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TIME OF INTENSE SPIRITUAL EXERCISE

INCLA, Abuja, April 26, 2022. Retreat hours are always moments of spiritual recollection. So, we had at the morning hours of the day 2 of our Delegation Assembly a spirit-lifting recollection.

Though, the morning session started with the Church’s morning prayers at 7:30am, the period was dominated by the recollection which was directed by Most Revd Dr Hilary Nanman Dachelem, CMF, the Bishop of Bauchi Diocese. As further information, Bauchi Diocese’s territorial jurisdiction includes the two very large States of Bauchi and Gombe located in the Northeast of Nigeria.

The Prelate started the 8:30am spiritual reflections with the epic story of the Rat Trap in the Farm House that cautions against indifference but teaches about Collective responsibility – co-responsibility. Our life as religious is thus. Everyone is involved from the different important perspectives.

With gratitude to God, Bishop Hilary went back to history, on how the stories of the missing passport of our Claretian forebear VR. FR Christian Mary Ihedoro, CMF (whom we fondly called Papa) and his station wagon that transported the entire Claretians in the 70s, to this very moment that we have two Major Organisms with nearly 300 professed members.

Just like Claret at the formative stage, the system has eventually advanced into a giant structure that it is now. A lot has evolved. We must therefore give preeminence to this system that has evolved and, which defines our religious life. He, therefore, beckons on the members of the Delegation to work harmoniously in such a way that the system would continue to develop to the point of our becoming a Province.

However, he reminds us that the system operates on individuals. The questions are: am I perfecting the system (as seed) or deflecting the system (as weed)?

Another related question in this evolution is to ask ourselves, as a Delegation: how much, or rather, how far have we evolved, grown from a baby Organism? Are we better developed, matured than the mother Organism? “Has God truly rescued us?” Or are we copying the old order? Yes! Good Dreams do not die. Our dreams must not die!

The Bishop went on to enumerate important factors on which our life and action revolve. He calls them Claretian Patrimony or Heritage.

–  Bishop Dachelem reminds us that we have our treasures. They are reasons why the Claretian Missionaries add great value to the Church. Among these values is the Eucharistic adoration for mission.

It is our great heritage from Padre Claret. The Eucharist is a central point of our missionary life. As Claretians, we cannot toy with this heritage.

– Next is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Foundress of the Congregation. We must find recourse to one of the most effective age-long devotional figures of our life, as Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Holy Rosary must not only be recited daily but prayed devotedly as many times over.

– Mission. We are simply and verily people of mission. Claret was ever ready to go for missions. This mission is our great heritage, a patrimony. We must thus be very disposed to go, to be sent – ready for mission – respond to what is most urgent and timely.

– Next is the service of the Word. As rightly called, the Claretians are called Servants of the Word. We are to use all means possible to bring about the reign of God to all peoples at all times with audacity. He challenges us to use the multiple media forms as outreach vehicles of the Gospel.

– The Spirit of our Founder is another patrimony. We need to continue to keep alive the spirit of our Father Founder, St Anthony Mart Claret by, but not limited to, reading his spiritual works like the Autobiography, Mystic and Man of Action etc. These fundamentals underpin our character and define our life.

Managing our diversity and Interculturality

Claret, a Catalan, went beyond Catalonia. Here we are today – a Congregation spread to all corners of the earth represented by all nationalities and living as one family. We must beware of sectionalism. He warns. No one should be discriminated against. In fact, the composition of the West Nigeria Delegation is charming and enviable and, thus, should be a fertile ground for sincere interculturality to thrive. We must, therefore, strive for the good of all, the common good. This aspect is optimised in the community.

Strategies for growth in the religious life

The Bishop further enumerated the following as Strategies for Growth in the Religious Life.

– Need for “refounders” in the Congregation

– Evangelisation and Inculturation

– Humour

The last reminds us of the injunction by the Holy Father, Pope Francis to the Capitulars of the XXVi General Chapter of the Claretian Missionaries in Rome on the cure to ‘dry austerity’. The Pontiff, inter alia said “Please don’t lose your sense of humour. Know how to laugh in community, know how to make jokes, and laugh at the jokes told by others, do not lose your sense of humour, a sense of humour is a grace of joy, and joy is a dimension of holiness.”  (Given at the Clementine Hall, Vatican City, Thursday, September 09, 2021.)

Most Revd Hilary finally enjoined the assembly members to rise and make the delegation enticing, a happy place to work for the Lord for benefit of his people. The spiritual recollection ended with the Eucharistic celebration at 12noon.

May the spirit of Claret reflect in our lives and in what we do. Amen!

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