AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY THE CATHOLIC BISHOP OF IJEBU-ODE DIOCESE ON THE OCCASION OF HIS FIRST EPISCOPAL ORDINATION ANNIVERSARY

My dear Brother-Priests, Consecrated Persons and Laity of Ijebu-Ode Diocese, Peace of the Risen Lord be with you. Alleluia.

“Not to us Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory for the sake of your love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1). Today is indeed a day of joy and gladness for me, because on this very day last year (the 25th of April), I was ordained into the Episcopate as the 3rd Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ijebu-Ode. Today, therefore, marks the first anniversary of my episcopal Ordination and installation as your Bishop. I consider it a divine privilege for my unworthy self to share in the fullness of the Priesthood of Christ. For “No one takes this honor upon himself but he is called to it by God, just as Aaron was” (Heb. 5,4). To be called to serve the Body of Christ as a successor of the Apostles is not a position anyone merits, but an office entrusted by the Grace of God. For this uncommon grace and privilege, I give thanks to God. I offer my thanksgiving to God in union with each one of you wherever you are today. May the Name of the Lord be blessed, now and forever, Amen.

Our first episcopal anniversary occurs at a very sobering time, when the whole World is ravaged by COVID-19 Pandemic which continues to claim millions of lives; many are seriously sick in the hospitals or at home. On account of this deadly coronavirus, there are lots of pains, anxiety, fear and insecurity in the society. Our nation, Nigeria, is not excluded from these harsh experiences. The mandatory social lockdown in Ogun State is a blessing in disguise for it affords us the opportunity to become part of the solution in curbing the spread of the coronavirus in our communities. Lockdown at home, however, we are able to pray for the healing of those who are sick and for the protection for those who take care of them. I sincerely appreciate the efforts being made by various groups within and outside the Diocese to make my first episcopal anniversary memorable. God willing, there will be opportunity to celebrate in the future. My humble request is that on this day, you would offer more prayers for the Diocese and me, your servant.

After prayerful reflection, I consider it expedient and proper to address few words of gratitude to you, my dear people of God, on the occasion of my first episcopal ordination anniversary. As your Pastor and Shepherd, I would like to thank the Faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Ijebu-Ode for accepting me as their 3rd Bishop. You have continued to show me love, support and cooperation in my episcopal ministry. If there are experiences of pastoral and administrative renewal in the Diocese since the inception of our episcopate, it could not have been possible without your cooperation, collaboration and support. On this note, therefore, I say a big thank you to the Emeritus Bishop of Ijebu-Ode, Most Rev. Albert Ayinde FASINA for his fatherly love and encouragement to me. May God grant you good health of mind and body and the grace of final perseverance in your vocation, Amen. We pray also for the happy repose of the soul of the Pioneer Bishop of Ijebu-Ode, Most Rev. Anthony Saliu SANUSI. May his soul rest in perfect peace, Amen.

To my Brother Priests in the Presbyterate, I would like to express profound appreciation for your collaboration and fraternal love. You have been wonderful. Recall that in my address last year during the episcopal ordination, I appealed and invited you “to join hands with me as we work together to promote peace and unity in our Local Church”. This you have done and are still doing in your active love for God’s people under your pastoral care. You have equally shown the same spirit of love and brotherhood to one another in the Presbyterate. I have seen it demonstrated in your interpersonal relationship, in the impressive turnout at meetings and for our priests’ monthly recollection. Surely, when we Priests work together and remain united, the power of the Holy Spirit is manifested in our lives and ministry, and consequently, the flock of Christ is blessed. In my Holy Thursday letter to Priests in the Diocese (April 9, 2020), I reminded you of the need “to always seek God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist whenever we fall and bleed on account of our sins”. May our daily sacrifices bear fruits of eternal harvest through Christ our Lord, Amen.

My sincere thanks also go to all the Consecrated Men and Women for your presence and apostolates in the Diocese. You are both a gift and blessing to the Church in Ijebu-Ode Diocese. Your witnessing presence and apostolates add vigour and warmth to every part of the Diocese. Thank you for your sacrifices and collaboration with the Bishop. I look forward to a more active and responsible collaborative ministry with you, especially in the area of fostering vocations to the Priesthood and Religious life among indigenes of our Diocese.

