. But of course I cannot forget my going to daily masses, the distance to which was the duration of five decades of the rosary. The Church in those days was the centre of our lives, more so for me as I joined the Legion of Mary, going for Legion duties such as Saturday polishing of holy vessels before graduating to house-to-house visitations. The rest of the time was occupied with evening lessons to learn typing and shorthand and/or to read books I procured from my school library (I enjoyed being the school librarian and winning Shakespeare’s Complete Works for my relatively good English!

Schools Attended

Primary school days were spent at St. Michael’s, Mushin which I left after Pry 5 in my hurry to go to Secondary school at Pope Pius XII, Ilasamaja, also in Mushin though some 40 minutes walk from home. I went on to Yaba College of Technology for my Ordinary National Diploma in Secretarial Studies. The next stage was after I became a Reverend Sister. I was sent to the Pontifical Institute Regina Mundi – affiliated to the Gregorian University for philosophical and theological studies. I finished up in Nigeria at the University of Ilorin where I did a Ph.D. in Peace and Development Studies.

formative years as a catholic

I was born and grew up in a Catholic family. Baptized at age two weeks, first holy communion followed at about age seven and confirmation at about age 12. (You can see that dates were not as important as the memory of these joyful experiences!) Every sacrament was preceded by thorough preparations. The only missing preparation was to tell me I should show my confirmation name to the officiating Archbishop, not my baptismal name. The result was to be confirmed with Josephine instead of Cecilia!  Important was going to Mass regularly, being among the Children of Mary and throwing shredded leaves before the blessed sacrament during processions, hanging above all around the Church. We just drank in the faith, albeit in Latin, the sense of mystery and holiness carrying us along on the wings of awe. I further had the opportunity to deepen my faith when I offered voluntary typing services to the St. Michael’s (now Regina Mundi) parish. So I not only typed the bulletins; I was blessed by having a priest who got me to write the reflection for some of the Sundays! That of course deepened my faith enormously as I got engaged earlier on to search for the deeper meaning behind the biblical words. I am grateful to the then Fr. Alapini for his faith in me. His and Msgr. Aniagwu’s ordinations strengthened my faith further. Of course, these ecclesial occasions were the cream over that sense of belonging with a godmother whose brother was late Msgr. Julius Oni! Of course my maternal grandparents (founding pillars of Christ the King Church, Odo-Ona, Ibadan) were exemplary models of Catholic faith; I drank deeply from my faith-rich parents and grandmother.

 Reasons for becoming a Nun

Becoming a nun came upon me like a thief in the night because I was not prepared when I was first asked by Fr. Martin Costello, SMA what I really wanted to do with my life! The answer just popped out of my mouth like “Of course, a Sister!” it was only with hindsight that I recalled Sr. Miriam Patrick, IHM who was my class teacher for a year, (with Sr. Coronata Ilechukwu, IHM as principal). The seed was sown as love. At that time, Sr. Miriam Patrick used the library for office. As school librarian I regularly went in there. My discretion at not disturbing her did not stop her from sharing her meal with me. Though the Sisters left a year later because of the outbreak of the civil war, I believe her love and gentleness struck a deep cord that the Lord used to tie my heart to Himself. Even when there were family concerns nudging at me, the Lord still won. Of course He allowed me to fulfill what I had considered my obligation – to ensure my brothers whom I had hoped might make it to the priesthood were financially covered at the Minor Seminary, Oke-Are, Ibadan. Of course they had their own minds! 

Parent’s Reaction

I was blessed with parents who gave no opposition whatever. In the words of my mother, “All of my (seven) children are free to become priests and sisters.” So it was support all the way. I am grateful to them even though it meant I was not there to assist them financially.

