The Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Most Reverend Godfrey Onah has said that there is need to review the programmes and activities in formation houses, where priests and religious are trained. Bishop Onah made the observation in a keynote speech he delivered at the 2021 inaugural bi-annual vocation lecture of Serra International, District 130B with the theme, “Domestication of Matthew 9:37 echoes of the Church in Nigeria”, and the topic, “Managing our rich harvest of vocation in an economically depressed and morally depraved society, held at St. Agnes Catholic Church, Maryland, Lagos. Bishop Onah disclosed that the review for vocational prrogrammes is necessary because some people are going into the seminaries for the wrong reasons, and their formators need to fish them out since the seminaries are no hiding places. While narrating the story of a seminarian who was asked to withdraw from the seminary, the bishop called for the development of new missionary awareness for priests and the lay faithful, so as to correct some anomalies in formation of the religious.
Also speaking on the occasion, the Bishop of Ijebu Ode Diocese, Most Rev. Francis Adesina appealed to the faithful to always draw the attention of their priests to seminarians whom they think are not fit for the priesthood. He said that Africa, especially Nigeria is producing priests for the large harvest, as there are over thirty one thousand priests in training in the continent. Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie in his message, delivered by Rev. Fr. Peter Abatan advised religious leaders to always speak up against the ills in the society, adding that not doing so, is a negation of their ministerial duties. Noting that the vocation to the Catholic priesthood is a life of service and not an ostentatious one, Cardinal Okogie said since priests are products of the society, everyone has a duty to play in their formation. Speaking on the life of selfless service of the Catholic priesthood, the Most Rev. Alaba Job, Archbishop Emeritus, Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan, said the Church is doing its best to make priests averagely comfortable.
He recalled that priests were not given cars in the past, but that they are now being given cars at ordinations. Archbishop Job also noted that priests are a reflection of the society they come from. In his remarks, Prince Robert Soji Olagunju, Chairman on the occasion, and Founder/Chief Executive Officer; Lumen Christi Catholic TV Network, said the month of May is the month of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. It is not by coincidence that the people of God also celebrate today, the Feast of Day of St. Joseph, the Worker, the Patron Saint of the Catholic Men Organisation of Nigeria. It also happens to be the month the Queen of Heaven, Our Mother first appeared to the three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal on the 13th day of May, to admonish and warn us, as a loving mother would do, the dangers ahead, if humanity continues in sin.
He commended the Serra Club members for following the example of Blessed Junipero Serra, the saintly Fransiscan missionary priest in committing themselves to Christ, as he prayed that the light of God (Lumen Christi) illuminate their homes with divine peace, fortitude and heavenly favours. “Serra Club has come a long way in fulfilling her objectives as identified in the year 1935, and as ratified at the 1968 international convention of Serra Club, namely, to promote and foster vocations to the priesthood of Christ, to encourage and affirm vocations to consecrated religious life, and to assist members in discerning their own calling to lives of holiness in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. What a fantastic initiative”, he said. He also commended the Serran Remigius Nwadike led outgoing exco to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Mediatrix of all graces, who said ‘yes’ when it was most important to say so, hence the word became flesh and dwell among men. In his goodwill message, Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Archbishop of Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos welcomed bishops from other dioceses, and panelists for taking time to be at the event.
“I think it is my duty, and indeed a priviledge to come and say welcome and thank you for taking the time to come and be with us today”, he said. Archbishop Martins acknowledged the extraordinary roles that the Serra Club is playing in the life of the Archdiocese, particularly with regards to vocations of the priesthood and religious life. He said: “We can only say thank you for the part you have played in the life of the Church. We encourage you to continue because what you are doing is an honour to the Church, God is taking note, and he never fails to reward those who serve him faithfully, as you are doing. “I want to assure you that we on our part in the Archdiocese of Lagos, will ensure that we offer you the measure of support and collaboration that you need that will be able to carry you through this service, which indeed, the Lord has granted you.” The colourful event was well attended by catholic religious and lay faithful from all walks of life, who came from far and near. Serra Club is a club of lay faithful who support vocations, began in the year 1934, in Chicago, USA by four lay faithful, and culminated on February 27, 1935 into Serra International.