Posted on: 2016-08-20

Homily of Most Reverend Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo

Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Oyo

I feel honored to share my reflections with you as we are gather together today to celebrate the goodness of God among us especially to the Congregation of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, in many ways.  We give glory to God who called the sisters to  the Spirit of Pentecost which sent them forth to live out  a life of charity in simplicity and service, not servitude for the benefit of the poor and the underprivileged.  All of us here and thousand who are not, have come to know how the DHS  (since 1954 when their very first sisters arrived in Nigeria from England  to form a house of charity in Modakeke Ife.  Like the water that flows through the threshold of the Temple in Ezekiel's prophecy, running through dry, foul land they have given life and produced fruits, fruits of education to our children, care of the sick, care of the handicapped and profitable  pastoral engagements everywhere they have passed. (Ez. 47) Many who are neither Catholics nor even Christians have experienced the work of these sisters and today give glory to our father in heaven (Matt 5: 16).  All glory, glory, glory to the Lord....

TODAY THE DHS SISTERS ARE MORE THAN 60 YEARS OLD IN NIGERIA and number ALMOST 70 .... I have little doubt in my mind that this is the song in the heart of Sr. Jeanine, Helena Ugorji and Agnes Obembe...and the 3 professing sisters who have been a significant part of that success story. WITH THANKFUL HEARTS ... WE APPROACH YOUR HOLY ALTAR IN THANKSGIVING AND LOVE. BEARING GIFTS OF YOUR CREATION WE RETURN WHAT YOU HAVE GIVEN IN THANKSGIVING AND LOVE...Oh... yes in the presence of the Lord, I will bring myself in thanksgiving and love...or in modern pidgin/singing language... "Come and join  me sing alleluia.... Oh Lord I am very, very grateful for all you have done for me ... I say thank you Jesus".

And all these fruits have been borne by the creation in 1986 of the Generalate Vice province of the DHS,in response to the challenge of then Bishop Julius Babatunde Adelakun of Oyo Diocese. His conversation with the then DHS  Superior General  Sr. Anne Marie Couloignier, are now etched in gold. "The Nigerian Church needs you. You cannot leave Nigeria without having some Nigerian Daughters of the Holy Spirit to continue your work".  She said: "But we are so few". He responded: Yes but that makes everyone very important". Who, ever could counter that inspired statement? I think we need an applause here. We congratulate also His Grace, Archbishop Gabriel Abegunrin, who as well accompanied the DHS sisters since 1995 till date. We thank God who has given you sisters the gift of perseverance as you celebrate their ....anniversaries today. Our prayer is that God grant you more grace, more strength and more love in your hearts to do even more for the advent of his kingdom in our world.

This day was made by the Lord, it seems to me also a special day made by the Church, a day in which Christendom celebrates the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, that event by which he emboldened his disciples to go ahead and transform the world so that all men and women of goodwill might one day be transfigured like himself. That indeed is the main task of all religious whom Pope Francis in the recent Year of Consecrated Life enjoined to "Wake up the world". Yes indeed, today's gathering is an expression of the Joy of the Gospel as expressed by the same Holy Father in his encyclical Evangelium Gaudium. That joy comes from knowing Jesus, following him and trying to get others to know him. It is the same joy that made Mary to cry out on meeting Elizabeth: "My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my saviour..".

On this day the DHS sisters call on the whole world in song to come and see what the Lord has done. This is welcome good news at this period when our whole world seems to constantly churn out bad news of bloodshed and destruction, through bombing, kidnappping, terrorism, starvation, poverty and disease. We announce good news of what God has done, of his goodness mercy and love They declare with the psalmist:  "I will sing unto the Lord a joyful song, I will praise the Lord...." . You refuse to grant victory to harbingers of bad news. "E wo wa e tun wa wo, a kii s'omokomo ti nbaye je, e wo wa e tun wa wo"  E gbo na ta leniyan to so pe ko s'Olorun... eeyan lasanlasan. O m'oguro yo tan o pe o s'Olorun , were lasan lasan. O j'amala yo tan,  o wa ni o s'Olorun... Our sisters are living evidence of God's presence and goodness in spite of the encircling gloom/despair. Opolopo nle aye, awa nle orun. Truly, Olorun nbe gangan bii t'atijo, awa la o sin baba bii tátijo.

