Very Rev. Fr. Patrick Tor Alumuku, Director of Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, recently urged priests and leaders to be ‘good shepherds’ as the gospel proclaimed on ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’. The communications expert who is also the President, SIGNIS Nigeria, said this in an exclusive interview with The Catholic Herald, in commemoration of the ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’. The Good Shepherd Sunday is celebrated annually by Catholics worldwide on the fourth Sunday after Easter. It bears its origin from the Gospel reading of same day taken from the book of St. John, Chapter 10. In the reading, Jesus Christ is described as the ‘Good Shepherd’ that laid His life for His Sheep. According to Very Rev. Fr. Alumuku, leaders in the Church and the society should be good shepherds and should lay their lives for their people like Christ did. He said, “Good Shepherd Sunday is an example of good leadership not only in the Church but also in the society because Christ himself lived by example and therefore the leaders ought to live clearly by example.
“The Good Shepherd Sunday reminds the priests whom are shepherds of the flock of Christ on earth of their roles of being good shepherds to their people or the people entrusted to their care. “I have read with a lot of interest a recent homily by Very Fr. Michael Umoh, the Director of Communications of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, last week, at the 41st priestly anniversary celebration of Very Rev. Fr. Raphael Adebayo who is a very dedicated priest of the Archdiocese of Lagos. I have pondered over what Fr. Umoh said about this Priest because I know him fairly well and how dedicated and committed he has been to the priestly vocation. “People like Fr. Adebayo are examples of the Good Shepherd. When we go far, Pope John Paul 11 stands out for us in our own time as a very clear example of a leader who laid his life for the people who are in his care.
Therefore, I like to call upon all priests to emulate the examples of these people.” He said that God expects all leaders to be good examples after Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, in taking up their leadership roles diligently without selfish interest. “Jesus is a true example of a good shepherd because he laid down His life for His followers, He was a selfless leader,” he reiterated. According to Alumuku, the Gospel reading of the Good Shepherd Sunday clearly exposed the shortcomings of leadership in Nigeria at both the local, state and federal levels. “Good Shepherd Sunday is an important occasion for the Church and all over the world, because it reminds us that Jesus is the Head of us all, He cares for us, He loves us and he laid down His life for us. The Gospel illustrates that good leaders care for those entrusted in their care. The leadership styles of many of our leaders in this country are at variance with this gospel proclamation,” he observed.
He stated that most of our leaders do not consider their followers first but care more about their personal interests. “We have problem here because any time a man leaves his job, we hear about embezzlement or accumulation of land or property which he could not have acquired given his income. I think what this message reflects is that the people who have led us or who lead us don’t really care for their people. This Gospel insists that a leader must care for his people. That doesn’t stop him from accomplishing his goals. But the primary aim of the leader is to care for his people and all the other things follow.” Disclosing that he will clock 40 years in priesthood next month, the Director of Communications, Archdiocese of Abuja and Founder, Nigeria Catholic Television, shared his experiences in the priestly vocation. “When I look back, I also relish the joy I have experienced these 40 years, how I worked in some rural parishes in Nigeria, how by God’s providence I ended up working in the Vatican and I’m back now to the Archdiocese of Abuja.
When I look back, I see nothing that I have except that I gave my life for God’s people to evangelize and I intend to do that until I breathe my last.” Recalling that the ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ is also referred to as ‘Vocations Sunday’, he prayed for priests. “When I reflect on ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’, I pray that God will bless our Pope, Bishops and priests including me. And make our Church stronger even in our own generation, in our own time.” On a final note he said, “I draw the words of Jesus Christ himself in the Gospel when he told the eleven disciples after the resurrection, when he said, ‘go and make disciples of all nations’. He knew that the eleven could not go to the entire world, he knew that the eleven would hand over to a group of others in their generation and those will be keep handing over to other people in their respective generations and that has gradually spread. “Since 2000 years, the Church has reached our own continent, our own country and it is because of the good shepherds – the good priests that this Church is still growing. I want to call on the people of our own generation in our own nation, in our continent to be missionaries themselves like Pope Paul XI told Africans in Uganda at the canonization of the Ugandan martyrs to be missionaries to themselves.