The Society of St Paul, in the 25th year of its presence in Nigeria, witnessed yet another historic moment on 26 February 2017. The first two fruits of our Congregation from this land, Martins Chibuike Obasi and Gerard Ndaka’at Tanko were raised to the Order of Priesthood by His Grace Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, the Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos. The entire campus of the Society of St Paul, Lagos, was colourfully decked and geared up for the mega occasion. Along with the members of the Society of St Paul, the worshipping community of the area considered it as an occasion to celebrate and glorify God for the gift of Priesthood. And so they came in large numbers to witness to the history-making event. Present at the occasion were large number of priests, religious sisters, seminarians, members of the Pauline Family, friends, benefactors and parishioners. Rev. Fr Thomas M.J. the Formation Director of the Province, and Fr Johnson Chacko, Provincial Councillor, represented the Provincial government.
The programme of the day started with a guard of honour accorded to our Archbishop by the Knights of St John. This was followed by the entrance procession that led to the finely decorated chapel where the entire ceremony took place. During the homily, the Archbishop reminded everyone to invite God into their lives as their sole Master and not to give place for other masters like worry, pleasure, power etc. God is at work in our lives and therefore we need not worry about anything. God is the only Master that is worth its name. Turning to the Ordinadi, His Grace told them that they were going to be counted in the company of great men of history like Saint Paul, Saint John Mary Vianney and St John Paul II. “This is a great honour that none of us deserves, but it is given to us. Take this honour with all the seriousness that you can muster. You are not your own anymore. You belong to God, to Christ, to the Church and the people of God. As St Paul says, regard yourselves as ‘as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1).’ Imitate Saint Paul as he imitated Christ. At the end of your life you too may be able to say like him, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness…’ (2 Tim 4:7).” The Archbishop called upon the Ordinandi to carry out the ministry of the Word and the Sacrament with utmost care and dignity, making it possible for the people of God to experience Christ. He also reminded them that there are dark clouds in our lives, but they need not worry. God is our Master. He watches over us and takes care of us.
Towards the end of the ceremony, in a moving gesture, the Archbishop knelt before the newly ordained priests, seeking their blessing and prayer. This was followed by the concelebrating priests, the family members of the newly ordained and the entire congregation being prayed over and blessed by them. Messages of felicitations from our Superior General Don Valdir Jose de Castro and our Provincial Superior Fr Michael Raj were read out to the newly ordained in public.
The Liturgical celebration over, people gathered together for a well-planned felicitation programme in honour of our newly ordained. Children, youth and elderly, dressed in festive attire, presented dances, songs and skits to felicitate and congratulate the first two sons of Blessed James Alberione from the soil of Nigeria. The ordination cake was cut amid thunderous applause and the festivities began. The 1200-strong crowd shared in our joy by partaking of a sumptuous meal prepared by our worshipping community with great love. The SSP community of Lagos, led by Frs Jikson and Emmanuel together with Fr Joe Eruppakkatt, the Cordinator of Vocation Promotion and Formation in Nigeria worked hard to make sure that the day’s function went on smoothly and gracefully.
Hearty congratulations and prayerful wishes to Rev. Frs Martins and Gerard as they join the Presbyteral Order in the Pauline family and embark on a journey of ministering to the People of God through the Pauline Charism and mission!