KEYNOTE ADDRESS PRESENTED BY THE CATECHIST CHAPLAIN OF THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF BOMADI, VERY REV. FR PREYE S. PAUL AT THE PROVINCIAL CONFERENCE OF THE CATHOLIC CATECHISTS ASSOCIATION OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCE OF BENIN CITY, HELD AT OUR LADY OF THE WATERS CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL, BOMADI, DELTA STATE ON THE 27TH OF OCTOBER, 2021
The Archbishop, Most Rev. Augustine Obiora Akubeze, Archdiocese of Benin-City,
The Bishops of the suffragan Dioceses of Benin-City Ecclesiastical Province,
Guest Lecturer, Very Rev. Fr Anthony Suoware,
The Provincial President,
The Diocesan Presidents,
The highly esteemed members of the CCAN.
Catholic Catechists, Pride of the Missionary Church.
May I, on behalf of the Bishop, Most Rev. Hyacinth Egbebo, MSP., use this opportunity to formally welcome you all, Catechists from the various parts of the Benin-City Ecclesiastical Province, to the humble Diocese of Bomadi. The people of Bomadi are very hospitable and lovely as we can see in the life of our beloved Shepherd, Bishop Hyacinth Egbebo, MSP. There is no doubt that the Catechists are truly the pride of the Missionary Church and foot soldiers of the Diocese! Despite the difficult terrain they find themselves in the Diocese, the joy of the Gospel has remained their strength.
The Diocese of Bomadi is located geographically on the coastal line of the Atlantic, South-South Region of Nigeria; meaning that the Diocese is mostly riverine. The terrain, which is prone to flooding caused, both by natural and man-made factors, have affected settlements along rivers and creeks, displacing inhabitants from their ancestral homes. Other factors that obstruct evangelization are corruption, the emergence of militancy, and direct effect of oil and gas exploration leading to environmental hazards. These have not only led to large scale impoverishment and hunger, but has also shortened the life span of individuals.
The vast majority of Catechists live in rural areas where they engage mostly in subsistence agriculture and fishing. The cost of living has soared because of the economic recession occasioned by Covid-19 Pandemic. Mindful of this, there is increasing awareness, acknowledgement and recognition by the Church’s hierarchy on the important role catechists play in the life of the Church, and with it the responsibilities the Church places on them.
Moreover, to further their intellectual horizon and pastoral experiences, the catechists often organize conferences and seminars within and outside the Diocese periodically. It is a process of formation for the Catechists and an avenue for personal growth and spiritual upliftment as they pray together, and taking advantage of such seminars, they interact, cross-fertilize ideas, give encouragement, share experiences and learn from one another. These activities enable the Catechists to participate more meaningfully in the pastoral life of the local Church, even as far as establishing the faith in new grounds. In addition, they engage themselves on quarterly evangelical outreaches to towns and villages across the Diocese even though they are poorly funded. It is in this regard that we call on all well meaning persons and agencies to support the Catechists in ways they can, as they are poorly remunerated. Most of our Catechists receive less than ₦10,000 per month despite their family demands while others are on voluntary services.
Finally, we hope that you find the experience of this year’s Conference enriching, educative, rewarding and life changing, having in mind the mandate of Christ to “feed my sheep,” and not to feed on the sheep. The Pope’s final words to the Catechists on the occasion of the International Congress on Catechesis (2013) are eloquent: “Let us remain with Christ – abiding in Christ – and let us always try to be one with him. Let us follow him, let us imitate him in his movement of love, in his going forth to meet humanity. Let us go forth and open doors. Let us have the audacity to mark out new paths for proclaiming the Gospel.” And as you enrich daily the faith of the people of God, I pray His blessings be with you all. Amen!