 Initial Challenges at the Convent

I was first led to join an international congregation – the Daughters of St. Paul; unfortunately they had to leave Nigeria at a time when foreigners didn’t find it easy getting visas. Two and a half years later, I finally joined the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, another international congregation founded in England by an American, Venerable Cornelia Connelly. So the first challenge was to believe I had a vocation when the Pauline Sisters left Nigeria in 1973. As the youngest of the aspirants, I was shaken by the experience. However God stepped in at the appropriate time to confirm my vocation. My second challenge was adjusting to a multi-cultural living. From happily eating my food on my lap to sitting at table with others, to having to strain my ears to understand what the American and European Sisters were saying (I didn’t ask them if I made sense as I spoke English with my Yoruba accent!)  I think my greatest challenge was to do with my free spirit – how be obedient and have to take permission for whatever I am doing or carry out the dictates of another! Of course, grace comes with doing. I was further helped by the Yoruba respect for the elders; it saved me in spite of myself!

Feelings on profession day

I don’t recall any particular feelings. I only knew the Lord wanted me to belong all to Him. Having been privileged to do a thirty-day retreat as a novice, I was just ready to “cast the net into the deep” (Lk. 5:4) with my providential God. 

Profession and Postings

My apostolic experiences varied. After my First Profession in September 1977, I was posted to Bauchi and allowed by my superiors to work in the newly started Bauchi Broadcasting Station. Though I worked as secretary to the Controller, I also had the opportunities to pursue my first love – pastoral communication – by preparing and presenting radio and television programmes.

My next work was in Jos upon my return from studies in 1977 when I was sent to the Centre for Renewal where I had been a pioneer student of the pilot one-year formation programme. I worked there first as the Deputy Director under the Director Sr. Berne Okure, SHCJ. I was at the same time assistant Chaplain at the University of Jos, as well as working with the UNDA-OCIC Jos branch, especially for the production of the magazine The Communicator. I became the substantive Director of the Centre in 1987, a post I held for five years before I was sent on mission to N’Djamena, Chad. There I found myself running a radio and television production Centre for the Archdiocese of N’Djamena and then working as the National Coordinator of Pastoral Communication for the Episcopal Conference of Bishops in Chad. The next ministry there was the launch of a Media Education project, to provide a Catholic alternative to the violence in video club films.

From Chad, I found myself elected to the Society Leadership Team of my congregation – the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. We were popularly known as Holy Child Sisters. I carried out this work for six years before returning to Nigeria after a sabbatical year, and to the Centre for Renewal as a team member for another four years before embarking on my doctoral programme in the Unversity of Ilorin.

I returned to Lagos (which I had left in 1973), to work on the Province Leadership Team of my congregation, and at the same time work at Lumen Christi Television Network.

In every ministry, I found that the saying of our foundress rang true, “God alone”. 

Memorable Experiences

A difficult question! I can only respond that each ministry I was involved in these past 40 years have had their joys and challenges. In every situation I come out with a sense of gratitude for God’s abiding presence. I can only remember each place and many people with fondness, joy and good memories of the support I enjoyed. Of course there were situations of power tussle where individuals might feel more capable than myself! There were occasions of unfairness towards me. Happily, I am blessed with the gift of seeing beyond the individual misdemeanors to the good they have shared with me. This awareness continues to dissipate the challenging moments which though not denied, I gladly accept as pathways to divine grace. God does know how to turn unpleasant experiences to His divine glory because I do hold on tightly to His grace.

 Special Assignment

Perhaps I can cite my times on the Society Leadership Team (1998-2004), and on the African Province Leadership Team (2014-2017) as special assignments as no one sets out to become a leader in her congregation. We were called upon by election and by appointment to be available for internal service. These were times we on the team were taken from among so many qualified others to serve the congregation in these leadership positions. They provided the opportunity to get to know my fellow Sisters in religion and to serve them in an administrative way. It was indeed a privilege and a joy for which I am grateful. As a body, we also can have other responsibilities such as being responsible to promote vocations to our congregation, or working as a formator preparing future members. I hadn’t these privileges except as a contact person for some young women in the eighties some of whom joined us in Jos and are Sisters today. For that occasion, I was glad I had some training in formation.

