GAINS OF STEWARDSHIP
Stewardship is the act of taking care of or managing people and this has remained part of human race from time immemorial, hence stewardship requires the ability of safeguarding both materials and human resources for the advancement and benefit of others. These human and material resources include time, skills and treasure in promoting positive course for the common good of all.
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Sadly, the concept of stewardship is poorly practiced among Nigerians due to one reason or the other, as the quest for materialism has remained a bane towards promoting effective stewardship among all.
Interestingly, some of the characteristic of a good steward are embedded in the lifestyle of the Chief Shepherd of the Diocese, Most Rev. (Dr.) Gabriel G. Dunia, who has dedicated his time, talent and life to the service of God and the development of the Diocese for the past twenty five years, which is in conformity with the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ as enunciated by Apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 8:21 “our purpose is to do what is right not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of others”.
This explains that as Christians and faithful children of God, a lot is expected of us, hence we are to use our gifts and talents to promote the work of God and humanity, as buttressed in 1 Peter 4:10-11, “Each one as a good manager of God's different gifts, must be use for the good of others, the special gifts he has received from God”. Further, verse 11 noted “Those who preach must preach God's message, those who serve must serve with the strength that God gives them, so that in all things, praise may be given to God through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and power forever and ever Amen”.
Therefore, it is worthy of note that there are a lot of gains accruable to those who faithfully devote their time, talents and life to stewardship, hence, God would bless them with eternal reward and perpetual happiness. Therefore, we should endeavour to use our vocations, professions for the benefit of others and for the propagation of faith.
Also, as part of effort to continue in our stewardship, we of THE PROMISE Newspaper has reintroduced “Truth line” anchored by Rev.Fr. Stan-Willam Ede, a column which focuses on doctrinal issues and we appreciate your understanding and co-operation.
THE DEVIL, YOUR ENEMY
The word, devil comes from both the Greek and Latin words: diabolo and diabolus, respectively. It means slanderer. One who damages, defames by spoken words, or looks, or gestures or other actions and deeds. The one who embarks on false, malicious and damaging spoken statement or other actions or deeds against another.
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The devil is defined by the Chambers 21st Century Dictionary in line with religious terminology as “the most powerful evil spirit, Satan”. According to Catholic tradition and Holy Scripture, the devil also called Satan or Beelzebub, is a created essence which truly exists and not a mere “personification of evil.”“The devil was created good but freely chose to be constituted in evil by way of a definitive choice, (cf. Catholic Dictionary by Reverend Peter Mr. J. Stravinskas). The one and only principal evil into which the devil chose to be constituted is PRIDE. Pride made Lucifer, now called devil or Satan, work and continue to work contrary to God and His eternal will. That singular act of working contrary to God and His eternal will constitutes disobedience of the superlative degree. By disobedience, the devil constitutes himself a first class ENEMY of God and all God's holy people. For this reason, Holy Scripture forewarns so that we may be forearmed when it states: “Be calm but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, strong in faith” (1 peter 5: 8 and 9).
The devil has come to be known and called ENEMY as one of his alternative names because he is eternally hostile, actively in opposition and deadly inimical to God and God's will. Hence, coming from the Latin word, the word enemy is hostis (in its public usage) inimicus (in its private usage) and inimicissimus (in its superlative and deadly degree).
Etymologically, the word enemy is therefore traced to: in = not + amicus = not with me, “not friend”, “not companion”. For this reason, the one who has actively and superlatively dissociates or opposes to God and God's holy will cannot be anything else other than enemy the devil.
The Church and her holy Scripture urge the children of God to pray for or exorcise a thing, place or person that is being or has been constituted into the rebellion of the devil and his kingdom as it is stated: “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you”(Luke 6:27). These acts of loving, doing good and blessing or praying are to be imbibed by the children of God non negotiably; for, in the first place, God is LOVE (1 John 4:8) and those who know and live in God are urged to pour love into where there is no love in order to draw out love (cf. St. John of the cross) and so that the thing, place or person that is being tortured and claimed by the devil into his kingdom can be delivered in love. Secondly, the need for loving, doing good, blessing or praying for those who hate and curse is necessitated by the fact that it is only a pure heart which is safely protected from being contagiously immersed and entrapped into the same deluge of torture, pain and death that are already the fate of the devil and all his angels and agents. In other words, it is really the being forewarned and therefore being forearmed of the children of God that is equally very important so that they do not fail and fall into the same fate that befalls the devil and his agents. In this way Christians are forewarned and therefore forearmed for battle and victory over “the great dragon [that] has been thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called [enemy, the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” that has been thrown down with his angels (Rev. 12:9). They must stand by and on the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ [which] have come so that the accuser of our brethren, who accuses them day and night before our God, is perpetually, in all generations confirmed as being thrown down and defeated forever. (Rev.12:10)
Our Father who art in heaven --- lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
THE RECEPTION OF HOLY COMMUNION IN THE HAND (I)
» By Prof. Michael Ogunu
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria, in their pastoral recommendations, in the light of the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), recommends among other things, “that communion be given in the hand during this period of the Ebola virus epidemic”. Since the issuance of the recommendation, questions have been raised and explanations sought on the issue.
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The practice of the communicant receiving Holy Communion in the hand is not an unprecedented development in the Liturgy of the Church.
In the writings of the early Fathers of the Church, there is no exact account of the manner of receiving Holy Communion.
The most that one can find are occasional references to the practice of reception of Holy Communion in the hand during the first centuries of the Church. Cyril of Jerusalem gives us the clearest account in the fourth century. In his Mystagogic Catechesis, addressed to his catechumens, he stated:
“When you approach, do not go stretching out your open hands or having fingers spread out, but make the left hand into a throne for the right which shall receive the King, and then with your open hand hollowed, receive the Body of Christ and answer 'Amen'. Then consume it, taking care not to lose any of it”.
The transition from the reception of the Eucharist in the hand, as described by Saint Cyril, to the introduction of the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue seems to have begun only towards the end of the eighth century.
The reasons for the change are not entirely clear. The reception of Holy Communion on the tongue became a matter of practicality with the introduction of unleavened hosts which no longer resembled ordinary bread. Christians became increasingly conscious of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but at the same time did not fully appreciate the holiness of the individual unordained Christian. The faithful approached the Eucharist with a sense of humility and reverence, as was proper, but these sentiments developed into an exaggerated feeling of unworthiness. Mortal, sinful man, it was felt, dare not touch with his hands the all-holy and powerful God unless he were ordained and his hands consecrated.
By the ninth century, therefore, the reception of Holy Communion in the hand was no longer the universal custom. The Council of Rouen (878), in fact, explicitly condemned the practice on the part of the laity. The tenth Ordo Romanus, dating from the ninth century, describes the new manner of receiving Holy Communion not only for the laity but even for subdeacons:
“Priests and deacons, after kissing the bishop, should receive the Body of Christ from him in their hands and communicate themselves at the left side of the altar. Subdeacons, however, after kissing the hand of the bishop, receive the Body of Christ from him in their mouth”.
At least in the Western Church, the eighth and ninth centuries were centuries of transition from the practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand to that of receiving on the tongue by the laity. For a long time both methods must have been in use in the West. The Eastern Churches, on the other hand, preserved the practice of receiving in the hand. In the twentieth century, the Church once again found itself in a similar period of liturgical transition.
