Posted on: 2017-09-06

The Ibadan Provincial Catholic Women Organization, IPCWO, last week converged on the Diocese of Oyo for their Provincial Seminar for 2017. The seminar, held at St Paul Pastoral Centre at Aawe, had the overall theme: “Catholic Response to the Challenges of Marriage and Family Life”. The quality of the speakers at the seminar underscored the fact that the IPCWO intends to remain a force to reckon with both in the Church and in the larger society.  Ealier however, the Archbishop of Ibadan archdiocese and Metropolitan of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, Most Reverend Gabriel Leke Abegunrin, gave a keynote address focusing on salient issues which deserve to be shared with a larger audience. In it he commended the topic of the seminar, stating that the women, being from all six dioceses of the Province, are best adapted to impact on the issues being raised. He told them: “This assembly cannot be better constituted to discuss the issues around marriage and family than we have it. You do not need to look too far for inspiration and ingredients for discussion. You are all key players in this matter. You are all products of marriages and families”.

Challenges to Marriage and Family

Having stated the obvious that marriage and family life today face so many challenges, given that failed marriages have more than doubled in recent times, the Archbishop wasted no time in properly defining and describing the current state of affairs. He said:

“Social mobility, technological advancement and globalization have their benefits, no doubt but their attendant destructive influences have had an adverse impact on our traditional family structure which holds up as its model a mother, father and children. We now observe with dismay rampant individualism and the elevation of personal fulfilment over commitment and responsibility. Our young ones now find it hard to assume responsibility either because they have never been trained properly in this regard or they are overwhelmed by strange ideologies that westernization foists on them such as seeking legal protection and recognition for gay marriages and transgenderism and they give in. Single parent families are now on the increase[BB1] ”. He then asked a rather rhetorical question: “Mothers, are you not shocked?”

But it was really in stating the Church’s response to the issue that the best of the Archbishop’s presentation came. He confirmed that even the proliferators of noxious ideologies know very well what a formidable opponent they have in the Catholic Church. He affirmed that the Church does speak and loudly too, against the evil forces assailing the family and that she must not be an empty drum making loud noises. Then came the very penetrating questions for the CWO. The archbishop asked: “When we speak out against evils, do we find ourselves perpetrating evil as well in our homes? Do we not find catholic families that still procure abortion for their young daughters? Do we not find catholic parents encouraging divorce with their daughters and sons? Do we not find our catholic girls as regular attendants at strippers’ clubs around our city?  Is the wave of single parenting not ravaging catholic homes? Then he delivered his good counsel: “The healing of our society must start with us”. He directly called upon the CWO to wake up and make a positive impact in the society, the homes and in their various groups, to impact on their direct constituency, that is, their husbands and their children. He proposed to them the life and experience of Saint Monica who is probably one of the best models of perseverance in faith to guide their action.

Primary practical Solutions

The Archbishop, before concluding his keynote address, cited practical areas which need to be recovered and sanitized by the Church and her agents, pointing out that the CWO are best positioned to make such a critical intervention. Some of these are:

The aberration of our noble matrimonial practices like introduction and engagement ceremonies which are so repackaged and restructured that they are hardly recognizable. They have thus been invaded and usurped by entertainers, professional MCs and fund raisers who even at times masquerade as pastors and evangelists. These bring all and any kind of extraneous practices into these meaningful cultural ceremonies such that the purpose of getting two families to know and talk to each other gets shrouded or is altogether lost. Catholic families must simply take responsibility for the problem and act for positive change. A similar case must be made for the sacrament of matrimony whereby couples come to Church for the sacrament. By the Church’s regulation and design, it ought to be all solemn, simple and affordable. How come that today, many people label church marriage as expensive and even unaffordable? The families, not the Church are responsible for this anomaly. They are the ones who invite all classes of people and subscribe to all forms of expensive attires, decorations, pomp and pageantry. In fact the people needed for celebrating a valid matrimony are few; the couple, the sponsors and the witnessing minister. Everyone else besides these are but guests.

If indeed the IPCWO can get her members to effect a change in just these two areas marriage at least in the Catholic Church could be liberated from the encroachment of modern trends and fashion. It would be a significant way of decreasing the stress which young families carry into their married life. That would indeed be a worthwhile effort by catholic women.