Love for the Media

The media have always been the love of my life, spurred on by my desire to proclaim Christ, especially through radio broadcasting. As I am first and foremost a religious, I cannot determine what I do at any time; my religious leaders mission me to wherever they think I can be of service. I hasten to say that I began with the parish bulletin. Then my sojourn with the Pauline Sisters exposed me further to the print medium. However, the major inspiration came after my religious formation as a Holy Child Sister: a thirty-day long retreat galvanised the desire to proclaim Christ, even if I did nothing else. My superiors saw this and fulfilled my desire first by sending me to England where I studied at the Catholic Media Centre, then to Rome to do philosophical and theological studies. However, changes in leadership as well as the need to have someone assisting at the Centre for Renewal, Jos led to a return there in 1986. Of course you can bet that I seized every opportunity to produce radio and television programmes for the local stations. It was also the time I introduced Communication Workshop at the Centre; it was meant for those still in religious formation both in the male and female religious orders. This workshop continues till today, as well as the training in Spiritual Direction and retreat giving that was launched in late 1987. These two workshops continue to this day, empowering people in the art of communication and of spiritual growth. Upon completion of my mission on the general leadership, I returned to the same Centre to continue in these and other ministries, always working with other Sisters as a team. I fear I cannot talk about one without talking about the other; both are the two prongs of my religious underpinning expressed in Mark 3:13-14: sitting at the feet of Jesus and being sent by Him.

The Last Five Years, Archbishop Martins Speaks

The Last Five Years, Archbishop Martins Speaks

…To Marks 5th Anniversary Devoid of Much Fun Fare

On Friday 4th August, 2017, the Archbishop of Lagos, His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins will mark the 5th anniversary of his installation as the Archbishop of  Metropolitan See of Lagos.
As is tandem with the prelate’s nature, the event would be devoid of much fun-fare. There would be a 12 noon Thanksgiving Mass at the Holy Cross Cathedral Lagos, followed by a reception/media briefing at the hall.
Below is an exclusive Interview with the Archbishop in the wake of his Anniversary
.

A Retrospective Look at the Past
Well, where has time gone? Five years have flown by so quickly. We have been working from day-to-day and the Lord has been guiding us for all of these days and the people of God have been doing their beat as well. So the question I ask myself is where has time gone? So much have kept us busy, so much have kept us going. Lots have happened in these past five years that you begin to wonder. But the grace of God has kept us going.

Vision for the Archdiocese
When I was appointed Archbishop of Lagos, I least expected it. But then, having been appointed, you have to begin to think what needed to be done. First of all, I had to recognise the fact that the Church is one. The Church has expectations of whoever is Bishop in whatever jurisdiction. Therefore, whatever the Bishop is going to do is what has been set as a goal by the Church. I came in with this mindset.

When I came in here, I had to take time to understand a little bit more about the circumstance of Lagos Archdiocese, having been out of it for a number of years. Therefore, I spent a good part of the first year trying to understand the circumstances, and the people and the issues in the Archdiocese. All that helped me to recognize the fact that first of all evangelisation is a major need in Lagos Archdiocese, as in other dioceses as well.

That was why on the day of my installation I was making it quite clear that to ensure that every single individual in Lagos Archdiocese feels path of the life of the Archdiocese and feels engaged with the Archdiocese would be the first priority in my mind so that everyone would feel a sense of belonging and participate as much as possible in the life of the Archdiocese with the hope that when that happens, evangelization as an activity would grow even much further. There are about three million Catholics in the Lagos state of about twenty million people. So that tells us that evangelization is a major task that we must embark upon. But then of course when the individuals are thoroughly evangelized they become instruments of doing that.

Education is also another area that I thought is necessary to look into, building upon the milestone that has already been reached. And so that was why we set up a department of education in the Archdiocese, with the hope that the department would grow into a facility that would be there to really go into the schools that we have and set the standards and ensure that the standards are kept going. So, these were two main areas that were very strong in my mind.

Creation of New Deaneries and Grass Root Evangelism
We had to create more deaneries in other that the mission can be expanded. Establishment and expansion of the kingdom of God is the major mission of the Church. The kingdom has already been established and needed to be expanded.  And therefore, creating new deaneries was supposed to be a tool by which we can reach to the smallest details and get to all the nooks and crannies of the Archdiocese. It is a tool for evangelization because when you create smaller units, everyone focuses on that to make the work of evangelization spring up better.

