OPENING ADDRESS AT THE 2019 GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF JOS
BY ARCHBISHOP IGNATIUS A. KAIGAMA, 27.08.2019.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual and material blessings (cf. Eph 1:3-4).
I am highly delighted to see you all and welcome you to our General Assembly which is the 17th in the series. The general Assembly brings us together, representing the different segments of the Jos Catholic Archdiocesan family to express our pastoral communion and social solidarity. The Assembly gives us the singular opportunity to seek ways to improve our services in the medical, educational and social fields; to reflect, pray, and reassess our missionary thrust as a local Church through the interface between the Archbishop, priests, religious and the laity. Our theme for the Assembly this time around is: “An Evaluation of the Youth Apostolate in the Catholic Archdiocese of Jos”.
All our 57 parishes, 16 pastoral areas and 6 Chaplaincies as well as all the Archdiocesan sodalities are represented here. The youth are specifically represented by their Archdiocesan and seven deanery EXCO because our Assembly this year focuses on them.
YOUTH AT THE HEART OF OUR REFLECTION
Our previous annual general assemblies dealt with themes on collaborative ministry, peace building and social justice, Catholic traditions, evangelization, faith, mercy, the Blessed Virgin Mary, practical Christianity, just to mention a few. The general assembly of July 25th to 29th, 2005 dwelt on the theme “Youth Development; investing in our future generation: The Church’s Response”. We continue with our reflections on the youth this year again to further remind us of what the Church and the larger civil society can and should do to improve youth welfare and progress. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, in recent times has fervently sought to highlight the significance and the positive contribution of the youth to the Church and the society. He convened a Synod in October 2018, which brought together more than 300 Bishops, religious men and women, lay readers and young people from all around the world. At the end, the Synod urged all Catholics to improve the way they listen to young people, “taking their questions seriously, recognizing them as full members of the Church, patiently walking with them and offering guidance as they discern the best way to live their faith” (cruxnow.com
, Feb 24, 2019). In his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit (Christ is alive) Pope Francis reminds the youth that Christ is alive and he wants the youth to be alive: “He is in you, He is with you and He never abandons you. However far you may wander, He is always there, the Risen One. He calls you and He waits for you to return to him and start over again. When you feel you are growing old out of sorrow, resentment or fear, doubt or failure, He will always be there to restore your strength and your hope” (Christus Vivit no. 2). The Holy Father encourages the youth to grow in holiness and in their commitment to their personal vocation. I, lend my voice to his and urge all our youth in this era of the social media to always log into the Vatican website in order to access Church documents. I encourage you to study Christus Vivit thoroughly in your meetings.
EXPECTATIONS FROM OUR YOUTH
The youth are a gifted people. They have the talents, the energy, the creativity, the resourcefulness and vision to do things positively. They must all bring their noble gifts to bear on the Church and on the wider society. About gifts and talents, St. Paul affirms in 1 Corinthians 12 that the Spirit distributes to all in different ways: wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, teaching, etc. We urge our youth to use their gifts and talents sensibly and efficaciously.
I urge our youth to imbibe and allow the culture of volunteerism to be ingrained in them, that is, to serve without expecting a material reward and to give of oneself in charitable activities selflessly. Volunteering to do things is a great virtue. Unfortunately, our mentality has been “Nairanized” to the extent that every small service or initiative has a Naira price! If someone helps you with your luggage at the airport, courteously welcomes you into an office, forwards or finds your application file for employment, assists with security issues, they look at you with the expectancy of the cripple in Acts 3:5-6, who wanted money from the Apostles Peter and Paul. It has almost become a Nigerian culture to expect instant financial remuneration even when one is paid to perform his or her legitimate duties. We need to purge ourselves of this mentality.
A REVOLUTION OF MENTALITY
When I overheard some people talking about a “revolution” in Nigeria, I said to myself that any such revolution should be first and foremost, a moral and attitudinal revolution not just a call for some chaotic political change. Such a social and moral revolution should start from the family, the nursery, primary and secondary schools and go on to our tertiary institutions. It must be a revolution where indiscipline gives way to discipline, dishonesty to honesty, laziness to hard work, the consumption of illicit drugs to sobriety, hooliganism to true patriotism, religious fanaticism to inter-religious harmony, egocentricity to serving the interest of others first instead of a myopic view of life which emphasizes the superiority of one religious or tribal group over the common good. The revolution we need has to first and foremost, do with cultivating attitudes and dispositions which serve as the panacea for healing a wounded and insecure nation in order to catapult us to progress in all ramifications. It is a call for genuine patriotism.
FAVOURABLE RELIGIOUS AND SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT FOR YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
It is said that the hope of the harvest is in the seeds, but I add that a bumper harvest requires a conducive or fertile soil. The parable of the sower shows that as the farmer sowed the seeds, some fell along the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns and some on good soil (cf. Mt 13:3-9). Only the ones that fell on good soil bore abundant fruits. This analogy of the seeds can be used to refer to our youth, our hope of the Church and the civil society. Given a conducive environment they will germinate and produce the good fruits of patriotism, holiness, social justice, peace, discipline and dedication to the common good of humanity. Seeds can be good but without a fertile ground, i.e. a nation of order and seriousness, a conducive/ rational religious atmosphere, the seeds will become weeds or produce very little.
