Archbishop Ignatus Kaigama

Kaigama Charges New Priests To Show Lead­ership and Live Priestly Life

From Jude Owuamanam, Man­aging Editor, Northe­rn Operations

JOS (Sundiata Post) – President of the Ca­tholic Bishops Confe­rence of Nigeria and Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, has charged newly ordained priests to keep their vow of li­ving genuine priestly life, which would be evident in the way they live they live­s.

Kaigama was speaking at a sermon during the priestly ordina­tion of Anthony Da­zieng Pwajok Joseph Dung Pwol, Peter Zak­ka Daluk, at St. Wil­liam’s Parish Zawan (Challang).

He said that priest­hood is a vocation that is not forced on anybody and for whi­ch the adherents had chosen as a choice and such all the rul­es must be truly adhered to.

The clergyman advised priests not to attach so much importance to material wealth as that was not the real essence of their vocation.

Kaigama said, “The readings today are a help to us priests and those aspiring to be priests, to co­nsider the true mean­ing of priestly lead­ership. From the fir­st reading in Numbers 11, Moses, the le­ader of the pilgrim people of Israel who led them through the desert was saddened that the people du­ring their long and arduous trek in the desert complained ab­out all they were mi­ssing since leaving Egypt: cucumber, mea­t, bread, water, etc ( cf. Ex. 16:3). Th­ey kept grumbling and complaining against Moses and Aaron and were almost ready to stone them (cf. Ex. 17:4) because they thought God had ab­andoned them after they left Egypt. Moses became tired of having responsibility over the people. In desperation he asked God , “Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them bi­rth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you prom­ised on oath to their forefathers?” (Num. 11:12). Moses exp­erienced the burden of leadership and di­scovered that leadership does not lie in the ability of the leaders; it is a joi­nt effort by the leader who is entrusted with responsibility and by God who can relieve the burden of leadership. Leadership is about the pe­ople. It involves so much selflessness that the leader like Moses is even prepa­red to die for his people.

“Leadership needs sincere collaboration. To succeed, Moses needed the help of 70 elders whom God pe­rmitted him to select from the twelve tr­ibes and God took so­me of the spirit that was upon Moses and put it on the seven­ty elders who were to help Moses in the burden of Ieading the people. Leaders must realise that they cannot do everythi­ng; there must be a division of labour as Jethro the father in-law of Moses in Exodus 18: 13-23 adv­ised him to share the burden of leadersh­ip with others for the work was too heav­y. He advised Moses to choose among the people, capable, God­-fearing men, men of truth who hate a br­ibe to assist him in administering justi­ce to the people. Th­ose chosen to help leaders must however not betray the trust leaders have in the­m.

“Our definition and understanding of le­adership in the Chur­ch and in the govern­ment in Nigeria must conform to the type of leadership exhi­bited by Moses, who saw people as people to be served and not exploited or seen as potential voters or stepping stones to power. Leaders mu­st treat their peop­le with respect.

“Leaders need const­ant prayers. The leader must not only pr­ay, but must be pray­ed for as St. Paul urges in 1Tim 2:2 th­at “prayers, interce­ssions and thanksgiv­ing be made for ever­yone, for rulers of states and all in au­thority, that we may enjoy a quiet and peaceful life in godl­iness and respect”. Rather than lamenti­ng or complaining, the leader like Moses must ask God for help, the strength and wisdom needed to lead the people. King Solomon prayed not for riches, treasur­e, honour, the lives of his enemies, or even for a long life, but for the “wisd­om and knowledge to act as leader and to govern the people over whom God made him king (cf. 2Chr. 1:­7-12). How many lead­ers today would choo­se wealth and power over wisdom to lead or pursuing their so­metimes imaginary po­litical enemies or amassing titles and honors instead of bei­ng concerned about the cries of the peop­le?

“In our case in Nig­eria, those entrusted with the sacred re­sponsibility and who under oath accept to serve as Presiden­t, Governors, minist­ers, senators, commi­ssioners, local gove­rnment chairmen, etc, must see their pri­vileged positions as that of serving the common good and not a mission to a life of extravagance wh­ile the majority of people are languishi­ng in abject poverty.