The liturgical movement from the time of Pope St. Pius X onwards has given new life to the practice of frequent reception of Holy Communion. The Second Vatican Council summed up this development by saying that the reception of the Eucharist in the Mass is the more perfect form of participation in the celebration of the Lord's memorial sacrifice (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, n.55). In fact, it is an integral part of the celebration, and today fewer and fewer people leave their part of the celebration incomplete by neglecting Holy Communion.
More recent liturgical changes, such as the use of the vernacular, the revised form of the Order of Mass, new liturgical texts, etc., have all contributed to the growing understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist in the lives of the faithful. Faith and reverence for the mystery of Christ's Body and Blood must find significant and meaningful expression in the liturgical celebration.
Soon after the Second Vatican Council, in various places in the world the practice of placing the Eucharist in the hand of the communicant instead of on the tongue was reintroduced. The Congregation for Divine Worship, after consultation with the bishops of the Latin Church, issued an Instruction Memoriale Domini (29 May, 1969), On the manner of Distributing Holy Communion. The instruction announced the decision not to change the existing practice of the Latin Church with regard to the manner of receiving Holy Communion. The same document, however, concluded by indicating that individual episcopal conferences were free to ask for the earlier practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand to be restored. The instruction stated that, before granting the permission, “the Holy See will weigh the individual cases with care, remembering the bonds which exist between the several local churches among themselves and with the entire Church, in order to promote the common good and edification and the increase of faith and piety which flows from mutual good example”.
A number of episcopal conferences applied almost immediately for authorization to restore the ancient practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand. Authorization was given to each episcopal conference that requested it. However, the decision to implement the indult (or official permission), after the action of the episcopal conference and the Holy See, is left to the individual bishop of the diocese. If he considers it prudent, he may authorize the practice, with the provision that there be no surprise on the part of the faithful and no danger of irreverence to the Eucharist. It is always understood that each individual communicant, as he or she comes to the priest or other minister for Holy Communion, chooses whether to receive on the tongue or in the hand. It is important to notice that the choice belongs to the individual communicant, not to the priest or other minister.
Whether Holy Communion is received in the hand or directly on to the tongue is, first of all, not a matter of Catholic doctrine. Receiving in the hand is in complete accord with Catholic teaching on the Eucharist, in particular, with the teaching on the real presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus. In no way is it intended to detract from the Christian's respect, reverence or devotion. On the contrary, it is hoped that it will enhance personal devotion and deepen the individual's faith in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist.
WHY DO WE USE CRUCIFIX AND WHY DO WE NEED IT IN THE CHURCH, IN OUR HOMES AND WITH US?
» By Fr. Stan-William Ede
Catholics have often been accused of certain faults with regard to the use of the crucifix. Some critics say that depicting Jesus on the cross means that Catholics do not believe that he has risen from the dead. According to them “Christ is no longer on the cross, he is reigning gloriously in heaven. So why emphasize his death?” At the same time there are others who think that putting crucifixes in the Church and in other places of worship, or praying before the crucifix, or even carrying it around in any form, is tantamount to worshipping of images or idolatry. Same goes for those who think that wearing the crucifix around the neck is a way of resorting to the use of charms and amulets, or some sort of superstitious practices. In truth however, such critics and all those who think along with them are all wrong and are therefore invited to learn the truth.
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First, on the accusation that by using crucifix instead of an empty cross, critics claim that Catholics reject the risen Christ by downplaying Jesus' resurrection and worship the “dead” Christ by putting too much emphasis on Jesus' crucifixion. This accusation is both TOTALLY FALSE and TOTALLY ABSURD. The truth is that Jesus is ONE, and not a divided person. The Jesus who died cannot be separated from the Jesus who rose from the dead. Catholics worship Jesus, the ONE, TRUE LORD, who died for our sins and rose from His sacrificial death for our salvation. That is why we profess boldly at Mass: “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection, until you come again”.
In essence, depicting the cross bare or not has nothing to do with the symbol of the resurrection. In a wide variety of forms, Christians from one century to another have depicted both Jesus on the cross and the bare cross, depending not on theological considerations but on other existential factors. Traditionally however, there is preference for having the image of Jesus on thie cross, and this is often the case, as a vivid reminder of the crucifixion, for the crucifixion of Christ is the central point of the cross after all. This does not however mean that using the cross with Christ's body on it (Crucifix) negates any belief in the resurrection. Rather, it confirms and strengthens belief in the resurrection, as it reminds us first and foremost, never to forget our Lord's sacrifice on the Cross, which would not have even happened if he didn't have the intention of rising from the dead.
It is therefore important to know that Catholics do not make light of neither the crucifixion nor the resurrection, without the journey towards the resurrection, there would have been no crucifixion, and without crucifixion, there would have been no resurrection, and the cross would have been devoid of its present meaning and symbolism.
It is therefore true and very much so that Catholics believe both in the crucifixion and the resurrection, and our belief is very much founded in the Bible. A notable scriptural verse is Paul's declaration: “… but we preach Christ crucified …” (1 Cor 1:23). How is it that Paul who preaches fervently and vigorously about the Resurrection of Christ does not refrain from preaching Christ crucified? The answer is simple; because he knows that it is through the power of the crucified Christ on the cross that the bonds of sin and death are broken, and concludes therefore that Christ crucified is the “Power of God” (cf. 1 Cor 1:24). Therefore he declares, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). Whether the cross being that which bears the battered and bloodied body of Jesus Christ, or be it the crucifix itself, we are reminded not only of God's power, but also His love for us giving His only begotten Son up for suffering and death.
The reason for a crucifix instead of an empty cross is well captured by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in a well articulated summary which states: “Keep your eyes on the crucifix, for Jesus without the cross is a man without a mission, and the cross without Jesus is a burden without a reliever”. What we must never forget is that, before Christ transformed the reality of the cross from an emblem of shame to an instrument of glory, a cross was just an assemblage of two separate pieces or logs of wood, and nothing else. But with Christ's sacrifice of himself upon the cross for our salvation, the cross took on a new meaning, so that even when we see an empty cross, our minds automatically picture and “really see” Christ hanging upon it. St. Paul vigorously warns against “emptying the cross of its power” (cf. 1 Cor 1:17), in other words, against the error of thinking of the existence of a cross without Christ crucified. The fact that Christ was crucified and died upon the cross is what actually renders to the cross its true meaning and effect.
Jesus certainly does not want us to look at His Crucifixion as only a past event. After his resurrection, he appear to his disciples. In his glorified risen Body, he showed them his wounds from his Crucifixion. (Lk 24:39-40; Jn 20:20). If Jesus didn't want us to remember his crucifixion, why would he keep those wounds from the crucifixion and show them after his resurrection? What would some of the non-Catholic Christians or critics say to Jesus if Jesus were to appear to them in His glorified risen body and showed them His wounds? Would they say, “Your Crucifixion is of the past, so why should we look at your wounds?” In fact, that is exactly what they say each time they criticize us for preaching Christ crucified. But all are urgently invited to know that everything Jesus gives to us, such as his passionate, unconditional, endless love and infinite mercy, he gives through the cross and from upon the cross.
As the crucifixion was the act that changed history, the resurrection was a demonstration of the efficacy of that act. Such that even after he has risen, the crucifix remains a potent reminder of the salvation which Christ has won for us, for by His death on the cross, Christ conquered sin and death, redeemed the world, opened the way of salvation for all who would receive it, and reconciled his people with the Father (cf. Eph 2:13-18; Col 1:19-20).
