Posted on: 2014-01-31

Hail The Great Apostle

St. Paul, the ace of Jesus Christ for evangelizing the gentiles came under admiring scrutiny when the Missionaries of St. Paul (MSP) fathers celebrated their annual Open Day Thanksgiving and Bazaar last weekend at Iperu Remo, Ogun State. St Paul, not only transformed the means and methods of evangelization in the early Church, he also dispensed such tenacity, talent and teaching that strengthened weak hearts, means and personalities to live up to their Christians witness (Phil 3:8-12). Paul was so convinced of his calling that he exclaimed \"Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel\" (1Cor 9:16). Paul had to be \"conquered\" and \"broken\" before becoming a servant of the Gospel (Acts 9:1-30). Others before him were called, persuaded, and invited to follow Jesus. Paul had to be \"struck down\" before turning around his stubborn zeal for opposing and persecuting Christ to admiration and worship for his most beloved Lord and Master. Paul, the great apostle granted power equal to his enormous task was the one chosen as the patron of the MSP fathers at the establishment of their society.

Mark The Making Of History

The MSP fathers were established for the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria CBCN by the late Dominic Cardinal Ekandem in 1977. That was a special year for Nigeria as the host nation of the African Festival of Arts and Culture tagged FESTAC 77, which showcased the very best of Black arts and culture to the entire world. In the very same manner the founding of the MSP put at the disposal of the outside world the missionary zeal, energy and resources of the Catholic Church in Nigeria. Today the MSP under their Superior General Very Reverend Father Victor Onwukeme MSP, have over 270 priests serving the Gospel and God\'s people in over 18 countries including the USA, countries in Europe and some of the most needy ones like Grenada, Malawi, Chad, Sudan, Liberia, the Gambia and of course, Nigeria.

Go Ye Into the Whole World

Catholic missionary enterprise responds to the mandate of Jesus ( Mk. 16:15, Mt. 28:19). It also reveals a special characteristic of evangelization because mission is the Church in love with the whole world. Pope John Paul II, soon to be canonized, writing on the permanent validity of the Church\'s missionary mandate in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio (the Mission of the Redeemer), emphasized it. \"The Church, and every individual Christian within her, may not keep hidden or monopolize this newness and richness which has been received from God\'s bounty in order to be communicated to all mankind\" (Redemptoris Missio, 11). Emil Brunner once said that the Church exists by mission as fire exists by burning. It is as well a confirmation of mission that Abraham, acknowledged father of faith, was called by God out and away from his native territory to a \"land which I will show you\" (Gen. 12). No wonder then that Nigeria, though often derided all over the world for other reasons, enjoys considerable admiration for giving to the entire world such a precious gift as the MSP priests.

Light Up The Darkness

So very appropriate were the Scripture readings at the celebration of the Open Day Thanksgiving! The associates and friends of the MSP priests all over the world, gathered in prayer at the society\'s seminary at Iperu, heard the prophet Isaiah declare: \"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shown\" (Is. 9: 1). What intriguing themes for all in Nigeria today and all over the world with so much darkness all around! Read that literally and metaphorically as well. How Nigerians need to have their nights lit up and their lives as well! So much darkness in the hearts of men and women manifested in so much sin and evil needs to be dissipated by the light of the gospel! The task of the MSP priests and their associates all over the world is to confront that darkness of wickedness, ignorance, poverty, violence and selfishness with the light of Christ\'s love all over the world. (Matt. 5:14:Jn. 8:12, 9:5).

Be Ambassadors For Christ
In this noble task the MSP fathers and associates call themselves \"the ambassadors of Christ\", a title inherited from St. Paul. \"So we present ourselves as ambassadors in the name of Christ\" (2Cor. 5:20), They know that there are two ways of spreading light, either by being a candle or being the mirror that reflects it as St Paul again confirmed. \"Do I live? It is no longer me, Christ lives in me. My life in this body is life through faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me\" (Gal. 2:20). So ought all Christians to live, but that has never been easy. Nor is it any less difficult today to live for Christ. We Christians must fervently pray for the grace and strength to have enough power equal to our task of lighting up the darkness of this world in which we live.