Advertisement

Lay Catholic in Nigeria Pens Book on Saints to Inspire Perseverance amid Hardships

Card announcing the Saturday, October 23 unveiling of the book, "Saints: Models for the Pilgrim Church" by Ernestina Nwannedirim Anierobi of Nigeria's Catholic Diocese of Port Harcourt. Credit: Ernestina Nwannedirim Anierobi

The book on Catholic Saints by Ernestina Nwannedirim Anierobi, a lay accountant in Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Port Harcourt, is a rich account of celebrated people who epitomized values that are relevant to the persecuted Church today.

Published under the title, “Saints: Models for the Pilgrim Church”, the book is a modern version of stories of Saints that addresses contemporary challenges of unemployment, career stagnation, failed marriages, and struggles with various forms of addictions.

Ms. Anierobi tells ACI Africa that she carefully grouped the Saints according to values that can help people navigate through specific challenges they find themselves in, including rejection, and infidelity.

She spoke to ACI Africa on Friday, October 22 ahead of the Saturday, October 23 unveiling of the book that has obtained a Nihil Obstat, meaning that it has been accepted for use in the Church based on doctrinal and moral grounds. 

The imprimatur for the book was granted by Bishop Hilary Odili Okeke of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Nnewi, meaning that it has been officially authorized as an ecclesiastical book and part of the rich resources of the Church.

Advertisement

The publication stands out from other books on Saints in many ways, including the fact that it is, perhaps, the first book of its kind to be authored by an African.

Credit: Ernestina Nwannedirim Anierobi

“I have read many resources on the lives of Saints which were authored by western authors. I haven’t come across one written by an African,” Ms. Anierobi says, and adds, “It is important that a book on the lives of Saints expresses the real depth of the struggles of Africa as well.”

The Nigerian lay accountant says that she was inspired to write the book some time in 2014 after going through a difficult personal experience and needed guidance in life.

"In 2014, I went through one of the most painful experiences in my life. My well-paying job stopped and as a result,  I lost my young marriage. It was a painful experience that threw me to a low point in life," Ms. Anierobi told ACI Africa October 22.

More in Africa

The resident of Port Harcourt in Nigeria’s River State found deep consolation in prayer as she sought answers to the difficult situation she had been plunged into.

"I needed a guide in my life and I remember having a divine encounter where I was told strongly to 'know the Saints,'" she shares, and adds, "I realised that many other people were going through different kind of situations and that they too needed consolation."

One day after prayers, she stepped inside a bookshop at the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA), a postgraduate school for Catholic Priests in Nigeria’s Port Harcourt Diocese and bought a book on Saints. A few pages into the book, she decided to research extensively about Catholic Saints.

Ms. Anierobi who serves as a commissioned teaching minister of Catholic Charismatic Renewal of Nigeria (CCRN) says that she did not have any idea of the structure the book would take.

“At the beginning, I only read the stories of Saints and cried, thinking of what I had been through. With time, I started finding consolation from the lives of the Saints and decided to research and document my thoughts about them. I realized that many other people were going through my situation and they too needed consolation,” she says.

Advertisement

“Even though I had made up my mind to do research on the Saints, I didn’t know how to structure my work. But I kept praying over it and I sought advice from researchers at CIWA concerning my desire to write about saints,” she says, adding that she started receiving the guidance of a Priest at the CIWA’s Institute of Spirituality who started reviewing her work and guiding her on how to structure her work. 

“Saints: Models for the Pilgrim Church” is a result of extensive research work that brings together stories of Catholic Saints as narrated by various sources, most of them Catholic electronic publications.

Ms. Anierobi says that she categorized the Saints into groups based on their values and the application of the values to particular contemporary issues.

The 230-page book has seven chapters, with the first six chapters presenting the life history of some selected Saints who are grouped in the chapters according to some unique virtues that their respective lives project.

Reflections on the lives of the Saints in each chapter follows their history. Each chapter is accompanied with a sample prayer intended for the grace to live out the virtue/value exemplified in the life of the particular Saints under review.

(Story continues below)

Ms. Anierobi starts by reflecting upon Saints whose specialty is music and goes ahead, in subsequent chapters, to address chastity, perseverance, charity, and amazing grace.