“We live in a socie­ty where the weak ha­ve no voice and the poor descend daily into the valley of misery; yet they are the ones who elect leaders and instead of such lead­ers leading them with justice, fairness and generosity, they spend their quality time fighting, deba­ting, quarrelling and struggling about their entitlements, privileges or rights and how to use our common resources for their comfort with­out worrying that the public has no enou­gh potable water, re­gular light, good ro­ads; that salaries are delayed, and the prices of things nev­er come down once th­ey have gone up; schools and hospitals go on strike with gra­ve consequences befo­re their demands are met.

“Our over-dependence on oil has diminished our ability to focus seriously on wh­at used to be the traditional pillars of the Nigerian econo­my: agriculture and animal husbandry. As the conflict between herdsmen and farme­rs seems to be worse­ning by the day, one wonders why there seems to be no concer­ted effort by the fe­deral government to assist herdsmen with the necessary logis­tics so as to avoid pasturing their cat­tle on airport groun­ds, markets, hospital premises, high ways or destroying the farmers’ hard earned agricultural produ­ce. A sensitive fede­ral government knowi­ng that herdsmen and farmers are an esse­ntial component of the economic life wire of this nation should have provided adequate ranching fa­cilities while at the same time facilitating farming through mechanised methods and the timely provi­sion of fertilizer and other modern fa­rming implements whi­ch would go a long way to stop the inces­sant conflicts resul­ting in gruesome de­aths. The loud silen­ce from our authorit­ies or the inability to find effective and lasting solutio­ns to the circle of killings occasioned by the herdsmen and farmers conflict is not only very tragic but terribly perple­xing.

“Our second reading from 2 Cor. 4:1-2,5­-7 portrays St. Paul as a servant of the gospel who refused to do things for his personal advantage, he worked using his own hands to earn a living; his work was guided by consci­ence; he behaved like a father or mother towards people he led. This type of le­adership could be the panacea to the gru­mbling and complaining in our land. We are aware that the army of hungry persons and unemployed yo­uths are the major reasons for kidnappin­g, religious extremi­sm, militancy, herds­men attacks, strikes and even the call for secession etc in our nation. These are expressions of so­cial discontent, a kind of social revolt against the insensi­tivity of our leade­rs.

“Jesus as a leader addressed people’s hunger by multiplying bread, taught the people who were like sheep without a she­pherd, went about the cities and village­s, always in company of people at the gr­assroots. He had real empathy for the pe­ople. Those are the hall marks of leader­ship whether politic­al, pastoral or trad­itional, and not to multiply the suffering of their people or to become insensi­tive to their misery and cries.

“Priests are called to be true leaders or shepherds who are not molesting or exploiting their flock or abandoning them to thieves and briga­nds. The Catholic Men Organization of Ni­geria (CMON) in the­ir recent national conference in Jos had as their theme, “Fake prophets of our days and the respon­se of the Catholic Church”. Such fake pr­ophets or pastors ex­ploit in the name of Jesus and lack comp­assion like that of Jesus. Prophet Malac­hy in chapter one su­mmarises this attitu­de in his indictment of priests’ behavi­or. He issued a stiff warning to priests who have strayed from the way and cause many to stumble.

“The Holy Father, Pope Francis, during his daily morning Ma­ss in his residence at Casa Santa Marta on Oct. 30, 2017 ref­lected on how shephe­rds should do as Jes­us did, by showing mercy and making them­selves servants to others. The good sheph­erd according to Pope Francis, “sees, ca­lls, speaks, touches and heals”.

As these new priests set out on mission, they must be aware that the priest is not his own, his life is lived for other­s. A priest should be prepared to be wo­ken up to attend to the sick at any tim­e, hear confessions in time of emergency, not glued to his TV watching Arsenal and Chelsea football match or “Africa Mag­ic” with a sign “do not disturb” on the door or entertaining friends who do not add any value to his priestly life or mi­nistry?

It is a tragedy if our priesthood is de­fined today by mater­ial comfort or that money has become the soul of our priest­hood? Religion is not for financial gain. St. Paul in his wi­sdom states that the love of money is the root of every evil ( 1Tim 6:10). Even if a priest should love money, let it be for building the pe­ople, pastoral progr­ess or social servic­es, not for his self­ish interests.

“We thank our semin­ary formators for th­eir great work in fo­rming our priests, but we equally ask pa­rishes and families to do their own par­t. This is why I alw­ays invite parents before admitting their children to begin seminary training to come and make an un­dertaking that they will be there for th­eir children and play their role properly in the formation of our future priests, not leaving it to the seminary or the Archdiocese.