Those who object to the crucifix as a reminder of Christ's sacrifice are like some of the bystanders at the scene of the crucifixion who kept shouting at Christ when he was dying upon the cross: “Come down from the cross! (cf. Matt 27:40; Mk 15:30). Even though he had the power to if he had wanted, rather than come down, Jesus went on consummate the sacrifice right there upon the cross. Although, Jesus rose from the dead after three days, what he gave at that very moment on the cross, he continues to give us this day. Jesus gives us his passionate, unconditional and endless love, his infinite mercy, his shed blood and salvation, his friendship, and new life in God. We cannot rise in Christ to new life without first dying with Christ on the Cross. Everything Jesus gives to us is through the Cross. Hence He says to us: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Mt 16:24; cf. Mt 10:38).
Moved by this truth and the reality that it should evoke in us, St Paul again declares: “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal 6:14).” For “WE PREACH CHRIST CRUCIFIED, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Gentiles, CHRIST THE POWER OF GOD and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23-24). Therefore, “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty words or wisdom, for I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Cor 2:1-2). In essence, St Paul makes us understand that we cannot separate the death of Christ from his resurrection, for just as our Christian faith is in vain without the resurrection (1 Cor 15:17), so also, we cannot preach the resurrection without preaching the crucifixion. This brings to the fundamental point that that our sharing in the life of Christ and the expectation of final glory find true meaning also through participation in the Eucharistic banquet, for “As as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord's death till he comes.” (1 Cor 11:26).
The other contention of critics about the use of the crucifix is specifically because of the image of Jesus on the cross, as many claim that such an image is strictly forbidden in the Scripture.
It is clearly obvious as has been taught again and again that it is not the image itself that is worshipped, but the PERSON the image represents. When Catholics bow or genuflect before the Crucifix whether in the Church or anywhere else, they are genuflecting before the Person Jesus himself who died for their sins. The venerated Crucifix represents what took place on the original Cross. Catholic Doctrine teaches us from Scripture that the sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the Son of God has ushered in a new “economy” of images. Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that Scripture communicates by words. Images and words illuminate each other (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1159-1160). As a matter of fact, all the signs in the liturgical action are related to Christ, and same go with the sacred images of the Holy Mother of God and of the Saints as well. They truly signify Christ who is glorified in them. They make manifest the “cloud of witnesses” (cf. Heb. 12:1) that continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations.
The story of the bronze serpent in the Bible is an all-too-familiar one, where after the Israelites were punished with deadly bites from poisonous snakes in the wilderness, God told Moses to make a poisonous snake of bronze and set it on a pole as a standard, “and everyone who was bitten looked at it and lived” (Num. 21:8-9). God who is all-knowing and all-powerful used the symbol of a snake set on a standard to save His people. The bronze serpent became a figure of the saving power of the crucified Christ. And so Jesus himself declared: “For just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn. 3:14-15). If God can make the image of a bronze serpent a source of healing prefiguring the lifting up of Jesus on the cross as the purchase of our salvation, why should we now shy away from looking up to the image of Jesus which hangs upon the cross for our health and salvation. The image itself makes visible and real for us today, the events which took place two thousand years ago, and helps us to feel more within us the active power and presence of God.
On the question why we need the crucifix in the Church and all around us, the Messianic prophecy of Zechariah which foretells the Salvific crucifixion of Christ is very apt: “They shall look on him whom they have thrust through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn” (Zech 12:10). And then when the people look on their crucified Lord, “God will pour out on them a spirit of grace and petition” (Zec 12:10). We Catholics have long found this to be true whenever we gaze with love on this image of Jesus' sacrificial death. The crucifix inspires in us the graces of a deeper gratitude for this greatest of gifts, and invokes in us as well intense hatred for sin, for it was our sins that led Jesus to the cross ((cf. Ps 116:12-13; Rom 6:1-12).
In fact, Catholics believe that “the world has been established and kept in being by the Creator's love; has fallen into slavery to sin but has been set free by Christ, crucified and risen to break the power of the evil one …” (cf. Vatican II's Gaudium et Spes, 2; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 421). We cannot therefore ridicule nor discard the age-long conviction that demons, vampires, and other evil creatures cannot bear to look at a crucifix. The crucifix, in fact, reminds the forces of darkness that they have been defeated by Christ's death on the cross (see Col 2:13-15), and assures the children of light of their victory. Even at the moments of temptations, trials, difficulties, illness and other kinds of suffering, gazing upon the crucifix and meditating on its reality can be really comforting as it helps us to recall that Christ suffers with us (cf. 2 Cor 1:5-7), and that our sufferings have great value when we join them to his (cf. Col 1:24). And more so, that there is the sure hope of resurrection and glory after the cross for those who look up to Jesus with faith and trust.
EBOLA VIRUS (I)
» By Pharm. Ngozi Nzewi
At the onset of our publications on health, I noted that it is not enough to know that one is sick and is on drugs but it is very important to have as much knowledge as possible about the illness as that will make the patient a good manager of the particular illness.
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Ebola virus is on the stage of threats to human life. It is a deadly disease because it is simply a killer disease. The worst Ebola virus outbreak on record is currently unfolding in West Africa. The spread is alarming and it is not slowing down. In recent times, the outbreak started in Guinea in December 2013 and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone and now to Nigeria. The World Health Organization says it is now a global emergency. Our country Nigeria has declared a state of emergency and mounted checks at all points of entry into the country. There is no need to go into panic but rather, there is need to be composed, learn facts about the cause, symptoms, and prevention of contraction of Ebola virus. In the face of all these, prayer is very important for God's intervention. The way Ebola virus entered Nigeria, gives us a course to thank and glorify God. It paved the way for Nigerians to be aware, gave room to master the ways to prevent it and has given us all opportunities to contain the virus. Before the Liberian Ebola positive Mr. Patrick Sawyer introduced the virus to Nigeria, with his manifestation at the airport in Lagos, many Nigerians were not conscious of Ebola. Ebola was not established in our bush animals or persons. Nigeria medical personnel promptly mopped up the infiltrated Ebola virus by quarantining Sawyer and the persons who made contact with him and since then, efforts have been made to check it. The effort of the minister of health Onyebuchi Chukwu and his medical teams is commendable. Their effort will help the country to contain the Ebola virus outbreak. Since July 2014, Nigeria had ten confirmed Ebola virus persons; these are Sawyer and the nine people he contaminated. Of these, four people are dead, and the remaining eight Nigerians are doing well. As it is today, one hundred and sixty people are under surveillance. The world Health Oganisation (WHO) has allowed the use of experimental drugs on Ebola virus patients? Fellow Nigerians, the degree of fear, alarm and panic among us is not necessary. All we need is to start practicing desired hygienic procedures and serious prayers.
WHAT IS A VIRUS? A virus is a living organism too small to be seen with the naked eyes and by the light microscope. The discovery of virus began in 1852, when the Russian botanist D. I. Ivanovsky prepared an infectious extract from tobacco plants that were suffering from mosaic disease. When the extract was passed through filter, able to prevent the passage of bacteria, the filtered fluid (filtrate), was still infectious. This means that infectious organism smaller than bacteria passed through the filter. In 1898, the Dutchman Beijerink coined the name “VIRUS” (Latin word for poison) to describe the infectious nature of certain filtered plant fluids. The virus was chemically isolated as a nucleic acid combined with protein. The study of virus began with the electron microscope developed in the 1930s.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE VIRUS:
They are the smallest living organisms.
They do not have cellular structure like the standard cells.
They can only reproduce by invading other living cells such as found in man and animals. They can only live parasitically inside other cells (obligate endoparasites). Most viruses cause disease though not all are deadly.
