Nigeria has been in the news for some years now because of Islamic terrorists activities, most recently in the form of deadly attacks carried out largely by suspected herdsmen targeting local farmers. For many Catholics in the country there is, however, also a quieter battle going on- that requires defiance, and pride to keep the faith in the face of overly aggressive evangelical groups and—in the country’s north—a sometimes unfriendly, pushy, if not violent, Muslim majority. Okoghe Loveth Osemudiamhen speaks of her determination to remain true to the Catholic Church. Excerpts
I am from Edo State, Esan by tribe, currently doing my national youth service in Abuja, Nigeria. I am 28 and a Catholic by birth, and being part of a Catholic family has been an exquisite experience. I grew up with parents who were both Catholics and I embraced the Catholic doctrines and teachings. “I had the privilege to be a member of what we call the block Rosary. Praying the Rosary together with other kids is what attracted me initially to the Catholic faith. I have never dreamt of leaving the Catholic faith, not even for a second. “I joined a lot of associations in the Church such as catechism classes—and being a catechumen was even more amazing than I could ever imagine.
I’ve learnt more about Catholic teachings that groomed me to become a better person in life. I also had the opportunity to serve as secretary in a Catholic youth organization. Plus, I am a member of the choir, a chronic chorister for that matter, and also a member of the Legionaries of Mary. All these societies shaped me into being the woman I am today. “As a teenager, I attended a Catholic school that helped to mould me into a decent lady, thanks to the Reverend Sisters who served as teachers. Nothing will separate me from the Catholic faith. Not even marriage! Serving as a lector and altar girl have been beautiful experiences. Loving the Catholic Church is an understatement: I adore and admire the faith and I don’t think I can do without it. “That is the reason why whenever I visit any evangelical Church, I am always uncomfortable; not because there is no God in the Pentecostal Churches, but just because of the way I am so attached to the Catholic Church and its teachings.
“The Catholic faith impacts my life positively in so many ways: For instance, I would want to dress worldly sometimes, but whenever I think of where I belong-in the Catholic Church, that is-I can’t help but dress decently, speak decently and be modest in all I do. My faith molded me to live a simple life full of humility and honesty, to live in peace with all brothers and be modest in all areas of my life. “I have never had any regret or doubt about my faith, and I don’t think I will ever have doubts, even in the face of criticisms that surround the Catholic faith. Several attempts were made by a lot of people from evangelical Churches to pull me away from the Catholic faith. They were not successful because of my devotion to the Catholic Church. “According to these critics, Catholicism is all about saying the rosary, praying to the blessed Mary. They make a mockery of my faith by saying, ‘there is no light in the Catholic Church and you are worshipping idols’—which are all false allegations. Nonetheless, some of my siblings were foolishly converted by evangelical ministries.
“Some people ask me funny questions like, ‘why are you Catholic? Is Catholicism even a Church? Do you know that Catholics worship idols?’ I am not intimidated nor do I have any doubts about my faith. “I don’t really feel threatened by the Islamic faith either, nor am I afraid of the vicious activities of Muslims. As a matter of fact, Muslims are now trying to emulate the Catholic faith by sending their kids to Catholic school-because these parents are very sure that their children will get a good up-bringing there. The way their children are catching up with Catholic doctrines is amazing! “A lot of people leave the Catholic Church simply because they are in a hurry to get one favour or the other from God; counting on quick miracles, they have no time to wait patiently on God; they tend to move from one Church to the other; they forget that that doesn’t produce miracles-faith in God does. Catholics all over the world need to believe more. “Know that God sees your tears and knows what you are going through; He has vowed not to leave you orphans. So, brace up and take courage. “Be punctual in attending to Church activities, be regular in saying the rosary or a novena to the Holy spirit, in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and in going to Mass and confession; by so doing, whatever you ask in His name shall be given unto you, as St. Matthew says. Therefore do not be intimidated and do not be distracted. Shalom!