Is 42:1-4, 6-7 Ps. 110:1-4 2: Heb. 5:1-10, Jn. 10: 11-16
Your Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, Your Excellencies archbishops and Bishops,
Monsignori, Revd Frs and Sisters, Dignitaries of Church and State,
Beloved People of God from within and outside Ijebu Ode Diocese;
God has gathered us together today to witness another phase in his salvific action in the life of the Universal Church, the Church in Nigeria and particularly in the ecclesiastical Province of Lagos and the Catholic Diocese of Ijebu Ode. In fact, this day will go down as one of the most important days in the life of the Church in Nigeria for many reasons. And what a day on which to preach at the ordination of a Bishop when the rays of Jesus Easter victory are still dazzling us, meant to save us from death, sin, corruption and selfishness…. What a day today as we celebrate the feast of St. Mark one of the great disciples and gospellers in the Bible!
Today, the erstwhile Bishop of Ijebu Ode diocese, our dear “agbalagba tisa”, Most Reverend Albert Ayinde Fasina is formally offered fresh hands to which to hand over the baton of leadership of this diocese so that the work of God and the mission of Jesus Christ here may continue. Today Bishop Albert Fasina can practically sing the Yoruba Magnificat Anima Meam which acknowledges that all power belongs not to God not to anyone else. “Riran no ran mi wa o emi ki mo ma ran ra mi o. Ase dówo eni to ran mi wa”. That means I have been sent, I did not send myself may all authority belong to the one who sent me. Won ni omo kii pa itan Baba re, sugbon ti omode ba gbe oro mi tan, a deni owo. Iru omo bee le pa itan. Ojo naa ree bi ana yi ti won so eru yi kuro lori Baba Sanusi, (Ki Olorun fi orun ke won) a si gbe eru yi le baba Fasina lori, Pelu emi irele nla, Baba fe ba ese re soro nigbana. Sugbon emi mimo Olorun segun. “Sebi won ni Egberun Samueli kole sa mo Olorun lowo” Ogbon wo wa ni egberun lona egberun Albert fe da sii. Yoruba wipe Olorun mu mi o san ju esu mu mi lo, Dafidi papaa wi bee. Baba e ku oriire peOlorun lo mu yin kii se esu. Olorun naa lo mu yin de ebute ayo ti e fi se aseyori loni. E ku oriire.
Looking at the parade of guests here today one can see that by the cross-cultural, cross-lingual, cross-interest and international gathering, God has a lesson to teach us. Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. We can tell the world Come and see o. come and see, Come and see what the Lord has done…. As has happened in other dioceses before now, the clear knowledge of having been sent, being merely a steward, is the reason why no Catholic Bishop can hand power and authority over to his next of kin, or favourite candidate all by himself, except such an individual be chosen by due Catholic process. We ordain a Bishop to govern Ijebu Ode diocese today who knows nothing about how he became the Chief Shepherd here. He paid no gubernatorial ticket fees of 40 million naira, had no campaign team and has no Godfather. Yet those who have built up this diocese and been part of the process are all gathered here to ordain him not to position themselves for contracts or patronage but just to promote God’s work. This is purely about service to God and people This evidence of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church compels us to congratulate and salute Bishop Fasina, the Vicar General, Msgr Valentine Awoyemi, all the priests, Religious, Catechists and pastoral agents who have helped him to steer the ship of this diocese successfully since 1990 till date. May God continue to be glorified in you. What a much needed metaphor for power and leadership in our country Nigeria which should especially be the mantra for all Christians in positions of power, be it in politics, economics, business or even civil service. The church stages this kind of occasions to hopefully transform society for better by it. For you all especially Christian may you be able to pray about your various leadership positions: A o gbe Jesu ga lara mi, ao gbe Jesu ga lara mi, Ao gbe ga ……
Today is truly the day which the Lord has made and we all have every reason to rejoice and be glad in it. Fun eniti o ru eru ayo yi fun opolopo odun to soo kale, ati fun eni ti a gbe ajaga ayo naa le lori, ati fun awa ti oju wa ri ire tatehinwa ti ti ojo oni ayo ni… Awa dupe, e see o e see o Oluwa, We really want to thank you Jesus. Awa naa re Oluwa….
History provides us with facts on how God planted this Church in Ijebu Ode diocese. The first Holy Mass in Ijebuland was celebrated already on the 29th day of May, 1864 at Itasin-Imobi. By Fr Borghero, SMA The first sacerdotal ordination in Ijebuland took place in Ijebu Mushin on 24th December 1966, of a then drop-dead-handsome young man by name Felix Alaba Adeosin Job. He eventually became Bishop of Ibadan Diocese, archbishop of the same diocese, president of the Christian Health Association of Nigeria (CHAN), President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Archbishop emeritus of Ibadan among other things. He is present here today among us with a good dose of that comeliness. On 29th May, but this time in 1969, the Catholic Diocese of Ijebu-Ode was created by Pope St. Paul IV of blessed memory, having been carved out of the then Archdiocese of Lagos. Bishop Anthony Saliu Sanusi of blessed memory, of Ijebu-Remo who belonged then to the Archdiocese of Lagos was named the first Bishop of the new diocese.