They have simple structure, consisting of a small piece of nucleic protein or lipoprotein coat.
They are at the boundary between what we regard as living and non-living
Each type of virus will recognize and infect only certain types of host cells. In other words, viruses are highly specific to their hosts.
While most viruses change morphologically with time the Ebola virus does not.
With basically HIGH IMMUNE SYSTEM as a way of keeping the body safe from bacterial and viral infections, the two other ways of safeguarding the body from viral infection is either through vaccination (this will not allow the disease to establish) or through treatment when the disease has established. VACCINATION: This is a way of acquiring immunity artificially. It is commonly called immunization. Natural immunity is that situation where the body manufactures its own antibodies when infection strikes it. The antibodies then arrest the infectious agent and the individual is not made sick. If body's immune system is weak or destroyed, it will not be able to perform this function. The disease causing organism is what is used in the preparation of vaccine, but is first made safe by being killed or attenuated. This preparation is what is known as antigen. This antigen is called vaccine. When it is administered, it stimulates the body to manufacture antibodies against the antigen (say the virus). The production of antibodies is the aim of vaccination because the produced antibodies will now fight the disease causing invader (bacteria or virus). Vaccination is a common experience in developed countries and is one of the weapons which have helped the incidence of infectious diseases so dramatically in these countries.
THE EBOLA VIRUS has no known vaccine nor known treatment. Presently it has no standard drug for cure. Though it is a deadly disease, some people are known to have survived the infection. Mr.Walter Odongo of Uganda survived it in 2001. The percentage of survival is however low. The two American Ebola virus positive patients flown from Liberia to America are responding to Treatment. The untested drug called ZMAPP is used on the two Americans and on a Spanish priest who has been reported dead. Efforts going on for anti- Ebola medication include the GSK drug company under clinical trials, and anti-Ebola drug maker TEKIMIRA. Research drugs go through some ethics and clinical trials. Let us not forget to pray for good results from these researches.
THE ORIGIN OF EBOLA VIRUS:
Ebola virus first featured in 1976 in Nzara, Sudan and Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. Simply put, Ebola virus outbreak started in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Congo the outbreak was in a village situated along the Ebola River from which the disease name was evolved. Suffice it to know that there are five distinct species of Ebola virus.
1. Budibugyo ebolavirus (BDBV)
2. Zaire “(EBOV)
3. Restron (RESTV)
4. Sudan “(SUDV)
5. Tai Forest”(TAFV)
The Budibugyo, Zaire, and Sudan Ebola Virus have been associated with large Ebola virus outbreaks in Africa. The Reston specie is found in the Philippines and China. They can infect humans but are not known to cause illness or death. There was Ebola outbreak in Uganda in 2001, Gabon and Cote d'voire in 1994 but these were contained. According to the medical doctors in the infested areas of West Africa, it will take about six months to contain the spread.
The current Ebola virus outbreak started in southern Guinea in December 2013, and then spread, to the neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria had a case of a man who collapsed after he arrived at Nigeria airport in Lagos on a flight from Liberia in July 2014. He is identified as a 4Oyr old Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian government employee. Sawyer was quarantined at a hospital where his condition worsened and he died four days after. The nurse who treated Sawyer became infected of the deadly Ebola virus and she also died. (International business times in UK).
In West African countries; Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia where this outbreak is fierce are neighboring countries sharing common borders. Between these countries and Nigeria, we have Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cote de Voire, Burkina Faso and Mali. Nigeria has set up surveillance at her points of entry, airports, seaports, and land borders. Presently, Nigeria has eight patients who are Ebola positive and these are those people who had contact with the Ebola victim that found his way into the country from Liberia.
The natural host for Ebola virus is believed to be the fruit bats, and the chimpanzee. The fruit bats carry the virus, spread them but .they remain unaffected by it. The Ebola virus can go from these animals to man and from infected humans to humans. The latter is called human-to-human transmission.
THE PRIEST, ANOTHER CHRIST: CHOSEN TO HEAL THE WORLD (1)
» By Rev. Fr. Thomas Anavhe
It is not an overstatement whatsoever to declare that ours is a troubled world. Nations are in tumult, kingdoms are shaken and families are shattered. We now live in a world of serious economic crises, global instability; individuals and families are inflicted with sicknesses and diseases that have never been heard of. Without any iota of exaggeration, this is the time that the priest is more needed. Against this backdrop, we shall be looking at the role of the priest as healer in a broken world.
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The word priest is derived from the Greek word; “Presbyteros” which signifies a person (male) chosen to lead worshippers in the service of the Deity. Or a person authorized to serve as a mediator between God and his people especially in public worship by offering sacrifices on behalf of the people for their sanctification. The role of the priest goes beyond just being a religious leader, miracle worker and church coordinator (pastor). The priest is to offer sacrifices for the well-being of the people especially when a serious incident needs to be corrected in the community and in the life of an individual.
The high priest was known as the supreme religious leader of the Israelites. The office of the priest was hereditary and was traced from Aaron, from the tribe of the Levites (Exodus 28:1). The high priest as the religious leader of the Israelites, could not fully participate in the ordinary priestly ministries, though he helps to carry out some certain priestly functions that were given to him as well as coordinating the subordinate priests (2Chronicle 19:11). The Israelites will not go into any serious decision in their lives without going to the high priest in order to know the will of God for them (Number 27:2 1).
Moses with all his charismatic gifts never lost sight of the role priests played in his ministry and the community. Hence, the Lord said to Moses, Joshua son of Nun and the whole community of Israel will depend on Eleazar the priest, who will direct them in all their affairs (Numbers 27:21). Priests were chosen and consecrated to offer sacrifices, officiate ritual ceremonies and to stand as a mediator between man and God.
The people looked up to the priest to offer sacrifices for them in the sanctuary, to teach them the Law of God and to intercede for them when God's will was sought for the nation and individuals. The Old Testament priests foreshadowed of the Lord Jesus Christ, the unchangeable priest who came to save the world.
When the priest offers sacrifices on behalf of the people, God comes to resolve every situation before us. Melchizedek who was king of Salem and also a priest of the Most High God, brought bread and wine to Abram, blessed him, and said, “May the Most High God, who made heaven and earth bless Abram. The reproach of Abram of not having a child for Sarah that clouded him even in the midst of his victory was broken through the priestly function of Meichizedek to Abraham our father in faith. The Lord appeared to Abraham at the sacred trees of Mamre. And God promised a son to Abraham and that came into fulfillment in him (Genesis 14:18-19, 18:1-15).
The sacrificial role of priests in the Old Testament, was a prefigurement of the priesthood of Jesus Christ who came for the Salvation of mankind. When Jesus was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him, and God declared him to be high priest, in the priestly order of Melchizedek (Hebrew 5:7, 9-10). The priest sacrifices and prayers to God on behalf of the people; he is to create communion and peace between God and man. The people see their priest as a source of hope and strength as they were waiting for their promised Messiah who will deliver them from bondage and restore them to wholeness. The healing and the glorious contribution of the Old Testament priesthood among God's people find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and mankind” (1Timothy 2:5). For their sacrifices were incapable of bringing lasting salvation to the human race.
