BY MOST REV. DENIS CHIDI ISIZOH Auxiliary Bishop of Onitsha Archdiocese
Shanahan Hall, Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha 23 May 2016E
1. INTRODUCTION Today representatives of the People of God in the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha gather to begin the Second Diocesan Synod with the theme: “New Evangelization in Onitsha Archdiocese – Renewal and Commitment”. It will be recalled with gratitude that ten years ago from 6 November to 10 December 2005 the first-ever Archdiocesan Synod, with the theme “Evangelisation in Onitsha Archdiocese today” was held under the leadership of Most Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke. About 283 persons participated at different stages. Just before that first Synod, Archbishop Valerian Okeke published a pastoral letter presenting the legacy and the background of the Church in the archdiocese of Onitsha. It was a presentation of “Our glorious heritage”. At the beginning of this Second Synod, we count our blessings: of the population of almost 2.5 million inhabitants of the circumscription of Onitsha archdiocese, about 1.8 million are Catholics. Among these, we have 480 incardinated Priests, 17 deacons on the way to Priesthood, 196 Major seminarians, 509 minor seminarians, 1395 catechists (230 professional and 1165 voluntary). About 650 registered participants are involved in this Synod.
2. EVANGELISATION Christ instructs his disciples "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."(Mt 28,19-20). This is the mission. In his encyclical “Redemptoris Missio” St Pope John Paul II teaches that the mission of the Church is single but complex. It is carried out in stages: Witnessing, Initial Proclamation of Christ the saviour, Conversion and Baptism, Formation of local Churches and basic ecclesial communities, incarnation of the Gospel in peoples’ cultures, Dialogue with brothers and sisters of other religions, formation of consciences, and carrying out works of charity (cf. 41-60). Evangelisation is announcing of the good news: God sent his Son into the world to save all human beings. It is announcing that the kingdom of God is near; it has indeed come. It is proclaiming Christ to those who do not know him”; “bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity”, “renewal of humanity” “converting and baptising people”, “setting up structures of administration”, “worship and spiritual contemplation”, and “promoting solidarity among peoples”. (Dialogue and Mission”)
3. OUR CHALLENGE AT THE POINT OF RECEIVING THE GOSPEL Our situation at the point of receiving the Gospel:
3.1. We received divided Christianity, with consequences:
unnecessary rivalry on issues not of the faith.
Catholics were not encouraged to read and interpret the Bible. Today many Catholics are still not familiar with the Bible. What can we do?
Instrumentum laboris n 144-152 on Ecumenism
3.2. We received Christianity that did not sufficiently take into account our religious background. African traditional religion, which provided instruments for interpreting and understanding the world and offered a moral compass to navigate through various spiritual challenges in our lives, is still with us.
3.3. The early missionaries did not have the privilege of the knowledge about other cultures and religions which Missiology, Sociology, etc. offer us today. They made attempts to displace the traditional Religion. They preached against it. They tried to suppress it by listing all aspects of it under the first set of mortal sins in the “Penny” Catechism. Today, we have still the challenges:
Our understanding of God follows ATR and, in many ways, the Old Testament (OT). Thus our constant reference to the OT themes.
The “igba afa” models of religious practice still attract our Catholics. First, they rushed to Nwanyi Ufuma of great fame. When Father Godwin Ikeobi introduced Ekpele-Tuesday Catholics trooped out to the centre. Today modern prosperity Gospel preachers remain on the reformed traditional religious practices
Some of our Christians would go to the traditional religious shrine to take an oath because, according to them, “the Bible is not effective”.
Nollywood movies provide a window to understand our people’s spiritual orientation. When they need Christian prayer, they take to Pentecostal because it reproduces what Traditional religion does. Is it surprising that our Catholic Priests have entered the scene?
4. THEME OF OUR SYNOD The theme of this Synod: “New Evangelisation in Onitsha Archdiocese – Renewal and Commitment”. What is New evangelisation? During his 1979 Pastoral Visit to Poland, St. John Paul II spoke about this. The new evangelisation is not “new” in terms of message and content. The person, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” remains the content. What changes is the way it is adapted in time and place. According to St Pope John Paul II, the new evangelisation should be “new in its ardour, method, and expression.”
5. THREE KEY PHRASES TO KEEP IN MIND
Know your Faith.
Live your Faith.
Share your Faith.
How do we achieve this?
6. KNOW YOUR FAITH Resources: Bible, Church Tradition, Magisterium, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Homilies of pastors of souls.
7. LIVING AND SHARING YOUR FAITH
Renewal of Baptismal promises
Bearing witness with courage our Confirmation
Praying liturgy of hours
Fidelity and commitment in married
Fidelity and commitment in the Priesthood and religious life
8. NEW EVANGELISATION:
discovering the rich heritage of the Church – use of oils
handling the problem of evil in the world
recognising the value of the Cross in human life and Christian life
Priest recapturing the original reasons for their Priesthood. Is there any better way to organise solidarity with our priests. Need to promote movement to pray for them.
9. LET US PAY ATTENTION TO THE FOLLOWING SECTIONS OF THE INSTRUMENTUM LABORIS: 9.1. CHAPTER ONE: The mission of the Church outlined in Mt 28, 19-20. The Church is made up of all the People of God. It is not merely Uka fada.
9.2. CHAPTER TWO: Worship of God.
It is not sufficient that we attend Mass. Concentration and devotion are essential.
The role of Priests is essential. Hence the importance of their formation in the seminary. The place of Nkuzi nke okwukwe can never be over-emphasised.
Pay attention to no 54 of Instrumentum laboris on “adoration ministries”.
It should be our concern when Sacraments are ignored and emphasis placed on the Sacramentals, and when there is over concern about external healing while the inner healing and conversion to God are neglected.
9.3. CHAPTER 3: Bible reading
Familiarity with the Bible
Avoiding the utilitarian selective reading in favour of Prosperity Gospel. See no. 82 of Instrumentum laboris.
See no. 67 of Instrumentum laboris concerning setting Bible school and promoting organised Sunday evening instruction.
9.4. CHAPTER 4: Use of Catechism to educate in the faith.
9.5. CHAPTER FIVE: The following areas should not be overlooked:
our involvement in politics,
questions asked under n.116 of the Instrumentum laboris should be particularly noted.
Also important are nn 122 & 123 referring to teachers.
Church and media of communications: See no. 130: Radio, Facebook, Whatsapp, Myspace, Twitter, Friendster, Youtube, and SMS
10. LET US REMEMBER THE KEY PHRASES FOR RENEWAL AND COMMITMENT IN THE NEW EVANGELISATION