Performances of the New Deaneries
It can always be better. But of course a lot has happened within this period of time in those areas. In the first instance, within the past five years we have been able to create about forty quasi parishes and parishes which show that indeed the creation of deaneries had helped in identifying places where we needed to do the expansion work of the kingdom. Within these deaneries as well, we have seen that new stations are springing up from within these parishes and quasi parishes that we have created. So, it certainly has been a fruitful venture.

The creation of deaneries is a function of needs. At this point in time, the needs have not yet been identified as it were. But of course there is an administrative process that you go through in creating deaneries. All of these are part of what will assist us when deaneries need to be created.

Considerations for Creating New Parishes
First of all, the parish is for the people, for their spiritual grow, for ease of worship, for easy access to places of worship. Therefore creating of parishes is based upon the fact that we have adequate number of people in a defined area that will have need for the parish. Also, we look at the ability of the people within that areas to fulfil the obligations of a parish in terms of taking care of the priest and making their own contributions; financial and in other areas into the life of the Archdiocese.

And priests, being people who have sacrificed themselves for the life of the people would not mind even a little inconvenience here and there so that the people would be sacrificed; n the same manner the missionaries came the other day and did the work even though there were no physical structures available as at the time that they came.

Planting of Churches Along Street Corners
As I said, it is not a matter of street or are, but the people of God. When you have people within a given area that are big enough to be a unit, then we try to plant a station in that area. Well, of course it is a good thing if we are able to have a Church in every street. But we, within our own structure, have to a look at some of these other variables in other to decide

Impact of Too Many Churches in the Society
In some sense you find out that some of these church structures are built not necessarily for the spiritual growth of the people but for other purposes. Some are built essentially to make people part with their hard earned money for the benefit of whosoever is in charge. Obviously that has affected the spirituality and the spiritual life of the people who go into those places to support the pastor so that the pastor would support them. However, if people are not leaving according to the demands and the dictates of Christ, it is because, in my own estimation, the people themselves need to imbibe more the teachings of Christ because the teachings are available; they are there; they are perennial.

We teach it, we preach it all the time. But people also allow other factors such as the situation in the society, such as their own peculiar shortfalls to stop them from meeting and living according to the demands of Christ. I am not sure it would be right to say the message of Christ has not been effective. Rather, it is the people themselves that will need to key more into what Christ teaches.

Spiritual Growth in the Archdiocese
In the first instance, spirituality is a function of the relationship between God and the person concerned. Therefore, it is something that is so personal and private that it would be difficult for anyone out there to weigh it either positively or negatively.

However, there are some indices with which we can make some judgement as to whether the spiritual life is growing or not: In the first instance, the participation of the people in the life of the church; the associations that are doing great works within the Church; the people who are supporting one another within their different parishes. These are indices that the church is growing spiritually. And the fact that we have many more parishes being created is also an index that the spiritual lives of the parishes are growing.  People are participating more in the sacraments than ever before. In the past five years, for instance I have celebrated the sacrament of confirmation for multiples of thousands of people in the Archdiocese.

That for me is also an indication of the fact that people’s spiritual life is improving. People are constantly receiving the sacrament. And I think we can also judge from the fact that as it were, there is more engagement of people with their different parishes using the finance councils, the parish councils, the laity council, the human resources management; all of these give us the indication that the spiritual lives of the people are getting better.

However, there are still rooms for improvement because really if we still have so much corruption in our time, we still have so much in-fighting for positions, for power; these show that there are still some more steps that we need to take in our spiritual growth. So one can only encourage our people to ensure that they recognise, or that we all recognise that what we believe is not just of our mind, but should be in our hearts and influence our way of living.

Pass Mark for CMO, CWO and CYON
Well, the CMO has improved in its ability to rally round the men within the Archdiocese. Quite a number of steps have been taken by the executives of the CMO over the years in other to improve on the participation of the CMO as an association within the Church. One would say that certainly they were not the same that they were five years ago.  The same thing applies with the CWO. There is a lot more effort to ensure that there are processes established for doing things such as elections; such as financial reporting; such as being accountable. We are seeing more and more of these. So, for me, there are visible signs of growth in these organizations. The CYON, in my own estimation is also growing; they are getting better. Just as other pious associations like the sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Legion of Mary and Charismatics; we can see lots of growth. But of course there are always rooms for improvement because within the associations you still find people who act in ways that are difficult to understand – people who are constantly fighting one another for reasons that are less than noble. So there are rooms for improvement. In all, I give them a pass mark.

