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Missionary Cleric in Kenya Explains Decline in Devotion to Holy Spirit in New Book

The new book "Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church" When!!!? by Fr. Maxwell Atuguba

“Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church! When?” This question, posed by a Protestant student at the University of Ghana where Fr. Maxwell Atugba was a Political Science and Philosophy student is still fresh in the missionary Cleric’s mind more than 15 years later.

The year was 2005 and Fr. Atugba, then a publicity official for a Catholic movement at the university was organizing a conference on the Holy Spirit. The conference had been christened “Holy Spirit Power Conference” and students in the movement were up and about, calling on top of their voices to publicize the event.

“Some protestant students who read the title of the conference, which was spread out on a big banner were outwardly stunned that we were talking about the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church,” Fr. Atugba, a Ghanaian-born member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans) recalls the incident of 2005 in an interview with ACI Africa Thursday, March 4.

The missionary Cleric ministering in Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Nakuru added, “One of the students shouted loudly ‘Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church! When?’ This got me thinking about how the Catholic Church is perceived out there and whether Catholics themselves know the position of the Holy Spirit in the Church.”

It is this experience that inspired the writing of “Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church” When!!!?”, a book in which the 41-year-old member of the Spiritans seeks to respond to the Protestant student’s bold question.

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In other sections of the book, Fr. Atugba draws to the teachings of the Catholic Church and the Scripture, with a mix of his personal experiences and moving encounters to help Catholics to rediscover the reality of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

The book, which took years to put together was launched on January 15 at the Catholic Mission in East Pokot where Fr. Maxwell oversees the running of St. Luke’s Tangulbei Catholic Mission in one of the country’s most difficult places.

“I came from school with the idea to write the book but it took me two years to finally put it down. It then took me another three years to publish it,” Fr. Atugba told ACI Africa March 4.

Explaining the delay in writing the book, Fr. Max, as he is fondly referred to by the Pokot people at his mission says, “I knew I was handling a very sensitive topic within the Church. I was scared. I didn’t know how the people were going to receive the message that I had to pass.”

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In the book, Fr. Atugba who holds a degree in Religious and Cultural Studies boldly notes that there is a decline in devotion to the Holy Spirit, specifically in the Catholic Church.

He attempts to explain the reasons behind the decline and goes ahead to suggest ways in which the devotion to the Holy Spirit can be improved.

“The decline in devotion can be seen from how the Church operates. How many Church movements are devoted to the Holy Spirit?” the missionary Cleric poses, and adds, “How many times on the calendar do we celebrate the Holy Spirit?”

In the Catholic Church, he says, the group that is thought to be closest to the Holy Spirit is the Charismatic movement, which the Spiritan Priest says is not entirely devoted to the Holy Spirit.

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“The Charismatic movement isn’t totally devoted to the Holy Spirit. What members do is simply to manifest the charisms of the Holy Spirit,” Fr. Atugba says.

The Cleric who also holds an additional two diplomas in Religious and Philosophical Studies and the other in Theology in which he has also obtained a Master's has categorized reasons behind the decline in devotion to the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church as historical, Theological and Pastoral.

He observes that in the history of the Catholic Church, Theological reflections on the Holy Spirit were minimal as theologians of the fourth and fifth centuries paid more attention to tackling heresies in the Catholic Church at the time.

“The attention of Theologians in this period was on the person of Jesus Christ,” he says, and explains, “There were many erroneous teachings about Jesus that needed careful clarification and correction. Hence the decline in the interest and discussion on the Holy Spirit.”

He also blames the decline on associating the Charisms of the Holy Spirit with the hierarchy of the Church and the association of the charisms with holiness.

“Persons who were regarded as worthy of receiving the Charisms were people like the monks, mystics and the likes. Other Christians seem not to see themselves as worthy of the Holy Spirit,” he says, adding that the belief is contrary to Scripture.

“The prophecy of Joel was: all flesh would receive the Holy Spirit through the grace of the Messiah,” he says.

Infant Baptism in the Catholic Church, Fr. Atugba also argues, separates “the Pentecost” from the sacrament since “babies cannot possibly manifest the charisms in an explicit way.”

In the book, he explains the meaning of Baptism in the Holy Spirit and distinguishes it from “a simple act of salvation.”

“It isn’t just a baptism of salvation but immersing ourselves in the power of the Holy Spirit,” he says.

To promote devotion to the Holy Spirit, the Cleric suggests a variety of measures, including an intense preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation.

“I have suggested to Bishops that there should be an elaborate ceremony for Confirmation to allow those to be confirmed adequate time to prepare for who they are yet to receive,” he says.

The 93-page book describes the substance of the Holy Spirit, who he is and why he should be known as “not just an ‘it’ but a person we can all relate with.”

Fr. Atugba’s book describes the nature of the Holy Spirit and is meant for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. 

In the Nairobi Archdiocese, the book that is being sold in a fundraising initiative for the construction of a theater for medical procedures at Tangulbei Divisional Medical Programme (TDMP) can be obtained from St. Austin’s Catholic Parish at KSh.500 (appro. US$5.00).

This story was first published by ACI Africa on 7 March 2021