To the Laity of the Catholic Diocese of Ijebu-ode, thank you for your love, support and encouragement. In one of my earlier meetings with you I remarked that, “I do not want to run a Church where the Laity takes the back seat”. I prefer a Church where the Laity occupy the front seat and together with the Priests and Religious, move the Diocese forward in her primary task of evangelization. It is evident that in the past one year, you have embraced this challenge. We have seen members of the Laity showing more interest in the decision making process at the Parish and Diocesan levels. It is my hope that by the time the Diocesan Pastoral Council is officially inaugurated after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, we shall witness more active participation of the Laity in the Pastoral life of our Diocese. A Diocese replete with abundant Laity (CMO, CWO, CYON and others) and willing to participate and support the work of evangelization with their God given resources, and prudently managing the same, avoiding wastage, cannot claim to be poor and weak. Let us together, with faith and courage, reject any negative profiling of our beloved Diocese for “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt 19,26).

To our Benefactors, far and near, who have been supporting us financially and otherwise for the past 50 years of the erection of the Diocese, I say a big “Thank you” for your continued support and generosity towards the growth of Ijebu-Ode Diocese. I personally recognize and appreciate all the financial assistance and moral support received from the Sons and Daughters of Ijebu-Ode and the Friends of the Diocese within and outside Nigeria. You have never failed us whenever we call on you and without your kindness, we could not have been where we are today. Thank you for all you do for us and may God abundantly reward your generosity. Amen.

In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, the domestic Church – the family, comes alive in the practice of the faith. This is the time when parents are called upon to perform their priestly, prophetic and kingly duties in the family by assisting their wards to hold unto their Christian faith and values. Catholic families should not have excuses for not praying together, reading the Word of God and teaching the faith to the young ones. This is the time that Parents are reminded of their roles as teachers and pastors to their children. If all that your children knew about the Bible and prayer life is what you have taught them at home, how much of the Scriptures and Prayer, will they really know? Many vocations to the priesthood and religious life spring up from the spirituality of individual families. The Family remains the veritable nursery bed for vocations to the Priesthood, religious and married life. Make use of the duration of the coronavirus lockdown to strengthen social and spiritual bonding in the family. I challenge you to come out of this pandemic a better Christian/Catholic family.

I have been privileged within the first year in office as Bishop of Ijebu-Ode Diocese to commence a Canonical Pastoral Visitation to Parishes, Institutions, Houses of Formation and Convents in the Diocese. I have visited Ogbere and Esure Deaneries. Whenever the COVID-19 lockdown is suspended, I wish to continue the Canonical Pastoral Visitation to the other Deaneries in the Diocese. My pastoral visitations have enabled me to get closer to the people of God in their parishes. I have had wonderful encounters with Priests, Religious and Laity in the various Parishes visited. I have been enriched by the expressions of faith and interactions at meetings. Those experiences have offered me first-hand opportunities to feel and experience the variety of talents and prospects in our Diocese.

In conclusion, let me remind you of our pastoral focus as stated one year ago: “…To continue to promote evangelization and renewal of the Catholic faith in the Diocese as embarked upon by our venerable predecessors. We shall through the collaboration of our dynamic Clergy, Religious and Laity insist on Catechetical and Liturgical formation, on the Apostolate of trained Laity, on integration of faith in action, active solidarity among Priests, Family Life Apostolate, proper Education of the Youth, mutual collaboration with the Consecrated Persons, harmonious relationship between Catholic and non-Catholic communities and the Promotion of reciprocity of rights and duties.” This is our pastoral focus and it has not changed by God’s grace. I cannot do it alone. Everyone must get involved and become passionate about the Diocesan Pastoral Goals. Our love for Christ and the Church must be expressed in the quality of responsibility and accountability discharged in the pastoral assignments entrusted to us.

Once again, I thank the entire Diocese for your continued prayers for me, especially today, for your unflinching support and unwavering collaboration with the office of the Bishop. I look to the future with renewed confidence and hope in God that you will not fail in your love and support for our ministry. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Church, intercede for us. May Christ the King, the Patron of our Diocese, keep us united and joyful in his Divine Love, Amen.

I impart Apostolic Blessing upon you and your family +

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