Ensuring Harmony Between Church Organizations and Societies
I have always believed, and indeed it is the position of the Church in Nigeria that the CWO and CMO are umbrella organizations. I think we need to get to a point at which the CWO would operate not as a society but as a council in such a way that it is able to manage each individual organization of women within the archdiocese and bring her under her wings. There has to be a process of management, a structure that, in my own estimation is more robust than it is at present. The present system is capable of giving rise to unhealthy rivalry. I hope that with the years, with time and understanding and discussions, that the structure that is necessary to ensure that there is no rivalry can truly be established. I know that there are some problems with regards to relationships but I also know that they are being managed, at least in our archdiocese. My position is that it can be better if the structures are re-aligned.

On Activities of Illegal Private Prayer Ministries
The ministry under the storm is led by one Anozie who had to be sanctioned. The fact is that when the ministry was brought to my notice, I invited him to have a discussion so that I can understand what exactly he is doing. He came, but he didn’t come alone; he came with a set of people. And that discussion showed me clearly that the man was not in total control of operations in the ministry. There were these other men whom I may call stakeholders. I believe they have distorted the use of the gift that the man had. I gave him time to see whether he would get things right in line with the way the church operates. Rather than doing that, the influences were such that he was going further and further away and laying claim that he is still a Catholic and that the bishop is in agreement with his actions. It was necessary to help him realize that he hadn’t fulfilled what we asked of him. He was supposed to come back and let us have a discussion as to what he was doing. But that didn’t happen. Every time we were supposed to meet he would be far away somewhere and couldn’t come.

This was getting too much out of hand and so it was necessary to act. But the Church is a mother. It doesn’t cast away a child. It does everything possible to put the child back on the right path. And so that was why we gave him a period of six months to see whether there would be a change in attitude. But since that was not forthcoming we had to impose a sanction on him in order that he may come back. Now let me say we didn’t just impose a sanction for sake of stopping the ministry.

It is so that we can express our displeasure at the way that ministry and similar ministries out there are operating. You will know a ministry that is genuine by the fact that it submits itself to the authority of the church. You know it by the fact of the humility of the person that are concerned; you know it by the obedience of the persons that are concerned. But if the persons that are concerned are giving signs that are contrary to these values, then you have a feeling that something is going wrong somewhere.

Then apart from that, if you also see some practices that go on in the ministry, then you know that something is wrong. I had video clip of some of the things that are happening there and it wasn’t Catholic – in the treatment of the Blessed Sacrament for instance.

The Mother Church Harmonizes all Spiritual Gifts
I think whatever anyone is looking for is right here in our church. You have the different associations and structures within the church that takes care of the different sensibilities. If you are an exuberant worshipper, if you are a worshipper full of passion and zeal and you want to demonstrate, the charismatic is there for you; if you are a worshipper that is more restraint, you have associations like the Legion of Mary where you can get the spiritual benefits that you want. And therefore, private ministries such as that often time have other purposes apart from spiritually leading the people.

That is why we cannot accept that anybody can create a private ministry. Either a priest or a lay person, how can you call it a private ministry? It is the ministry of Christ in the church of Christ. It is a misnomer for anybody to even say he is creating a private ministry, particularly if the persons are acting outside of the purview of the Church either in terms of their worship practices or in terms of their relationship not being in obedient to the church. Many of these private ministries are operating in a surreptitious manner, in a clandestine way not known to any authority.

Let them come out and tell us what they are doing and we can guide them accordingly. We accept that there are gifts. God gives people gifts. But these gifts are meant to be used suggest to the direction of the apostles who have responsibility to lead and guide the flock. So I would say all those like Bro Anozie who has the inclination, let them come so that we can give them proper guidance.

