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Newly Ordained Deacons in Nigeria Cautioned against “marketing a gospel of materialism”

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama with newly ordained Deacons at St. Donatus’ Parish, Saukale in the Archdiocese of Abuja. Credit: Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama/ Facebook

The Archbishop of Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese has called upon Seminarians he was about to ordain Deacons in the Archdiocese to refrain from the temptations of preaching materialism but instead stick to the gospel of love and peace.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama told Emmanuel Okonkwo, Humphrey Ayegba, Michael-Maria Nzume and Peter Agbo to be light in a world that seems consumed in materialism.

“To our brothers being ordained deacons, I urge you to live out your ministry as deacons, preaching peace and love with due diligence and reverence,” Archbishop Kaigama said in his homily on Sunday, April 11 at St. Donatus’ Saukale Parish of the Archdiocese of Abuja.

He added, “I enjoin you to refrain from bearing false witness. Never yield to the temptation of marketing a gospel of materialism. As transitional deacons, you hope to be ordained priests soon.”

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The Nigerian Archbishop urged the four candidates to the diaconate to teach sound doctrines handed down by the Apostles and to resolve to proclaim the Gospel of the risen Lord with firm conviction.

“You are called to be of service to the poor and marginalized in our society without ethnic or religious discrimination especially in these difficult times,” Archbishop Kaigama appealed to the Seminarians.

He added, “Yours is not a ministry of convenience, not of choice places, but one that embraces all people, to go wherever you are sent to preach peace and the love of God. Anchor your faith in Jesus and like Thomas, say, ‘my Lord and my God.’”

The Archbishop likened the work of the Deacons to the seven helpers who were selected in Sunday’s reading from the Book of Acts of the Apostles to serve the community.

He said that in Acts of the Apostles, “no one claimed any of his possessions as his own” in the community of believers.

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“Our Deacons being ordained today could be said to be the precursors of today’s civil servants who are expected to render whole-heartedly service,” he said, and expressed regret that in Nigeria, civil servants and other leaders are “neither civil nor servants.”

He said that leaders in the West African country are often self-serving rather than serving the interests of those who depend on their services.

According to the Nigerian Archbishop, qualities expected of servants include good reputation, trust, ability to manage public resources well and the wisdom to carry out an equitable distribution of resources.

These, he said, “are grossly deficient among most of our leaders, whether political, traditional, security, etc.”

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The 62-year-old Archbishop who has been at the helm of Abuja Archdiocese since November 2019 regrets that Religious leaders are also falling into the trap of materialism, preaching for selfish gains and a desire to enrich themselves.

“One finds, regrettably, some religious leaders who have metamorphosed from being servants, prayer specialists and preachers to business or commercial strategists,” he said during the ordination event that took place on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 11.

In Nigeria, the Archbishop said, the syndrome of “what is in it for me” is what has caused the country’s greatest drawback.

Leaders, rather than ask what they can do for people entrusted to their care, demand what the poor can do for them or how they can unjustly take from what is for the poor to foster their happiness, while the poor sink into deeper poverty and misery, the Archbishop said.

Such selfishness, Archbishop Kaigama noted, has manifested itself in the distribution of COVID-19 palliatives, IDP relief materials, food ration for prisoners and school children, among other government services.

He also expressed his condemnation for leaders who are enriching themselves on the country’s execution of constituency projects and contracts to improve infrastructure rather than having the public’s interest at heart.

According to the Archbishop who started his episcopal ministry in Nigeria’s Diocese of Jalingo in April 1995, the calmness and selflessness of the early leaders who he says promoted unity and loving coexistence is in very short supply today.

Meanwhile, in his Message on the occasion of the Divine Mercy Sunday, Archbishop Kaigama called upon the people of God under his pastoral care to contemplate on the steadfast love of the Lord, which never ceases and His mercies, which “are new every morning.”

He said that God’s mercy is a calling for His people to perform loving deeds and show mercy to others and “not to be like that ungrateful servant in Matthew 18 who, having enjoyed an incredible debt cancellation from his master, could be so unforgiving to his fellow servant of a small amount.”

Making reference to the Sunday April 11 second reading from St. John’s first letter, which focused on the need to obey God’s commandments to love and to become channels of God’s mercy and peace, Archbishop Kaigama said the passage is an invitation for the people of God “to penetrate the walls we have built around us, which hinder us from genuine love and service.”

“The violent attacks on innocent people, the criminal and sinful act of kidnapping being turned into a lucrative business, the excessive bloodshed all around us, are becoming too embarrassingly painful,” the Nigerian Archbishop said April 11.