The Old Testament priesthood has been fulfilled in Christ. Jesus' sacrifice on the cross has put an end to the role the Old Testament priests played. Jesus as a high priest, offered himself as a sacrifice on the cross. The offering of the Old Testament priest sacrifices were incapable of bringing about the definitive salvation of mankind. This could only be achieved by Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross (Hebrew 5:3, 7:27). Christ is the rising sun to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78-79). In Jesus' earthly ministry, he proved to be the ultimate high priest. He cared for the sick and the suffering. And for this purpose he was crucified, dead and was buried. In his resurrection and ascension into heaven, he still continues to care for the sick. Hence, he is the Wounded Healer.
Christ: The Wounded Healer of our World.
“…..And by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus willingly embraced the suffering of his crucifixion to heal the world. He was wounded in order to heal our wounds. Jesus' wound is to bring healing to our suffering and pains. He associated with
us in our suffering and pains in order to share and have a feeling of our painful situation. The weight of our suffering must not lead us to deny that Jesus is with us. For example, Jesus' “silence” over the illness of Lazarus without preventing Lazarus from dying does not reduce the love Jesus had for him and his family (Mary and Martha). Jesus wept. “Sees how much he loved him'? The people said. But some of them said, He gave sight to the blind man, did not he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying? Deeply moved once more, Jesus went to the tomb, he called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out?”... He came out, his hands and feet wrapped in grave clothes, and with a cloth round his face. “Untie him”, Jesus said, “Let him go” (John 11:35-38, 43). A constant dependence on the healing hands of God even when our situation seem not to be improving, make us to experience the healing hands of the wounded Saviour in our lives. -
“Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he received the news that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was for two more days (John 11:5). The healing hands of God never cease to make us whole. If only we are ready to continuously turn to God for healing even in the midst of His necessary “silence” in our lives. We must learn like Job and Joseph to remain united to God our healer. Jesus continues to suffer with us. We must remain united to God in His “silence” moment of our situation; he enables us to experience his heavenly joy that keeps us whole. Jesus was greatly touched with the weeping of the family of Lazarus and those around them. Jesus wept, even when he knew he will raise Lazarus back to life in a moment time. In our suffering, He never fails to be with us.
At this point, it is important to state that Christ's healing work was part and parcel of his sacred Priesthood. Christ's priesthood is the ultimate; no other priesthood is beyond him. As such, we must focus on all attention on the priesthood which he handed on to the Catholic priest who shares in the priesthood of Christ through Apostolic succession. Consequently, our next focus would be on the role of the Catholic Priest as Healer to our world.
BISHOP DUNIA ORDAINS THREE PRIESTS
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Oju Judith/Madu Vivian
It was a joyful moment in the Catholic Diocese of Auchi, as the Bishop of the Diocese Most Rev. (Dr.) Gabriel G. Dunia ordained three Priests at Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Auchi. They were; Rev. Frs. Bondoi Bruno, Isedu Sylvester Ikhazunya and Ogane Augustine Afeghiemhe.
In a homily delivered at the event, the Chief Shepherd of the Diocese who noted that they were called from among men to work diligently for the Church tasked them to submit totally to the authority of God and be dedicated to the service of Christ Jesus. The Prelate who urged them to be defenders of the church irrespective of their challenges and areas of assignment, stressed that they should see it as an opportunity for promoting evangelization and hinted that the Presbyterian order is a call to work ceaselessly for the Lord, hence they should endeavour to listen to the voice of the Lord at all times and also urged them to always stand for the truth even in death.
Continuing, the Chief Shepherd of the Diocese who noted that Jesus Christ came to set all free from evil and sins in obedience to God, enjoined all present to endeavour to work co-operatively with their Priests to enable them succeed in their ministries. He added that supporting them prayerfully, financially and materially would go a long way in helping them, as no one can successfully realize his goals in life without depending on others and asserted that their new families is their faithful and parishioners.
Emphasizing on the need for all to get clarification on issues from experts or superior authorities, the Bishop charged all to make proper consultation to avoid unnecessary panic and dangers, noting that running around and searching for solutions where it does not exist would amount to lack of faith, while tasking them always desist from hasty generalization and remain faithful to God.
The Homilist who urged Priests to remain committed to their vocation and should always obey the Bishop and the Church's teachings, urged the Priests to shun the quest for materialism, tribalism, sectionalism and ethnicism and promote unity of the Church as it will enable them to be called soldiers of Christ.
Giving the vote of thanks, Rev. Fr. (Dr.) Gregory Ogbenika, commended the Bishop of the Diocese Most Rev. (Dr.) Gabriel G. Dunia for consenting to ordain the Priests, appreciated Priests, religious and lay faithful present for attending the celebration, stressing that the journey to Priesthood was not an easy one, as it was the grace of God that sustained them and thanked God for making the event possible.
More, Fr. Ogbenika congratulated the ordained for their ordination celebration, tasked them to remain committed to their Priestly vocations, while noting that though the journey maybe rough they should not be deterred but rather, they should focus on Christ who called them to service and wished them success in their ministries, while thanking their sponsors for training soldiers for Christ to propagate God's word to all the nooks and crannies of the earth and prayed God to reward them accordingly.
Highlight of the celebration was a thanksgiving procession to the altar by the ordained, accompanied by friends and well wishers.
IBADAN PROVINCIAL BISHOPS TASK NIGERIANS ON SOCIAL INTEGRITY
The Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province has reiterated the need for all Nigerians to continue to promote their cultural, social and moral integrity stressing that such virtue would enhance development of the country.
This was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of their meeting held at Pope John II Pastoral Centre Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, signed by Archbishop Gabriel 'Leke Abegunrin of Ibadan, President and Most Rev. Felix Ajakaje of Ekiti, Secretary of the Provincial Conference.
The communiqué which hinted that there is the need for more pro-active responses to the serious political and social-economic problem facing the country, stressed on the need for all to remain united inspite of the various challenges facing the nation and urged all to work co-operatively for the advancement of the nation instead of calling for the division of the nation.
The Bishops who noted that “while identifying with the concerns that have brought such people to this pass, we reiterate that Nigerian is better off united than divided”, adding that “we plead with those who are in position to act to work for the unity of Nigeria for unity is strength. This must be based on the principles of human rights, justice and respect for the rule of law”
Continuing, the Shepherds of soul hinted that “we are painfully aware of the effort of some Nigeria's international friends to compel our country to compromise values in return for security aid,” affirming that “our country surely needs support in the fight against terrorism but we plead that such request to compromise our cultural and moral standard be resisted and rejected as immoral and unethical,” adding that “a people denuded of its moral values is a people on the death row”. Emphasizing the need for all faithful to remain prayerful, the Bishops charged faithful of the province to join in the six months National prayer directed by the by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigerian (CBCN), culminating with a National Rosary prayer pilgrimage and vigil, scheduled for Abuja November 13th-14th,2014.
Speaking on pro-life and family Apostolate, the prelates stressed that “the family today is under great pressure especially from those who vigorously promote the culture of death” and hinted that “the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death and at every moment in between” and “asserted that to be pro-life is to be Pro-Christ” and called on all to support efforts to protect human life and the family”.
EBOLA: AUCHI DIOCESE ADOPT NEW MEASURES FOR MASS
Following the fear of the possible spread of Ebola Virus to the Diocese, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Auchi Most Rev. (Dr) Gabriel G. Dunia, has announced new measures for faithful at Mass to check the spread of the disease.
He made his known while addressing faithful at Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Auchi.
The Chief Shepherd of the Diocese who noted that the procedures were necessary, stressed that part of the measures include the stop of handshake by worshippers done during consecration as sign of peace, noting that hand shake during Liturgy was optional, hence faithful should not be deterred with the new development as it was for the safety of all faithful.