On Proliferation of Ultra-Modern Structures in the Archdiocese
Thanks be to God that our people are working well with their priests in order to put up those structures. These structures are not cheap, they do not come easy. It is out of generosity and the feeling of the need to give God the best in terms of the place of worship that these things are going on. I must congratulate our people because in these past five years we have dome about eighteen dedications of churches and it is amazing the type of sacrifices our people make to ensure that the presence of the church is visible in some of these places.

Guidelines for Erection of Church Structures in the Archdiocese
There are some obvious guidelines that determine the erection of structures in the Archdiocese. Firstly, the parish priest, the parish finance council and the parish pastoral council have to discuss the necessity of the project at their own local level. When they have been able to come to an agreement that this is necessary and they have found out how they are going to get it done, they will inform the Archbishop of their desire and he will discuss it with members of his land and building commission who are experts in various areas of building.

They give their opinion and suggestions over it which helps the Archbishop to decide if the project is worthwhile where it is requested for. He might request for some slight modifications. And even when the building starts, there are stages that must be certified by the land and building commission as well as the local building committee such that there is a process that ensures that buildings don’t just spring up but are built according to standards. `

On Church Lands Currently Under Dispute
That there are disputes with regards to lands owed by the church is not peculiar to us. There are land disputes everywhere. Where I came from before here`, there were land disputes arising from different kinds of reasons. What is important is to be able to ensure that in the purchase of a land you follow the due process and ensure that you do due diligence. If these are done, even if people come and try to snatch the land from you, you have all the necessary documents to retain and establish ownership. We have a good stock list of the properties of the Archdiocese.

First Monday of every month, the land and building commission meets; and we meet for sometime up to four hours in order to look at all the lands and buildings and all those things that have to do with physical properties of the Archdiocese.  That has kept on even with the change of leadership. I think it is also good to say thank you to the Governor of the State and to his officials for their disposition towards the Archdiocese of Lagos. Obviously Government and the Church are partners in taking care of the welfare of our people. This kind of relationship is a vital one and we are glad that we can keep such relationship going.

Quest for a Pastoral Centre in the Archdiocese
Let me say that the property that we have at Victoria Island, that is the Lagos Resource centre, is in many ways a pastoral centre also by the fact that is where people go to and are given guidance with regards to knowledge about the faith. There is also a bit of a place for accommodation there. That is a pastoral centre too in its own way even though it does not have that name. But it is fulfilling that role. But of course we can get a bigger one that is located in a more central place. The laity council of the Archdiocese have been given the responsibility of building for the church in Lagos a pastoral centre which will serve the church as well as serve the laity council.

There is a piece of land we gave for that purpose around Ketu axis, although work has not started yet. We hope that this will develop and provide the type of facility that we will need for a bigger number of persons as well as more office spaces, conference centre and all of that. So we hope that will take off soon to fulfil that need. However, we would not just build a centre because it is the fad. We have to first identify the need and the usefulness of it.

Effort to Build a Retirement Home for Aged Priests
Indeed we already have a name for the place. It is going to be called St John Mary Vianney Home in honour of this priest who is a model for all priests. It is going to be a place where elderly òr sick priests can find comfort and good care. It is also going to be a place where priests can go for private recollections or retreats. We also plan that it will be a place that will be so well spread out that the elderly ones can have opportunity to walk around and get good atmosphere.

We hope that there will be a Sisters Convent where female religious who would take care of the elderly priests would be built and may be a parish would develop around there. The plan is still ongoing and it would be located on the road to Augustine University, Epe. In fact the architectural design has been made. The project is on-going. We have this men and women who are very zealous for the church behind it. I am hoping that we can get started soon. It is better to plan well and begin properly. We hope that the process of construction will begin before the end of this year.

On the Monastery at Lekki
The purpose of a monastery is for nuns to have their lives as nuns lived out. There are other facilities within it such as a place for retreat. More and more people are discovering that place and are using it. There is a bookshop there where people can go and buy books that are good for spiritual development. And indeed I can tell you that there is an agricultural project `that the monastery is starting to support themselves and providing a place for education, empowering people in the area of agriculture. So, the monastery is fulfilling its purpose.

