We survived this year. As you read this message, I want you to think of the several ways that things could have been different for you. But, you survived! You are alive! We praise God! Look back with gratitude; gaze into the future with hope and faith. Our worship was cautious this year due to the persistence of COVID-19 but I hope science can grant us some respite, with God breathing His deliverance and allow us to open up with joy. I appreciate you all for trusting me to lead you for another year. Thank you for opening your hearts to me; thank you for the words of encouragement; thank you for allowing us to make this journey together towards heaven. We are all conquerors!
The theme, “My Parish, My Spiritual Home”, is a merger of the content of Pope Francis’ encyclical – Laudato Si – on the earth our common home and the Synod on Synodality, with emphasis on communion, participation and mission. Having had our Advent retreat and discussions on Synodality, I thought it would be ideal to live out some of our recommendations even as we advance them to the archdiocese. In our parish, love is our language. We love our cultures and celebrate our originality. We favour care for the environment as we contribute to making our Church a place where God dwells. As a family, we choose to engage our spiritual family, strung together by our common baptism and participation in the Eucharist. We continue to build ourselves together as we journey towards God’s kingdom.
During our retreat, the children pleaded for their masses to be restored. Hopefully, as agreed in the Parish Pastoral Council, we shall resume in the new year once we return from the Christmas break. Our youths voiced out a laxity on our part in considering their concerns. Some of their concerns included guidance in the choice of life partners, career opportunities, spiritual negligence after confirmation, and how to engage the scriptures and develop closer relationship with God. I can assure you that your points have been noted and together, we shall improve on our spiritual journey. Our mothers shared about some of the squabbles experienced in churches as a result of the multiplicity of associations and unhealthy competition among different groups. They also raised the issue of violence against women generally and the girl child in particular. With the newly inaugurated CWO executives, we shall find a way of engaging issues concerning women. For the Fathers, it is the general sense of not measuring up to their responsibilities in providing for the family given the harsh economic realities of the nation. Men generally do not express their emotions easily. With the CMO executive and their establishment of a cooperative, a scheme has begun to support men and more could still be added. There is a lot we can still do together as a parish.
Apart from the statutory organisations, our parish is woven around the effectiveness of pious groups and cultural associations. I appreciate St. John the Baptist, Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi Catholic community for anchoring this year’s harvest. They will now hand over to St. Gabriel’s Hausa-speaking community. We trust that St. Gabriel will bring her unique spice to parish activities. It is my desire that we can strengthen our engagement with the parish by belonging somewhere. Do not be an anonymous parishioner! Have a friend in the parish. In order to unite us together, I hope to organise a cultural day during the year, where we can gather as a family. We can also use it to showcase different crafts and talents. We can use it to promote an ideal Christian fashion sense for different occasions like weddings, casuals and anything that promotes decency rather than just criticise. This is coming from the idea that our faith is not divorced from our regular life. We shall plan it in such a manner that everyone will find it interesting. We can have a life band as people strut the runway. Communities can also use this occasion to increase the participation of their members. It will be a feast of talents, treasures and time.
From the foregoing, you can see that we are an attentive Church. We are not only concerned with the building of physical structures. The human structure is the most veritable structure that will endure the test of time. Even at this, physical structures are important for our gatherings. We do not co-exist in a vacuum; we do so within a context. In the coming year, it is our hope that we can expand the frontiers of our parish by establishing at least an outstation around Paradise Estate, Brains and Hammers City, Ochacho Estate or any available portion of land within these locations before the end of this current pastoral year. The least in my estimation of land size should be about 2500sqm. It is not going to be a comfortable endeavour, but it is also not impossible. I’m counting on your love for your Church to make this dream a reality. I also hope that we can finally move the last batch of the two streams of nursery classes to their permanent location and convert the current space to a chapel of perpetual adoration. Hopefully, the green containers around the Church can be relocated and assembled for office spaces for other organizations within the Church premises. By the time catechism classes resume in the new year, the Civic Centre should be safe enough for our children to start having their classes in the building.
I have a personal appeal to make to you all. I belong to a missionary congregation that needs your assistance. My congregation is called SMA – Societas Missionum ad Afros which when translated to English stands for Society of African Missions. The majority of our work is what we call primary evangelization, in remote and interior places. We are proud missionaries, but we need your support to continue our work. I appeal to you to make a commitment to supporting the missions. If you would love to be physically engaged, you can join the SMA support group through prayers and visitations to some of our mission territories. You can also make financial commitment by pledging a sum on a regular basis according to your capacity to support the missions. You can always reach out to any SMA priest you find around for further details.
Finally, I thank you for all your cooperation through the years. Our vision is clear. Our parish must become more and more our spiritual home. Our parish is not for only saints. We are a good blend of saints and sinners in need of God’s grace. Our parish is like a hospital for the broken and the diminished in need of mending; we are wounded people in need of the healing touch of Christ. We acknowledge our emptiness knowing that God can fill us. We are guilty but Christ pardoned us with his blood. As such, no one is too good to leave or too bad to stay. Everyone is welcomed to this place of healing and deliverance with opened arms. Just join us in praising God as you come just as you are. You always have a place at the table of Christ.
I remain your brother, your son, your confidant and your priest,
Fr. Tee, SMA