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Implications and challenges for our Nigeria Mission

Fr George Chidi IHEANACHO, omi - Nigeria Mission Superior - Celebration

George IheanachoA day after the papal approval of our Congregation and its constitutions and rules, our founder wrote to the oblates: “They are no longer mere regulations…They are rules which the Church…has approved…We are few in number…but we have our place in the Church…Recognize your dignity and be very careful never to dishonor your mother…She will bring forth many children, provided that we are faithful and do not by our treachery bring upon her a shameful sterility. In the name of God, let us be saints”.

These words echo once more in our hearts today as we celebrate the 184th anniversary of our official existence in the Church. Our constitutions and rules have become, through this unique act of the Church, a means of accomplishing the teachings of the Scriptures. The first reading tells us: “The commands that I am giving you today is not too difficult or beyond your reach…No, it is here with you…You know it and can quote it, so now obey it” (Dt 30: 11.14).God has called us into the Oblate religious and missionary life; we have responded wholeheartedly to be at his service and that of the Church. If we are and remain faithful to our constitutions and rules given us by the Church, we can never be lacking in our commitment to God and his people. This we know too well through our formation and experience.

It is then a question of honour and integrity. Our dignity as individuals and as religious community is at stake. Our founder’s words are clear on that note: “Recognize your dignity and be very careful never to dishonor your mother”. Each oblate has that great responsibility as a witness to the Gospel of Christ (Lk 24: 48). This is all the more urgent for those called upon to set the pace in a growing mission like ours. Our capacity and humility to abide by and integrate the teachings of our constitutions and rules will go a long way to bringing honour and respect to our Church and to our religious institute; thus, giving us a sense of fulfillment in our vocation. This has to be an on-going process, a daily conversion.

Celebrating our anniversary is another way of reminding ourselves of the need for our continued conversion in the Lord and in our vocation. The Superior General in his letter to the Congregation on this occasion writes: “Even with a special focus and a reflection process in place, we might remain skeptical…We tend to become discouraged because of our resistance to change, or even cynical”. We in the mission have all realized the urgency for progress in our mission. We have pinpointed certain areas for that growth. But the question still remains: Are we willing to change what there is to be changed in our personal and communal lives in order to effect that progress?

All by ourselves, we can do nothing; but the fight is not all ours. God wants all to be saved and He has entrusted us with that mission. He himself is with us. “My grace is sufficient for you”. These same words of Christ to St Paul are addressed to us today in our challenging mission. We have to be up and doing and then God will, by his grace, see us through the huddles of our vocation and ministry. All we have to do is to make sure that “everything we do or say should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus”, as the second reading tells us today (Col 3:17). We must not forget that “the call of Jesus Christ, heard within the Church through people’s need for salvation, draws us together as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate” (C.1). This occasion of the 20 anniversary of our mission is a unique moment to reevaluate our life style and commitment to our vocation and ministry.

The Church in her wisdom has outlined a sure means of attaining that goal through the approbation of our constitutions and rules; the ball is now in our court. The internal and self appropriation of these texts would serve as a stepping stone towards our accomplishment as christians, religious and missionaries. The preface to our constitutions and rules says that we “resolve to obey the following constitutions and rules; by living them we hope to obtain all the benefits we need for our own sanctification and for the salvation of souls” (1825 manuscript)

The interest and zeal that the lay associates have in our charism and life must be a source of renewed commitment to us. There are certainly some riches in our charism and vocation that the laity discover in wanting to be part of institute. “In the name of God, let us be saints”.

Our patroness, Mary Immaculate, is always by our side to encourage and sustain us as we journey toward her Son, our Saviour and Lord. May she ever be present in our personal and communal lives. Oblate Mission marks 20 years in Nigeria


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