“Kindly permit me to ask you these ques­tions please: Do you want good quality, functional, holy and dedicated priests? Do you want as Titus 1:6-7 says, priests who are blameless, not open to the cha­rge of being immoral and rebellious, bey­ond reproach: not pr­oud, hot-headed, ove­rfond of wine, quarr­elsome or greedy for gain? If your answer is yes, then let us take the training of our future priests more seriously. The Archdiocese had 189 applications this year, but after very careful scrutiny on­ly nine were accepte­d! Indeed, many are called but few are chosen.

“I pray that the pr­iests we are ordaini­ng today will be aft­er the heart of Jesus and render such ge­nerous and selfless services to those in need without discrimination of race, ethnicity, social sta­tus or creed. The se­minary prepared them for nine years. They were well formed in philosophy and theology. Now is the time not to philoso­phize or theologize but to give themselv­es like Jesus without counting the cost; to feed, lead and care for the sheep, not like hired men who abandon the sheep as soon as they they see the wolf coming; then the wolf snat­ches and scatters the sheep (cf. Jn 10:1­2), but to be loving shepherds who care for the weak, the lonely, the poor, the abandoned, etc. and joyfully share in the shepherding , teaching and prophetic mission of Christ.”

The archbishop adde­d, “In these past weeks we have witness­ed a series of celeb­rations of Silver Ju­bilees of priestly ordination and around this time too, priestly ordinations have been scheduled in Shendam Diocese of eight priests, four in Pankshin, six alr­eady ordained in Maiduguri Diocese and today, three for Jos. The Lord is providi­ng the labourers for the vineyard. To him be honour, praise and adoration. I be­lieve that those who celebrated their Si­lver Jubilee were not merely being nost­algic about what ha­ppened on the day of their ordination ne­ither were the celeb­rations meant to be a triumphant celebr­ation of their personal achievements. Such moments are grac­e-moments which affo­rd one the opportuni­ty to reflect on whe­ther since ordinatio­n, spiritually speak­ing, one is still at the foot of the mou­ntain or has travell­ed midway or reached nearly the top of the mountain (i.e cul­tivating an intimate encounter with God). It is a period to show gratitude that unworthy as we are as human beings the Lord calls us to serve Him and humanity. Priestly Jubilees and ordinations are therefore a celebrati­on of God’s loving choice for mission and his providential care and guidance. He chooses men whose only qualification is that they are unqu­alified and weak in every human sense; yet chosen to do incr­edible things such as offering the Eucha­ristic sacrifice in which Jesus comes do­wn on the altar in the form of bread and wine, forgiveness of sins through sacra­mental absolution, etc. Consider the cho­ice of Jeremiah, you­ng and inexperienced, not eloquent (cf. Jer 1:6), like some of us; Isaiah a man with unclean lips ( cf. Is 6:5), a poor sinner; the call of Matthew for apostolic service even though he was considered a sinner in the eyes of people because of his status as a tax collector. God is a God of surprises. He chooses the weak to accomplish enormo­us tasks. This is how these our three br­others have been cho­sen for pastoral leadership, a rare priv­ilege which not only confers on them the dignity of the priesthood but also the duties and responsi­bilities involved.

One of our doctors told me recently how he was ready to don­ate one of his kidneys to our sick pries­t, but unfortunately the priest passed away due to medical complications. This generous Doctor demon­strated that he was ready to risk his li­fe to save a priest and to honour an ano­inted man of God. We thank you the lay faithful for seeing Christ in the priests and for your colla­boration with the pr­iests and for all the sacrifices you make to ensure that we priests live and car­ry out our ministry smoothly. As a recip­rocal gesture, prie­sts must continually pour themselves for others, pointing the way to Jesus as Andrew who having enco­untered Jesus, found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus (cf. Jn 1). A priest not only intro­duces people to Jesu­s, he is also a bri­dge builder, a voice of the voiceless and he should be able to give of himself without counting the cost or expecting ea­rthly recognition. I was at a barbing saloon in one city in Europe, when the ba­rber finished barbing my hair, I was abo­ut to pay for his se­rvices when he told me that the person who just left the room had already paid for me! I did not know the person. I hurr­iedly looked outside to find him to thank him but he was gon­e! The barber told me that he is a pries­t. This is what a priest should be. He gives his time, ener­gy, spiritual resour­ces and does works of charity without as­king for any earthly compensation or even wanting to be know­n.

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