Dear professing Sisters Lauretta Adegbe, Immaculata Onyong and Maria Enemuo, as you make your final profession at this ceremony, we thank you for giving yourselves as religious, missionaries and evangelizers. You thus respond to Jesus' invitation, "Come, follow me", and his mandate: "Go into the whole world..." You are a sign of the kind of self-giving love that we all must have in order to rescue our world from greed, selfishness and violence for it is such love that conquers all things. You have accepted to be a sign of contradiction in today's world, giving yourselves in love, totally to God when most people today are asking God totally for everything in greed and selfishness. Pope Francis during his meeting with the International Union of Superiors General, said to them: "Remember this carefully: what would be missing in the Church if women religious did not exist?" he then answered his own question,  "Mary would  be missing on the day of Pentecost. women religious are the icon of the  Church and of Mary. The Church is feminine, the bride of Jesus Christ".

Sisters, may our faithful God keep you faithful to your noble calling and bless your self-offering. To our youth, whom you chronologically represent here, I say if you want to know the secret of this kind of transforming decision... I say, commit your life to the Lord. Today's media and technological age promotes what Pope Francis calls "the culture of the ephemeral" or a provisional culture. By that token you are lured to run away from lifelong commitments either in marriage, priesthood or religious life. But I have news for you.  Only lifelong commitments can guarantee peace, harmony and development.  Follow the example of these sisters who are young like you in the holy vocations. If you walk with Jesus, you will become a champion of change and transformation.  The reward is an incredible inner joy... MO TI DELE OLA, MO GBA JESU KRISTI. NGO TONA IGBAGBO DOPIN IFE NI ORISUN AYO MI...

Dear friends, for me these professions and anniversaries show what it really means to be born again, to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It means to have the capacity and be ready to bear fruits of service and love and to do spirit driven things that majority of people in the surrounding culture would not choose to do. The Bible says "No greater love hath any man than this...." Only with the help of the spirit of God can anyone do that.  No wonder the DHS sisters many years ago themselves composed a song which I like very much. I hope I get some help with it: "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit... and they spoke of the things the Lord has done... Alleluia...". Thank you sisters for the many ways in which you have touched the lives of our children our women, the handicapped, the sick, the youth, bringing Christ to them. Thank you for showing that it is still possible to serve God and feel joy after so many years... "It is a good thing to serve Jesus, walking in the light of God..." Let us all pray for the Holy Spirit to make us agents of that transformation and transfiguration of the world and our fellowmen and women.

Brothers and Sisters, you all will agree with me that what we are doing here today is of importance to the wider society out there. These are times of great stress and suffering   for millions of our people. The life giving mission of Jesus Christ is for all without discrimination.  Therefore, I seize this opportunity to call on our leaders and those in authority to open up more space to the Church through Religious Congregations and institutions like the Daughters of the Holy Spirit and enable them to work for the transformation of our society. The Church, in these organizations and through the sacrifice of consecrated people, offers an admirable track record, expertise and goodwill all of which can only enhance human life and dignity. It is enough to take a cursory look at history and current realities to see how much our world, our country and our people yearn for help in the critical areas of education, formation and human development. The Church is a ready, willing and competent ally in that task. We pray that the competent authorities will accept this generous offer of collaboration.

Dear people of God I recently heard President Barrack Obama of the USA declare one of the American presidential candidates (Donald Trump) unfit to occupy what he called the most powerful position in the world. That set me thinking! Is the Presidency of the USA really the most powerful position in the world? I beg to differ. I think that mothers and those of us who have the responsibility of nurturing children and youth occupy that position better, if only we take our responsibility seriously. Sisters are mothers even at a higher level. Think of all the children, youth you interface with, whose destinies you form, format and formulate from day to day?

To you all my dear DHS Sisters, Congratulations once again. As we rejoice I wish to share with you what I heard from a commentator on EWTN as he marveled at the gathering of cultures at the recent World Youth Day in Poland. He said: "Culture is a shrine that protects the body of Christ, it is not alien to it". With those thoughts I say to you as African missionaries to different cultures, continue to be witnesses to Christ with deep respect for cultures just as even Jesus came and manifested himself as member of the Jewish culture.

To all of you here present to witness the historic events of today I say, blessed are you for seeing what you see today and I pray that God may grant you every spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. We thank the families of all our celebrating sisters and the friends of the DHS too. May God reward you all for  your sacrifice. Amen.