Operations of St Raphael the Divine Mercy Specialist Hospital, Ijede
At the time that the hospital started, there were some issues on ground regarding some structures that needed to be reconfigured to be available and useful for the hospital. That created a bit of a problem in the beginning. Indeed there were lots of snags which we have identified and would be gradually taken care of. So the physical structures were not put into hundred per cent use because of those structural problems. At that point in time too there were issues regarding it operating as a hospital. It was conceived to be a specialist hospital. But it was discovered that you grow into being a specialist hospital; you just don’t begin as one. So when that was discovered, we had to begin from the basis by providing regular medical services, regular gynaecological services, laboratory services, optical services, etc.

I constituted a board to run the hospital and this board under the leadership of Dr. Henrietta Williams have been doing a wonderful work there really, teaming up with the management. And when we began initially, they couldn’t pay salaries from the monies that they were earning. We had to support them with payment of salaries. Today, with the board and management and staff working together very well they can now pay their salaries without asking from anybody. What they need now is money for growth and development. Now, they ask for loans for development projects and pay back as at when due. So they are a credible institution as it were now.

In fact we did have to get the services of a consultant group to help us identify our strength and weaknesses in other that the hospital can fulfil its purpose and I think that is beginning to yield fruit. Bus as to it eventually becoming a cancer research centre and treatment, that is on-going too because there are groups that we have entered into discussion with in order to collaborate. The initial collaboration with St Raphael Hospital, Italy did not work out well. There is a group in America, there is another one in India and we are working out how to collaborate. I hope that we can be able to reach there by the grace of God. Our eventual aim is that it would become a teaching hospital for our Augustine University in future.

On Augustine University
Augustine University is a project that we are all very proud of as an Archdiocese. It was a project that was conceived by my predecessor. Every one accepted the idea and put all effort into it such that it is now functional. The other side of it is that it has taken so much of our resources in other that it may continue to function. In fact I can tell you that it is taking so much that it is stopping us from doing many other things that we wish to do in the Archdiocese.  Nevertheless, we are happy with the University because of the value that is on it. Augustine university has a board of trustee; it has a governing council as well as the management committee or the senate of the university. All of these are internal structures that are meant to ensure that the university is run on a sound footing and in all areas of what a university should be.

Apart from these, we still have the fund raising committee that still has the responsibility of generating funds. They have taken up the challenge and are doing as much as is necessary. One can only use this medium again to reach out to the faithful and indeed people of goodwill to extend their hands of generosity and assist the university financially.

On the Ahiara Crisis
The Holy Father has been given the responsibility by God for the administration and enforcement of discipline in the Church. And he has spoken. If he has spoken, it is the Vicar of Christ that has spoken. And therefore everyone must listen to Christ who is speaking through his vicar. We hope that the priests in Ahiara diocese will listen to the voice of the Holy Father and follow through on what he expects of them. He has said that the sanction is not the purpose of his statement. It is only for those who not submit themselves to the direction that are subject to such sanctions.

So, we plead with the priests of Ahiara to lead the people in the direction of Christ, in the direction of the church, in the direction that leads to salvation. We were hearing recently that many have written to the Holy Father, but some are still going underground to incite the lay faithful. Obviously this is not acceptable; it is wrong; it is undermining the power and authority of the Holy Father and no priest should be found in that strain of thought; in that way of behaviour. So we plead to them, for the sake of everything that is bigger than ourselves as human beings and as priests to do the right thing.

Plans for Lagos Archdiocese
The Archdiocese of Lagos is a gift of God to us who have a part in it as in living in it and working in it. Therefore, we have to look at how to ensure that the Archdiocese continues to grow. As it were, we have a structure now by which Episcopal vicars and Deans have been given authority and power to perform certain administrative functions in the Archdiocese.   And that is going on as well as it can. And as the days go by we also need to consider how to manage ourselves much better. There have been several suggestions on what to do. Some say create a new diocese, some say get auxiliaries and all of that. Those thoughts are on-going. And after five years, obviously we want to work more on that direction, to see what the Holy Father will do for us in that direction.”