Also, the Shepherd of Souls hinted that administration of the Holy Communion will be on the palm of the faithful as against placing it on the tongue of the communicant, charged faithful to endeavour to comply with the new development, as it was geared towards curtailing the possible spread of the dreaded disease which presently has no cure and charged faithful to continue to promote good hygiene and keep their environment safe and avoid been contaminated.
The Bishop asserted that it was necessary for all to observe neatness at all time as it will not only guide them against the dreaded disease but against other communicable diseases and expressed hope that nothing that is impossible for God to do, adding that the nation has witnessed outbreak of various diseases that has caused tension and panic but solutions where later found and prayed that the situation will soon be a thing of the past.
He cautioned against panic and fear of using any material as a cure to the disease except it was announced by the government and warned against been manipulated by people of things contrary to their faith and prayed God to grant the nation the grace to overcome the virus.
TWENTY FIVE YEARS IS JUST LIKE A DREAM BUT A REALITY
(An Interview with Very Rev. Fr. Ambrose Alumiasunya)
Very Rev. Fr. Ambrose Alumiasunya is one of the three Priests from Edo North, ordained by Most Rev. Rev. (Dr.) Ebosele Ekpu in Archdiocese of Benin City on the 9th of Sept, 1989. In this interview, he told the Promise Crew that their twenty fifth year ordination anniversary is just like a dream, as the memory of their ordination in Benin is still very fresh.
THE PROMISE: Congratulations Fr. On your twenty fifth Priestly ordination anniversary.
FR. Thank you and is my pleasure.
THE PROMISE: Fr., exactly twenty five years ago, you where ordained Priest with two of your classmates our Bishop, Most Rev. (Dr.) Gabriel G. Dunia and Very Rev. Fr. (Dr.) Anselm Ekhaler. Could you please tell us what your feeling was like on that day?
Fr. Though, it may be difficult for me to recall vividly what actually took place on that fateful day, but celebrating twenty fifth Anniversary is just like a dream but it is a reality. That day was the most happiest day in my life. I can recall, I didn't eat because my stomach was full with excitement and after the ordination when we were dispensed, I went straight to my village Udaba. Sincerely, I can't even remember all that happened that day because I was overwhelmed with joy and happiness.
THE PROMISE: Fr., Can you share any memorable event about your classmates, particularly the Bishop?
FR. There is no specific memorable thing about us really, because we were just like blood brothers. The five of us in the Archdiocese of Benin, the Bishop, G. G. Dunia, Frs. Ekhaler, late Leo Irabor, Raphael Amasowoma, the five of us were just like brothers. The real unique thing about us was that we were going to be ordained Priests, our family members were around and it was really fun. Another interesting thing that was memorable was the choir, who rendered songs melodiously without any reservation.
PROMISE: As a Priest that has been serving in the Lord's vineyard for twenty five years, could you please share your experiences
FR. The role of the Priesthood is not an easy road because it is very tasking. But I will tell you that it has not been all smooth but rough also, notwithstanding, God has been in control and I think it is the will of God for us to either take it when it is good or bad and God has been faithful.
THE PROMISE: Having served in the vineyard of the Lord for the past twenty five years, is there any particular event you consider the most memorable in your life?
FR. Sincerely, apart from the ordination, which one cannot easily forget, as it is just like the day people would get married, our ordination was the most memorable day in my life and the rest days and years that make up these twenty five years, are always memorable, as it is characterized with ups and downs. Today you may have joy and tomorrow sadness. You can have it rough either with parishioners, friends e.t.c The most interesting thing, it has all been good because I never had any problem with my Bishop. So, the five of us ordained the same day didn't create any positive history we will be thinking about and until today, particularly we from Auchi Diocese, we are still very happy.
THE PROMISE: Fr, how does it feel like to be the classmate of the first Bishop of Auchi Diocese?
FR. It is very interesting and great as we are always happy. When the preparation for the celebration began, I said to myself, if it were to be me alone, the preparation wouldn't have gained this wide publicity. Infact, we are hiding under him and we are indeed grateful to God. I feel superb because, I feel like I am a Bishop too and frankly; I think God used him to elevate our classmates and I thank God for that.
THE PROMISE: After twenty five years as a Priest, how would you describe the faithful of the Diocese?
FR. The word of God is not easy for people to embrace, it is a cross which all must bear and it is not easy for all to carry this cross except by the Grace of God.
However, everybody is responding in his/her ability but always by the power of the Holy Spirit because He is working through His Priests which are His instrument for evangelization.
As property of the Holy Spirit, our people are responding according to their strength and the faith is growing.
THE PROMISE: What advice do you have for your parishioners?
FR: My parishioners are faithful children of God and they are responding to the church activity because my yardstick of measuring Christianity is their ability to relate with the church, act positively and relate with their Priest and themselves and this has been very nice. They don't play with Masses and other church activities, as they are increasing in their numbers daily.
I would advice them to continue to relate with the Priest and spread the message of the Gospel to all their friends and well wishers and I pray God would help them to promote His work in them.
I AM VERY FULFILLED IN FORMING SEMINARIANS FOR THE CHURCH
(An Interview with Very Rev. Fr. Anselm Ekhelar)
Very Rev. Fr. (Dr.) Anselm Ekhaler is a Priest of the Diocese of Auchi and a lecturer at All Saints Major Seminary, Uhiele, Ekpoma where he had lectured for fifteen years. In this exclusive interview with THE PROMISE Crew, he bears his mind on the benefits and gains he derives in forming young men (seminarians) for the church.
THE PROMISE: Fr, you were ordained twenty five years ago, could you please recount your experience of that day?
FR: It seems like yesterday nevertheless a lot of water has passed under the bridge. We were actually five in that group. Fr. Leo Irabor of blessed memory was a member of that group, Fr. Raphael was also among us. It was an exciting day, it was much more a new dawn in our lives. It was just like the beginning of a new dawn when you are not sure what the day holds for you but then we were so happy because what we have been preparing for is coming to pass.
The unique thing about the three of us, me, Bishop G G. Dunia and Fr. Ambrose was that, we began the journey as little boys from class one in the minor seminary, specifically September, 1976 and we journeyed like that together until 1989 and it was a long journey, as the journey was coming to pass, a new phase was going to begin. The event was very special and unique.
THE PROMISE: Fr. Is there any memorable thing about your classmates, particularly Bishop Dunia?
FR: The life of a Priest is full of memories. Our classmates were very interesting people and, I could recall it was fun been together and our choice of life was what makes us unique and memorable. Though there was no much memorable thing about the Bishop but we are from the same village, as we could always travel together because we are from the same place and it was very interesting.
THE PROMISE: Fr. When would you consider as the memorable event in your life?
FR. One of the most memorable events was when my classmate was consecrated the Bishop of Auchi Diocese and Auchi been erected as a diocese, was like a new phase for me.
THE PROMISE: Fr. How does it feel like having your classmate as the first Bishop of Auchi Diocese?
FR.: It is very fulfilling, yet very challenging. I think it confers on us a very huge sense of responsibility and it is also an affirmation that you belong and you are also saddled with high responsibility because you cannot pretend, hence you are completely involved in the affairs of the diocese. We hold a stake in the church and it is very relevant because our classmate is a Bishop and I cannot afford to sit back, so I see myself as part of the developmental process of the diocese.
THE PROMISE: How do you feel forming seminarians (future Priests) for the church?
