THE GIFT OF FRESH AND RENEWED OPPORTUNITIES AS THE FLOOD WATERS RECEDE
I would not be the first person to announce the evident good news that the flood waters are receding. Thanks and praise to God as fresh opportunities are on the horizons for us at the dawn of another phase of life that is distinctively different from these killer flood waters that seek to impede the gift and pleasant flow of life. There is no gainsaying that the God of hope is always with us. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” Romans 15:13.
2. Let me equally take this opportunity to clarify some issues that have emerged as a result of my recent Pastoral Letter to all the Priests, Religious and the Laity of this Diocese dated October 23, 2022. The issue mostly at stake is about article (4) which reads thus: “Nevertheless, during this trying period, there shall be only two offerings at a given Mass and the first shall be for the upkeep of the Priests and the second shall serve as palliative for the less privileged affected by the flood. Any other collections including harvest and thanksgiving are gravely prohibited until the flood recedes. This act of sensitivity is done chiefly with the intention of reducing the financial burden on the People of God”.
3. Having gone around visiting some of the Parishes, I have observed that some of them are not quite negatively impacted by the flood. This is why it would be wrong to apply to the letter, the directives of the Pastoral Letter to those Parishes that were somehow spared by the flood waters in the same manner. Therefore, it is my directive that those exceptional pastoral situations should easily go back to take on their normal Parish activities as soon as possible. Even in this regard, caution should prevail over excessive collections.
4. Flowing from the above scenario Pastors of the various Parishes should use their initiative to gradually bring about the activities of their Parishes to the point in which normalcy could be attained in a desirable time. I would strongly advice each Pastoral Council to assiduously and collaboratively work with her Parish Priest to ensure that all parish activities are carried out with a high sense of empathy as they serve the flock of Christ during these difficult times. Although we are passing through this difficult time we should also remember that a period such as this also requires that everyone should be ready to go to the extra mile in order to meet the needs of each other. Therefore this text by St. Paul offers us very timely and useful insights and encouragement: “We who are strong in the faith ought to help the weak to carry their burdens. We should not please ourselves”. (Rom 15:1). Please, let those who are materially better off than other be ready to the aid of those who are under greater stress and burden.
5. It is my hope that Pastors of Parishes would get back to their duty posts as soon as possible in order to welcome their flock who had been compelled to flee in order to seek safety in places that are far away from the comfort of their homes. Please, ensure that some helpful but inexpensive measures of fumigation are applied before they settle back into their homes. Also it would be advisable to seek health officials to know what our parishioners should do as they return to their homes in order to avoid the possibility of an outbreak of diseases of various kinds.
6. To all our lay faithful, we the Priests would like you to know that as you return to your beloved homes and Parishes, our prayers and empathy are with you. We sincerely accompany your home-coming with our prayers and open arms to encourage you to fervently continue with your faith life. It is my hope that you would happily meet all others who had equally been away from their precious homes. Like yourselves, they too are freshly arriving back home after this sad experience of flooding. Therefore it is my wish that you would together make sense of these difficult times. Please, be of useful assistance to one another in a manner that you would mutually share Christian acts of kindness in order to live life, even more beneficially than before.
7. It is my wish and prayer that this sad experience would no longer come our way anymore. The God who turns things around to bring good out of negative experiences would perpetually turn our fortune into a better one in the future. May all those who died during this period as a result of these flood waters rest in the bosom of God’s love and peace, Amen! For the children of God, St. Paul says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). Indeed, these flood waters will not have the last say in defining our lives since this experience will change our fortune for the better, because of the unflinching love of God upon us.
8. It is my hope and prayer that the dream God has for us will never be diminished. Rather, this is a call to reawaken in us several options by means of which we can creatively turn this situation and tide of challenge to discover more resourceful ways to make sense of life in this Niger Delta Region. I believe that from the rubble of this chaotic experience of flooding, the gift of what is greater as wells as renewed opportunities would eventually emerge to our benefit and blessing from God.
Bishop Hyacinth O. Egbebo, MSP.
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Bomadi
5 November, 2022