With the novel Coronavirus, it must have been a difficult period for Catholics?
No doubt, the Corona Virus pandemic has wreaked havoc. It has created not just a difficult period but a nightmare situation for everyone, Catholics included. Essentially, it has changed our mode of worship but it has not changed our Catholic Faith.
How has this impacted on your members and organizational activities?
Presently, the economy is in tatters and there appears to be no forecasting tool or model that fits the present. The bottom has fallen out of every pocket and you know charity is central in Knights of St. John International. The restrictions to gatherings and movement have limited our programmes as we undertake much of our activities in groups.Like every other person, our religious worship is impeded. Like everyone else again there’s fear which has dampened the morale.Like every natural disaster, unpredicted, it overwhelms one with its surprise and shock, especially in this case with its surreality. One needed historical references to begin to believe that it is happening. We reel back in a combination of fear, confusion, and a kind of numbness, despair and hopelessness. However, thanks to God, our Church leadership was quick to rally and stem the panic. Like the fire-fighters’ torch in a house on fire, that ray of light brings hope, restores sanity, courage and even ignites creativity. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. We quickly followed our Church leadership as they devise solutions for our spiritual activities to fashion solutions for our lay activities. We now hold virtual meetings thanks to media and we are able to meet much of our charity calls.
Is there hope for your catechism project this year?
To be clear, the Catechization project which is aptly called “Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins Family Faith Project” is not owned by Knights of St. John International. We are only running an errand for His Grace, The Archbishop of Lagos, as mere facilitators, anchoring the activities at the direction of and under the supervision of the Directorate of Religious Education (DRE) of the Archdiocese. As Knights, we are willing tools in the hands of our local ordinary. We are given the assignment by his Grace and we strive to give it our best. Other lay groups are very welcome to join especially if brought in by the parish priest who owns the project at parish level. Otherwise we often invite them through the Lai- ty council to join us.
Now, if you go back in history, persecution was the strongest driver of the spread of the Gospel/Christianity. Our Faith like the root of the Oak tree is strengthened and toughened by the storms (adversity). The “Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins Family Faith Project” is conceived with the family in mind as the domestic Church. Today, the rules for containing the COVID-19 pandemic, while not made with the Catholic Church especially in mind, has moved the Church from the big edifice to the home. The Church is now the people of God, not the House of God, big auditorium. Knights of St. John International, a family Apostolate wants to seize on this exceptional emphasis on the family, the domestic Church, which is the target of the Family Faith Project, like the proverbial “ash which attaches to the pear/’ube’ to enter the mouth of even the king”. As the Church takes the Mass, the Bible readings, the homily and the Eucharist into the home of the Faithful, we want to attach to it, ‘catechesis’; a wonderful opportunity. Suddenly a positive’ out of a disaster, so well depicted in a cartoon that recently went viral, the devil was chiding God: “with COVID-19, I closed your churches” and God replied, “on the contrary, I just opened one in every home”.
Knights of St John International seem to have limited the catechism project to Lagos Archdiocese?
On the contrary, the Catechization project is not limited to Lagos Archdiocese. Don’t forget, the Knights of St. John International, Lagos Grand Commandery under my jurisdiction, covers Lagos Archdiocese, Ibadan Archdiocese, Abeokuta, Oshogbo, Ekiti, Ijebu Ode, Ilorin, Ondo and Oyo Dioceses. Every Bishop has his own program by a different name. What is common is that it is run by the Directorate of Religious Education (DRE) of each diocese. The Knights of St. John International are always willing and available to partner and the degree of involvement is decided by the Bishop according to his local needs.
How is membership of your Order drawn?
Firstly, Knighthood is a calling and affords all of us opportunity to work for God using our Time, Talent and Treasure. Membership of our Order is drawn from practicing Catholics who are wedded and communicants and who perhaps encountered us in one or more of our activities and decided (both spouses) to join us. Some are advised by their parish priests, often the best source. Others are invited by friends who are already members. If they decide to seek membership, to accept our emphasis on Time, Talent and Treasure and can pass our basic catechism tests; indeed, every committed Catholic is a Knight. The rest are– formalities.
What message do you have for your membership and other Catholic faithful?
Simply put; it is a message of keeping fit and also staying safe. I urge them to obey the rules from civil and religious authorities, as they are for our overall good. We must not allow the pandemic to extinguish or even dim the flames of our faith, our zeal for evangelization and most importantly, at this time, we must make ourselves available to our priests, particularly, when the need to do charity arises. We should also not miss the opportunity individually to encounter Christ in the disadvantaged, the sick, the poor etc. We must follow strictly the directives of our Local Ordinary, particularly in the call for prayers as has been made by his Grace on the Novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots. It is our prayer that, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, God will see us through this trial, through Christ our Lord, Amen!