FR.: Our apostolate is not an easy task, because we are human. On one hand, you are struggling with your own Priesthood and on the other hand, you have the responsibility of forming future Priests, especially in our time and whatever you put in, you would feel it is not enough and that is tasking. It is a fulfilling assignment because you are in a position of preparing future Priests, it gives me joy and multiplication because I am forming people who will be doing what I am supposed to be doing at the Pastoral level.
I feel it is a special grace and I have been working here at the major seminary for that past fifteen years and we depend on the grace of God to carryout these assignments.
THE PROMISE: Having been in the Seminary for fifteen years, is there anything you think should be changed?
FR.: In every human society, there is the need for changes and development. There are things to be improved upon, particularly in a growing institution and we are limited by resources both human and materials. There are so many things, though, I wouldn’t want to begin to list, but I would wish that everyone who is involved particularly, the lay faithful in our various dioceses would be able to recognize the necessity to make provision for the training of their future Priests. It is very important that this should be kept in mind, that there are so many to be improved upon.
THE PROMISE: Fr. In 2013, Auchi Diocese celebrated 10th anniversary, how would you describe the developmental strides in the diocese?
FR.: Auchi Diocese is blessed and we are blessed as a people and God is very much with us. I was a Priest in the Archdiocese of Benin City and I was equally a principle actor in the putting together of the Diocese of Auchi and I equally occupy unique privilege of working primarily outside of the diocese and from my advantaged position, I see the great strides our diocese is making. We have a lot to thank God for.
THE PROMISE: What advice do you have for the Seminarians and the faithful of the Diocese?
FR.: Let me begin with the Seminarians which is my primary constituency. The Priesthood is not an easy task, because one is taken from among men and dedicated to the service of God. So, he remains human, yet the obligations he has are obligations that the angels will tremble to handle. He has this unique privilege of been the bridge between the divine and the human order. They should see the vocation not only from the perspective of the privileges that it will confer, particularly from the responsibilities that it would bear, hence they should prepare themselves adequately.
For the lay faithful, we are all on a journey, hence the Priest cannot do it alone. He can only lead but they have to make their personal efforts to follow by looking up to God for His graces. They cannot sit back and be complaining that Fr. Did not do this or that but they should be aware that Fr. Is not going to transform their hearts but they should be willing to be transformed. The Priest will create enabling environment and unless they co-operate with the Priest things may not go well. They should see themselves as partners in the advancement of the work of God so that they would attain the kingdom of God which all of us are seeking.
THE PROMISE: Thank you Fr. And congratulations.
FR.: It is my pleasure.
BEEN A BISHOP IS TO CARRY THE HEAVY CROSS
(An Interview with Bishop G. G. Dunia)
The Catholic Bishop of Auchi Diocese, Most Rev. (Dr.) Gabriel G. Dunia and his classmates Very Rev. Fr. (Dr.) Anselm Ekhelar and Very Rev. Fr. Ambrose Alumiasunya will be celebrating their twenty fifth Priestly Ordination Anniversary. The Bishop in a chat with THE PROMISE Crew at the Bishops' court, explains that to accept to be a Bishop, is to accept to carry the Heavy Cross of Christ with Christ. He expressed his resolve to be committed in serving God, getting the human person properly educated and promoting a Healthy society, and true knowledge of God. The Excerpts:
THE PROMISE: Congratulations my Lord on your Priestly Ordination anniversary.
THE BISHOP: It is my pleasure
THE PROMISE: My Lord, you were ordained as a Priest of the Most High God twenty five years ago along with two of your classmates in Archdiocese of Benin City by Archbishop Patrick Ebosele Ekpu (Emeritus), could you please tell us what the feeling was like?
BISHOP: It was an indescribable excitement. It was so indescribable that I said to somebody that I feel that it was the best day for me to die. I was so happy that if I had died that day I felt I would go to heaven straight. Even though my primary school headmaster's wife said don't say that, when everybody was rejoicing? I said yes, because I wanted to rejoice in heaven, as I was perfectly joyful fulfillingly on that day.
The other one point was between me and my classmates, Rev. Fr. Ambrose Alumiasunya. We asked ourselves, is there any other thing greater than this, that will happen to us in this world after our priestly ordination? Both of us concluded that there was nothing greater than the ordination except death. So those two experiences were very remarkable to me.
Again, another remarkable thing that happened to me on our ordination day was when we were going home with our Parish Priest then, Very Rev. Fr. Richard Enegbuma who is the first Priest from my area. He was the Priest at Agenebode then. On our ordination day, he carried us in his then brand new Peugeot 504 car from Benin City to Imiegba our home town. On getting close to my village, a flock of sheep made a procession in our front right from the top of the hill into the primary school field at Imiegba, my home town. I did not remember this, until when Fr. Anselm Ekhelar mentioned it when proposing a toast on me the day I was ordained a Bishop on the twenty second of February, 2002. Ordinarily, the sheep were supposed to give way when they saw the car but it was like a kind of guard of honour and they were in front of our car for about a kilometer or two into the village. And this was a sign, for us, really, that God can give sight to animals to see certain divine presence which men may not be able to see, according to Fr. Anselm. It was really a great experience for us to witness it on that day, the 9th of September, 1989.
THE PROMISE: My Lord, is there any special memories about your seminary days?
THE BISHOP: The period we spent in the major Seminary beginning from the spiritual year was a period of eight years and I had very lovely classmates, from different minor seminaries and very few of them were from secular secondary schools. Majority of us came from different areas. But we all stayed together very lovingly. We are still very close. In fact, those of us who were ordained Priests from all over the Dioceses from, Ilorin, Ibadan, Akure, Ekiti, Oyo, Benin, Iselle-Uku, etc we are going to celebrate our twenty fifth anniversary together in Ibadan come November this year, that shows how close we are to one another, even till date. Of course, one of us has just been made a Bishop again; he is the Bishop of Abeokuta. We started the spiritual year together at Ekpoma. Thanks be to God that I now have someone in my class who will now carry the cross of Christ with me as a Bishop, because to be a bishop for me, is to specially carry the cross of Christ.
THE PROMISE: My Lord, before your appointment as a Bishop by Saint John Paul II, in 2002, can you tell us about your Priestly ministry?
THE BISHOP: My Priestly ministry has been very interesting, not from the worldly estimation, but from the spiritual perspective. It has been a notable experience which I think every Priest should love to have. It has been remarkable. Five of us were ordained for the then Diocese of Benin City, now Archdiocese of Benin City, late Rev. Fr. Leo Irabor and Rev. Fr. Raphael Amasowoma from the Diocese of Uromi, while Rev. Frs. Ambrose Alumiasunya, Anselm Ekhelar and my humble self are from Auchi Diocese. We were ordained on the 9th of September, 1989 in Holy Cross Cathedral, Benin City.
After our ordination we spent about three weeks at home and on the 29th of September 1989 which is my feast day, which is my birthday too, that was the day which the Archbishop called on us to come and take our letters of assignment and I was posted to minor seminary where I finished from before proceeding to the major seminary to teach and assist the Rector who was ordained a Priest 1960; he is Rt. Rev. Monsignor Stephen Ogbeide. I was also told to be in charge of an Out station, St. Matthias, Ologbo, a Mass Centre, yet there were other Out Stations in the Mass Centre and every Sunday I would go there to celebrate Masses.
However, on week days, I was always teaching in the Seminary, assisting the seminarians because Monsignor was an elderly person and the seminarians were always with me and I was very happy to be with them. Again, I was handling marital classes and the station that was under Msgr. Ogbeide then, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, Agbor road. I was also helping especially on Saturdays in the celebrating of marriages.