 Credit: Ernestina Nwannedirim Anierobi

Asked why she starts with music, the Nigerian author says, “I believe music puts us in the right frame of mind. Music is the secret way to the heart of God. I believe that if we get the music right, we’ll get many other things right.”

The follow up chapter to the topic of perseverance explores Saints of African descent whose endurance amidst hardships is a source of encouragement to people undergoing persecution and hardships. 

Ms. Anierobi gives the example of persecuted Christians, Africa migrants, and other people suffering away from home.

She gives the example of St. Josephine Bakhita, the Sudanese-Italian Religious Nun who lived in Italy for 45 years, after having been a slave in her native country of Sudan as a good example of triumph over suffering.

The Nigerian Lay author says that Saints who endured suffering are a source of encouragement in African countries that are characterized with insecurity, corruption, bad governance, and systems that are indifferent to the plight of the needy.

The sixth chapter is about Saints who exemplified the “amazing grace of a new beginning” to stir the desire for conversion among people who feel stuck in bad additions and behaviors. Such people, she says, can look upon the guidance of St. Moses the Black of Ethiopian descent who led a feared gang of robbers and committed many atrocities before he changed his lifestyle and died as a monk.

The new book further provides "lived experiences" of people who have endured hardships, trials and received divine assistance to triumph in their challenges.

They include a woman who faced ridicule from the society because she could not bear children and a young woman who was mistreated by her husband even after she preserved her virginity until marriage. 

The third testimony is of a man who lost everything to religious unrest in Northern Nigeria and thus relocated to his State in Southern Nigeria with his young wife but was soon abandoned as the wife was recalled by her father and subsequently, given to another man.

The book, which encourages the patience of Saints and perseverance in career growth, is a call for young people to realize their full potential.

Ms. Anierobi maintains that though Saints lived in simplicity, their lives do not encourage laziness. Instead, the lives of Saints encourage people to work hard, make a living, and pull others to the top, the fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) who doubles as associate member of the chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) says.

And as the second Chairperson of the Society of Women Accountants of Nigeria (SWAN), Port Harcourt chapter, Ms. Anierobi says she spoke to thousands of students while driving the association’s mentorship program for Secondary Schools.

Though a majority of questions that the book seeks to respond to are spiritual, the author also addresses what it takes to achieve career success to help someone become “the best that God has created them to be.”

She makes reference to the popular ‘‘Igba boyi’’ business mentorship model in Igboland of Nigeria that she says has over the years produced successful people in the region whose economy was hit hard after the country’s war in 1971.

Credit: Ernestina Nwannedirim Anierobi

“Igba boyi’ is translated to business servants and ignites memories of the few successful people who, in the aftermath of the ill-famed Nigerian war, empowered others to start businesses.

“There was a lot of suffering after the war and the few rich people started employing others for about six years after which they were given capital to start businesses. In the end, the wealth was spread and now, Igboland is one of the wealthiest regions in Nigeria,” Anierobi says.

She adds, “It is a model that still exists today. Young unemployed graduates who lack capital still look for successful masters who give them a boost and the cycle of prosperity continues.”

"Though I lost a job at some point, I am positioned now to employ other people as I am the CEO Beacon Professionals and Managing Partner, Ernestina Anierobi & Co (Chartered Accountants)," the Nigerian author tells ACI Africa.

Her book, which costs US$15.00 on Amazon online bookstore, is also a call for young people to embrace the virtue of patience and to be willing to embrace humble beginnings, including apprenticeships, in order to be successful in their careers, Ms. Anierobi says in the October 22 interview with ACI Africa.

Underlining the relevance of the book to the people in Africa, the author says, “Its aim is to motivate, to strengthen and to guide those who need direction in life. It inspires hope to the dehumanized, relief to the disadvantaged, and inspiration to start a new life with the example of Saints who exhibited amazing grace.”

“To those wallowing in confusion, this book aims to provide divine direction and clarity of purpose to help them remodel their lives,” the Nigerian Lay accountant says of her book to be officially unveiled October 23 at Mater Misericordiae Catholic Church, Rumuomasi, of Port Harcourt Diocese in Nigeria.