Am sure you did not envisage this pandemic coming so suddenly
Of course, no one ever envisaged the coming of this pandemic. It hit us like a thunderbolt. In fact, we were caught unawares or unprepared.
What are some of your programmes for the year that have been affected by this pandemic?
Like many organisations and institutions across the world, we in the Religious Education Department had tons of programmes lined up for the year. The Catechists training programmes at the Antioch School had to stop, though we have started an online programmes, other seminars and workshops for catechists and other pastoral agents, the catechism classes, even those due for reception of sacraments were all put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, the Catholic Faith Family project which we organize with the Knights of St. John International (KSJI), this is aimed at improving our Family catechesis in the Archdiocese. A family catechetical competition which was to start during the Easter Octave could not hold. However, trusting God, we are hopeful these programmes will still hold before the year runs out.
Should the present situation negatively affect our faith as Catholics?
For Catholics who cherish and practice their faith with their body, spirit and soul, the present situation rather than negatively affect their faith should strengthen their faith. Indeed, it is times like these that reveal the sterner stuff Christians and Catholics are made of. Of course, we were barred from attending mass and other programmes in the Church, but we have been living our faith in our homes. We are aware parishes made good use of the social media to offer the faithful occasions of growing in grace by hearing God’s word proclaimed, being nurtured by their homily/reflections, and uniting them to spiritual communion, with prayers and actions of the priest who celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
In what ways can families strengthen their faith during this pandemic?
This is a fantastic question. The pandemic and the resultant lockdown has engendered family bond between spouses on one hand, and children with their parents. For families who never had time to pray together, eat together or talk to each other, the pandemic has broken down all those artificial walls erected by the chase and search for daily bread. So, we see that even though the pandemic is negative, something positive came out of it. Therefore, in this uncertain times, families should pray more together; read, study and share the Word of God together; listen to and look out for one another. In fact, this is the time families should rediscover the wholesome benefits of family catechesis. Parents are encouraged to use this time creatively to build their family, spiritually and morally.
The social media is no doubt powerful. In what ways do you think it can help us to be better grounded as Catholics?
This pandemic has further confirmed how powerful social media is. With the social distancing, the use of social media to proclaim the Good News of Jesus has proved effective. Despite having a bad rap, social media can create, in fact it has created a rich faith community and deeper spiritual life. If you do a survey of the social media in recent times, you will observe Priests saying masses and benedictions on various social media platforms. Some have turned these platforms into catechism classes for the delivery of catechesis. So many catholic organisations and pious societies now have social media platforms were they not only reach out to their members but also disseminate information on catholic teachings, traditions and culture. The social media has become a veritable platform for transmitting and teaching our Catholic faith. We should continue in exploring these benefits.
In what ways do you think this pandemic has challenged the Church viz-aviz our teachings and understanding of catechesis?
Aside from the challenge of not being able to meet physically as a community of worshippers or access the sacraments as we used to, the pandemic has not and cannot change the Church’s teachings, traditions or catechesis. The Church, her teachings, doctrines, sacraments were not the products of a pandemic but products of God’s interaction with His creation.
Do you see the possibility of establishing an online portal that can assist the faithful in the better understanding of their faith?
Yes. I see the possibility of establishing such an online portal. Of course you know that such portals already exist across the world. In fact, a lot of priests, congregations and parishes already have such portals where they interact with and connect with their parishioners. We hope this will continue even after the covid-19 pandemic, not necessarily to air the Mass, but to share their homily/ reflections with the faithful for further discussions back home, I mean family faith sharing; and other faith development programs.
Do you see the possibility of this COVID-19 experience making the church reconsider some of its doctrines, especially regarding the prospects of online confessions, online masses, etc?
I do not see the possibility of the COVID-19 experience making the church as you said “reconsider some if its doctrines. Of course these are not normal times, and these abnormal times came with its own challenges, which in my opinion are temporary. Pope Francis on April 17, in his own online Mass, reminded us that online Masses and spiritual communions do not represent the Church: “This is the Church in a difficult situation that the Lord is allowing, but the ideal of the Church is always with the people and with the sacraments-always.” Before COVID-19, the world had witnessed far more terrible pandemics, it changed the way we did things, but it did not change the church or her doctrines. Online confessions and online masses will water down the inherent values derived from these sacraments because these sacraments are basically social and communal. There is a deeper spiritual benefit derived by a penitent when he/she goes to the confessional, and much more when we gather together to sing the lord’s praises and pray together at the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. The online celebrations are all temporary measures due to the present crisis, only those who are physically present at the Mass participate fully. As public Masses are restored by God’s grace, online Masses will necessarily diminish, and the transmission of such to benefit the housebound will return to the norms established by the local bishop.
What has the COVID-19 experience taught you as an individual?
It has taught me to trust God more, to be more fervent in prayer, to bond more with my sisters and my community and to reach out the more to people because when all things fail, we need each other to survive and keep hope alive.
What would you expect Nigerians to look out for post-COVID-19?
Post-COVID-19, we should look out for a new normal. A new normal driven by technology. A new normal that emphasizes more on social interaction and family bonding than unbridled attachment to ephemeral things because when all fails, the human person is all we have. Sr. Judith Madueke, EHJ Director of Religious Education, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos Also, on the part of the department, we have put together a strategy for the good use of online portal for our parish catechesis. The religious dept of each parish will be required to create a platform where parents of catechumens will have access to catechesis just like their children. Assignments/tasks will be given to the children via these platforms where their parents are members. This means assignments will be done with the assistance of their parents, and by so doing, the parents themselves will become active participants in the faith formation of their children, as well as engender family catechesis. Quizzes and relevant articles on the faith will be posted for the children via the platform and answers turned in via the same platform. For the adult catechumens, similar platforms will be created to achieve similar purposes.