The second year into my Priesthood, the Bishop called me to go for further studies, I went with one other Priest; Rev. Fr. Augustine Ehighe to the Catholic Institute for West Africa(CIWA), Port Harcourt to study Cannon Law. After the training in CIWA, I served in Mary the Queen Parish, Ekpoma from July to December 1993 I was later posted to St. Joseph Parish, Eme-Ora where I resumed on 10th December 1993. On 2nd August 1997, I was again transferred from Eme-Ora to St. Mary Parish, Iviukwe. While at Iviukwe, I had so many Out stations. I had about ten Outstations in Wano area and the entire North Ibie where I come from. I was covering those areas, between August 1997 and November 1998, I worked relentlessly to make sure that a parish was created for the North Ibie at Okpekpe because, the place was cut off being a rugged area from all directions, it was not always easy for Priests to visit the place, hence we started putting in place basic facilities in preparation for the creation of a Parish in the area so that a Priest could stay there. We sent for people we thought could help us to facilitate the process of creating the Parish in the area so that the Priest in Iviukwe would have less work to do. So, we solicited for financial assistance and one of them who responded willingly and generously by contacting friends was Barr. Grace Egbagbe and she tried her best. Within a short period, we were able to meet with the necessary requirements and I gave the report to the Archbishop Ekpu (now Emeritus) who was very happy. Many people feared that a Priest would not survive in the area but after the harvest thanksgiving in 1998, I bought all the basic required materials and the Archbishop gave us approval and with the approval, Mary Mother of God Parish, Okpekpe was erected on the 10th of January, 1999. So, it was the same day the 29th of December, 1998 when the Parish was created that the Archbishop also appointed me the first Parish administrator of the Parish.
Again, as I later discovered, all these things that were happening showed that there is a special hand of God in my life and God was just planning for the people without their knowing it. From the record I received January this year or December last year from the archive, I discovered that the official acquisition of the Land at Okpekpe by the missionaries with papers that had certificate of ownership, the Seal of Ownership with the colonial government was done in 1899 and it was exactly one hundred years after that the Church was again erected as Parish which I never knew before. Again, I also saw in the papers the location at old Imiakebu where the missionaries stayed, the official acquisition with Seal of Ownership which was concluded in 1896.
Indeed, I have enjoyed working with the people in rural dwelling most. Infact the value for the Priesthood is very high in the minds of rural dwellers. This may be so, for obvious reasons: as they could hardly see a Priest they will appreciate him more than others, who had always enjoyed the presence of Priests in the towns and villages.
THE PROMISE: What do you think can be done for the Priest to be better appreciated in urban centres like in the rural areas?
THE BISHOP: It is not, really, that the people in Urban areas are not appreciative of the Priests working for them. Yet, because those in rural setting seldom see a priest, their appreciation and admiration for Priests appear to be more pronounced.
For example, when I was at Okpekpe, the Out stations took it in turns to bring food stuff for me on regular basis, and when I tried to stop them they insisted that I should allow them to be doing it, so that it would become part of their lives and it has been so. There is this communal relationship in the village when compared to the city. So, emphasis should be placed on practical love of one another with a difference anytime and anywhere. See how they love themselves is the answer.
THE PROMISE: Auchi Diocese under your leadership has clocked ten years. What are your major challenges?
THE BISHOP: I am happy you asked about the challenges facing the Diocese which I pray that there will be more challenges because challenges will spur us to do more so that we do not feel complacent. If we feel we don't need anything, everybody will be relax but when there is something challenging us, then we would wake up, and forge ahead even with little resources.
When the Diocese was created, we had very few Priests and so we could not create new Parishes and Mass Centres without Priests to man them. By the grace of God as at today we have ordained about fifty Priests since I became a Bishop for the Diocese of Auchi. So, we have been able to create as many as over forty Parishes Mass Centres inclusive.
However, by the grace of God, He, our good and Almighty God has used people to achieve greatness for Himself. He brought in a Governor who listened to us when we told him that whatever development you are planning for the people without accessibility will come to futility. So, the Governor of our State, Adams Oshiomhole agreed to construct many roads across many parts of the Diocese, from north Ibie, Anegbette, Udaba, Uzanu, Uzairue, Akoko Edo and part of Owan. We really appreciate the Governor in that regard.
Another major challenge is the need for Priests, especially those that would be coming from Minor Seminary where they will be initiated into the spirit of Priesthood early enough. Consequently, I applied for the establishment of a Minor Seminary at Ivhianokpodi. Ivhianokpodi was the place that hosted the first Major Seminary in Nigeria in 1908. When I was planning a minor seminary I didn't think that the Minor Seminary was going to commerce there exactly after one hundred years when the first major seminary was established there in 1908. Surprisingly God helped us and academic activities commenced in the newly established minor seminary at Ivhianokpodi in 2008. It must be recalled that Ss Peter and Paul, Major Seminary, Ibadan today started at Ivhianokpodi in 1908 and was later moved to Asaba in 1927, then from Asaba to Benin City in 1937 and was again moved to Ibadan in 1957 because it was thought that it will be better to get it closer to a University and the University of Ibadan was the only University in Nigeria as at 1957.
Inspite of the financial challenges, we embarked on the project, though, we had the problem of approval from Rome but it was later approved after the necessary adjustment. God has been helping us, as the first set has just graduated and they performed wonderfully well in their WASSC Examination.
Again, when I discovered that we do not have religious congregation for women who will be helping in education, health and other areas of Church apostolate, I decided to establish one. Note that I am most passionate about the necessity of three things, first and foremost: the knowledge of God, education and health. Hence, I directed my priests to commence with the establishment of Nursery/Primary schools to begin with, within the Diocese.
To improve on the health of our people, I quickly directed that the Sancta Maria Catholic Hospital in Uzairue and Sancta Maria Maternity in Agenebode that had been almost abandoned for years should be revived. Opening of new health centres are in progress. The need to have qualified health personnel is paramount, hence the decision to establish a school of Midwifery which is a project we have at the moment is in progress.
In respect to education again, there can only be quality education, when you have the required committed persons to teaching and forming young ones and in this regard, the Priests and Reverend Sisters are to be well trained to run our schools as part of their calling.
THE PROMISE: From your story so far, it is obvious that the hand of God is on you, was there any premonition that you are a special child?
THE BISHOP: I will not say there was none because of which I was later told. I was bought up by my parents like all my other siblings. Yet, my mother revealed to me before I went to the minor Seminary what was told about me on the seventh day of my birth by certain nomadic people. For that reason, one could say there was a premonition about me to some extent. This did not dissuade my parents from vehemently opposing to my going to the seminary.
THE PROMISE: As the Shepherd of Souls, what is your advice to the faithful of the Diocese as your children?
THE BISHOP: The faithful of the Diocese, both the Priests and lay faithful, God loves them, whether they know it or not because good things have been happening that will make them happy both in this world and those who follow God faithfully here after. I wouldn't want anyone to feel inferior or being so disadvantaged that he or she cannot make it in life. Any of us can be a unique glory of God irrespective of the status or place where he/she comes from. Therefore, everybody should be confident because God can use anybody to win his glory and lead others to his own salvation, so they should hold on to God. For this reason, we should not look down on anybody, we should treat one another with respect even when we quarrel or disagree. We should know that God can use anybody to lead us to any kind of success and which is our home and goal.
THE PROMISE: Thank you my Lord for your time
THE BISHOP: Thank you for coming.