The importance attached to the place of the young people in the Church and indeed the secular society is perhaps the reason for the series of activities that the Catholic Church has been engaged in recently about youth. There is the tradition of the World Youth Day which brings youths together from all parts of the world to interact and to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the young people. The last World Youth Day held in Panama to which some of our youth were in attendance was as successful as the others before it. As already observed, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, called a special Synod on the Youth. This was followed by a post-Synodal exhortation Christus Vivit. The Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA) recently in our plenary in Burkina Faso, among other things, focused on the young people, especially as regards human trafficking and migration. Last month, the Bishops of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) met in Uganda and discussed evangelization with the youth at heart.
It behooves us therefore to translate into reality in our parishes, pastoral areas and Chaplaincies what the Church is saying about the pastoral care of the children and the youth.
PRACTICAL MEASURES IN CARING FOR THE YOUTH
In our Archdiocese, I request that we continue to give importance to the following:
The Holy Childhood: this association aims at fostering in children a keen missionary awareness and the vital importance of getting them involved at an early age in faith and church matters and being supportive to other children even if they are of a different race or culture. Chaplains and parish priests need to show more interest in the Holy Childhood Association.
Neighborhood Block Rosary Gathering: The coming together of children to pray the rosary and learn things about prayer and the Church is to be supported and greatly encouraged.
Parish youths programmes are a great necessity. We must invest in Catholic Youth Organization programmes and train them to be effective participants and volunteers. The monthly youth Mass in every parish should be sustained with greater enthusiasm. More should be invested in the cadets, scouts, teenage girls, altar servers, etc.
School Apostolate: The Young Catholic Students (YCS) exists especially in secondary schools. Regular visits by priests to schools are necessary and I also call on Catholic teachers and catechists teaching in such schools to find time to mentor the youth in the Catholic faith.
The Nigerian Federation of Catholic Students (NFCS) is the coming together of Catholic students in tertiary institutions to help them to attend to the issues of faith and morals while pursuing their academic life.
The National Association of Catholic Corpers (NACC) is made up of graduates who are on the one-year compulsory national service, often away from their homes of origin. They need a forum to stay together to face the challenges of a new place. Often, there is very little provision of accommodation or adequate logistics for them upon arrival and they have to rely on religious organizations for support. Please, be kind and supportive to them. In our Archdiocese, we have donated a family house and land for the secretariat of NACC.
FAMILIES AND GOVERNMENT
Families are the first schools for the children and the youth. We must encourage once more neighborhood parenting, which in our culture makes everyone responsible for the upbringing of children. Before now, one could discipline a child or a young person in place of his/her parents. Today, even teachers are accosted and publicly shamed by some parents because some teachers take disciplinary measures against their sons or daughters. Some of such parents even negatively influence the academic performance of their children by paying some corrupt teachers or registering their children in dubious exam centres.
The Nigerian Government should with great attentiveness promote the healthy and disciplined growth of our children and youth. When one visits some of the public schools, the school infrastructure are a pitiable sight, with teachers who lack integrity and exemplary conduct. I know of tertiary institutions where students are crowded into lecture halls in their thousands without seats or a functional public address system; where students are forced to buy handouts or give favours in return for marks. Some project supervisors make things too difficult for the students, while some teachers are not focused always demanding monetary reward from their students. The situation is not healthy which is why at every opportune moment we have not failed to remind government of the need to return Church schools taken over and to support the church contribute its known quota of sound academic, moral and spiritual upbringing of our youth.
We must understand that we must all individually and collectively do something towards our youth and this is why we have chosen the theme on the young people to remind us of our various responsibilities whether as individuals, the Church, voluntary organizations or the government. It is incumbent on all of us to seek ways of bringing about sustained vocational youth empowerment programmes lessen the problem of unemployment among the youth. This is the thought that informed the establishment of the Bokkos Interfaith Vocational Training Centre by the Catholic church. His Excellency, Gov. David Jonah Jang, the former Governor of Plateau State seemingly bought this idea when he pledged that the Plateau State Ministry of Education would pay the salaries of the 15 teaching and domestic staff of the place, but we have been waiting since 2011!
I wish in concluding my address to call on the youth to participate actively along with other groups as requested by Pope Francis to celebrate the Extra Ordinary Missionary Month of October, 2019 by making a personal encounter with Christ, to be witnesses like the missionary saints and martyrs, to engage in deeper biblical, catechetical, spiritual and theological reflection for missionary activity and missionary charity by investing time, talent and resources for the spread of the gospel.
It will be a gross omission to forget to express my profound gratitude to you all and through you the Parishes, pastoral areas and chaplaincies you represent for all your fervent prayers and very wonderful support to me throughout the years and also for the commendable sacrifices you have been making in contributing to our new cathedral building and many other pastoral projects. You have sacrificed tithes, harvest and bazaar proceeds from each parish, pastoral area and chaplaincy; individuals and families have donated cement blocks and bags of cement respectively, which is why our new Divine Mercy project has witnessed such remarkable progress.
Congratulations my dear people!!!
May the Lord who has begun the good work in you bring it to completion.
On this joyful note of our success, I, now, on behalf of all of us, especially our children and young people declare the General Assembly for 2019 open.