Pix: A section of participants that filled the hall of St Matthew's Parish, Amawbia to the brim for the maiden Laity Council's interactive session, July 23, 2016. Photo: Ifeoma Ezenyilimba.
PREAMBLE: To address some of the issues that impede the spiritual growth of the lay faithful, we, the Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria, Awka Diocese (CLCNAD), on July 23, 2016 in the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, held our first interactive session with our diocesan bishop, His Lordship Most Rev Dr Paulinus Chukwuemeka Ezeokafor at St Matthew's Catholic Church, Amawbia, Awka South L.G.A, Anambra State.
After the various questions that were asked by members were addressed by the bishop, and after deliberations on the issues raised in relation to our faith, our organisation and our society, we issue this communiqué:
1. GRATITUDE: We thank God for the gift of our bishop, Most Rev Dr Paulinus Ezeokafor, who is also the Chairman, Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) Committee on the Laity. We bless God for the supportive gift of the auxiliary bishop, Most Rev Dr Jonas Benson Okoye. We are grateful to the chief shepherd of our diocese, Bishop Ezeokafor for his fatherly guidance of the laity and we commend him for his practical demonstration of Christian faith, especially, in the burial / funeral reforms and firm stand in the dust-to-dust rites.
2. GIFT OF THE CLERGY AND THE LAITY: The clergy and the laity are special gifts to the Church. The duo should at all time complement each other as both need each other to carry out its roles.
3. OUR FAITH AND CULTURE: Our Catholic Church frowns at practices that conflict with her faith and accepts customs that are not inimical to her faith. Ozo Title is a welcome development, but Christians should take care not to abuse it to the detriment of our faith. Christians interested in taking Ozo Title are advised to do it the Christian way.
4. OBNOXIOUS WIDOWHOOD PRACTICES: The Church condemns in entirety obnoxious widowhood practices, and wants the Laity to avoid it at all cost. Individuals and the society should cease from accusing women of being responsible for their husbands' death. Such unchristian act should be discouraged by the Laity as it amounts to infringement of the right of the women. Rights of the women both at their fathers' houses and their husbands' homes should be respected.
5. FAMILY UPBRINGING AND PROPER FORMATION IN MISSION SCHOOLS: It is the primary duty of parents to give their children very good family upbringing. The family is the first school which every child attends, and good family background to a child makes good character for a better society. Parents sending candidates for priesthood should also assist the Church by sending in those with reputable character. Education of the young ones, especially in our mission schools is for holistic training, not for monetary gains by the Church. Parents and guardians are to accept the sacrifices and expenses they make for the education of their children in mission schools as a worthwhile investment which will profit them in future. The Church takes care not to make fees in her schools exorbitantly high, even without subsidy from the government, so as to encourage this necessary proper formation.
6. SANCTIONS TO PARENTS FOR ENCOURAGING THEIR DAUGHTERS INTO MARRIAGE WITH SEPERATED BRETHREN: At baptism, parents promise to train their children in the Catholic faith. The children at that infant stage could not answer for themselves. So, the Church gives proper sanction to the parents that failed to keep the vows they took for their children at their infants' baptism. Catholic Church remains the Church founded by Jesus Christ, the Church and her members guide jealously, this special and unique faith.
7. PRIESTS AND LAITY IN POLITICS: Man is a political animal, and cannot be exempted from politics. The laity should be pro-active in politics for the good of the society. The priests should not engage in partisan politics, but should serve as referees while the lay faithful engage fully in politics.
8. STAND OF POLYGAMISTS THAT RETURN TO SACRAMENTS: The Church applies the tradition of separation which entails that the husband builds houses for the wives and he (husband) live separated from them for a Catholic man that married more than one wife, later amended his ways and returned to Sacraments. The Church can also apply considerations in her principle of separation in such cases of a very old man that is physically challenged.
9. BURIAL / FUNERAL: The maximum of two months grace for burials in Awka Diocese stands. Full Catholic burial rites are for Catholics who stood to the faith till their death. It is wrong to accord full Catholic burial rights to a fallen Catholic. Burial clearance is strictly for the dead, and not for the family members of the deceased.
10. CHILD ADOPTION: The Church encourages child adoption because it is an act of charity, but frowns at its abuse. Couples that did not have children of their own and decided to adopt so as to give the orphans or abandoned children homes, families and proper upbringing should be encouraged. It is false impression to refer to child adoption as modern slavery.
11. ADULT CATECHESIS & HCA: Parish priests are directed to intensify their efforts in organizing Sunday evening catechesis for adult faithful. Holy Childhood Association (HCA) should be encouraged and promoted in every parish so as to give the children strong foundation in the Catholic faith.
Managements of Catholic schools should ensure that schools dismiss early on the scheduled days for catechisms and the 13th day of every month, to enable the children attend catechism classes and the 13th congress for their growth in faith.
12. AGE BARRIER IN CYON & MARY LEAGUE GIRLS: Age barrier in the Catholic Youth Organisation of Nigeria (CYON) and in the Mary League Girls Association, especially for those aspiring for positions in the groups is for orderliness, best performance and proper input. There is indeed age limit in every activity in one's life.
13. INDECENT DRESSING: The Church abhors indecent dressing and indecency generally. Indecent dressings are not allowed inside the church premises. Parishes are encouraged to intensify campaign against indecent dressings.
14. LAITY AS UMBRELLA BODY: The Laity Council is an umbrella body of all lay groups in the Church. It is abominable for any lay group of the Church to hold any meeting or gathering in the church when the Laity Council's meeting or activity is going on. Members of all statutory bodies and lay apostolate should see strengthening the Laity Council as their primary responsibility.
15. CATECHISTS IN PARISHES: It is recommended that Catechists live in the midst of the people of God so as to understand the heartbeats of the people and be more effective. However, encouraging quarters for catechists is not out of place, just that it was effective in the time of the early Church when the catechists most of who were not indigenes of the towns they worked in, were eyes of the priests at the outstations.
16. CONCLUSION: We continue to pray for our leaders in the Church, state and nation. We pray for peace and progress in our state and country, Nigeria, and breakthrough in this current economic recession.