AICLA, Bwari—Abuja, September 27, 2021. The entire population of the of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Claretian Missionaries, Delegation West Nigeria, gathered at the newly constructed home of the African Institute for Consecrated Life in Bwari District of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria for the annual spiritual exercise, nay, desert experience till Friday, October 01, 2021. Abuja is situated in the heart of the Federation, though, many of the retreatants had to travel nearly three days by road.
Annual Retreat is a sacred obligation for Claretian Missionaries. This hallowed practice is underpinned, thoroughly, right from the cradle of our vocational trajectories in the Congregation. And, like true Sons of Padre Anthony Mary Claret, not even the horror of travelling through the nightmarish Nigerian roads, worsened by the notoriety of kidnappings by terrorists and bandits, especially, the entire surrounding highways in and out of Abuja, could daunt the resoluteness of the Missionaries from having a quiet time with the Lord, in union with confreres.
The Retreat Director, a seasoned teacher and formator, Fr Raymond Olusesan Aina, is a priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul (MSP). He initiated the spiritual exercise with the praying of Psalm 42.
Like the deer that yearns for running streams,
So my soul is yearning For you, my God.
My soul is thirsting for God, the God of my life;
When can I enter and see the face of God?
Those lines of the psalmist properly set our hearts and minds on God, the source, aim and end of our life.
However, the Moderator chose John 15: 9 as his major controlling theme. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; REMAIN IN MY LOVE.”
Every Retreat, he said, is like the halftime in the sport of football. Using that analogy of soccer players who have a fifteen-minute interval in-between the two halves of the game, he adjoined us to make veritable use of this spiritual interval.
He reasoned that every halftime is an opportune moment for: the players to catch some breath and freshen-up; someone, tactical expert, at the stand watching to give a report; listening to the coach for new playing formation and strategies; players to change their wet jerseys and feel fresher; players to play music to calm the soul and reduce tension; and, of course, the 15-minute halftime is a time to analyse the opposition, the opposing team. This example suites our definition during this propitious period.
Fr Aina, a Lecturer at the Catholic University, Veritas and the Senior Seminary of the Missionaries Society of St Paul in Gwagwalada, another District of Abuja, is a man of ecclesiastical documents. In fact, it was a revision of some sort, to the salient Church, nay, Papal Exhortations regarding our unique life as Consecrated persons. In addition, he has a well-founded grip of the important Claretian Documents (even the most recent) and their relevant verses that speak to our immediate activity and religious professed life in general. With these, he challenged us to be firmly Rooted in Christ (the Word) and audacious in our Missionary enterprise. In other words, the Claretian Missionary is sent to proclaim, audaciously, the Kingdom of God everywhere. These are echoes that reverberated and defined the just concluded XXVI General Chapter of the Claretian Missionaries in Rome.
The wheels of the Retreat train squeal on the steel rails as we continue to pray for abundant fruition of the mission of the Claretian Missionaries in the world through the Church.
To our Claretian Family members, our numerous Parishioners and Associates, whose desires and aspirations we took along, we bequeath the merits of our encounter with the Lord. Yes. He is able!
We also need your fervent prayers as we will soon journey back to our various missions for it’s not an easy road, the pilgrim song says – whether to heaven or to Abuja.
But the Saviour is with us, his presence gives us joy every day. No, no. It’s not an easy road. But Jesus walks beside us and brightens the journey and lightens every heavy load.
Immaculate Heart of Mary – Be our Salvation.
St Anthony Mary Claret – Pray for Us.