The new diocese of Ijebu Ode was immediately blessed with the ordination of its first priest in December of that same year, 1969 by name Late Fr. Alfred Abolaji Ajayi. He died early in 1971, just after a few months of ministry but God had only just begun through the Church, to bless the people of Ijebuland, because in April 1971, that handsome young man who had remained in Lagos Archdiocese even after the creation of Ijebu-Ode diocese, +Felix Alaba Job, was called upon and ordained auxiliary Bishop of Ibadan diocese. Bishop Sanusi retired in 1990 and Bishop Albert Ayinde Fasina succeeded him as the second Bishop of Ijebu-Ode diocese.
To add to God’s blessings on the Ijebu bloodline, yours truly preaching this homily, I was called in August, 2007 to be Bishop of Oyo Diocese. Today, we see God turn the table around putting Ijebu Ode diocese on the receiving end. NOW, it pleases God that the Ijebus too get to be served by others. Dateline the announcement on 17 January, 2019 by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, appointing Msgr. Francis Obafemi Adesina, from Osogbo diocese to succeed Bishop Fasina as third Bishop of Ijebu-Ode diocese. All glory, praise and honour be unto our God for ever and ever.
The words of today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah, define, what we all present here have come to witness. Isaiah wrote:
“I, the Lord, have called you in saving justice, I have grasped you by the hand and shaped you: I have made you a covenant of the people and light to the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon” (Is. 42: 6-7).
My Lord, Bishop elect, that reading clearly enunciates who owns the credit for your choice, and what your mandate must be. We must congratulate your parents, your family, teachers, formators and friends, who have had an input in who you are today but God, the Alpha and omega is the potter who shaped you for this very purpose. A look at the path which he has made you travel to this point speaks volumes. From your time in Sacred Heart Minor Seminary Akure, to the Ss. Peter and Paul Major Seminary Ibadan, as Director of the Renewal programme and training young Evangelizers in the old Oyo and Osogbo dioceses God’s Holy Spirit has led you. You have been parish priest, youth animator, Formator, Scripture Scholar, Rector, sportsman etc. That full time course in discipline, obedience, productivity, teamwork, tenacity, and getting the job done was preparing you for greater responsibilities. Combine those with the already abundant experience, talent and joie de vivre present in the Clergy and Pastoral agents already present here in Ijebu Ode and your work is half done.
Every normal Bishop elect, experiences consternation when the news first hit. You must have had yours when you were invited. Isaiah, Jeremiah Amos and many of the prophets did too as Bishop Fasina did. It is never easy at that point to remember the reassuring declaration we make with God’s people at the hundreds of Masses we have celebrated. “Oh Lord, I am not worthy that you should come to me….but speak but one word and my soul shall be healed” “Oluwa o, emi ko ye ki iwo wábe orule mi sugbon so kiki oro nikan a o si mokan emi larada.
Well, now the Lord has spoken and your inadequacies shall surely be healed! (Heb 4:14-16.) How so very true those words are to the Bishop’s ministry! Pope John Paul the Great, having just been elected Pope, after a succession of Italian Popes, told the crowd at St Peter’s Square almost apologetically: “God has brought you a Pope from the East”. Many who were present then wondered how God could have done such a thing. John Paul II went on to be probably the greatest pope of the Church in modern times. So it was with your predecessor, this Baba Fashina, who at his election, declared to everyone cared to listen how unworthy he was. Yet, God has done great things in Ijebu Ode diocese under his leadership. From 8 diocesan priests in 1990 Ijebu ode counts today 66 priests and one deacon all working abroad and in 38 parishes and quasi parishes and 37 seminarians. These with the 10 men and 14 women religious congregations in this diocese, the 7 secondary schools, 3 Nursery and Primary schools, 3 hospitals, four community health centres and other pastoral agents are the footsoldiers and the arsenal (not the football club) being consigned to you today, My Lord to continue the task of evangelization, and bringing about the kingdom of God. Work then with faith in the one who in the Bible fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, then you will not be confounded.
My Lord, to be called upon to be a good shepherd in the mould of the Master as we read in the Gospels is to be a model of many virtues. Pope Francis, reflecting on the text of St. Paul’s letter to Titus which describes the qualities and role of a Bishop underlines how a bishop must be a blameless steward or “administrator of God, not of assets, power and cliques. He emphasised that the bishop must be “a humble, meek servant not a prince”. Only thus, he said can the Church set right what needs to be corrected. And as a father, teacher, pastor administrator, liturgist and ruler in the Church, there will always be many things to be correct. The Pope insists that what matters to Bishops must be what matters to Jesus Christ – peace, reconciliation, love, solidarity. Nonetheless, it is necessary to be courageous and firm when it is necessary to protect the faith spirituality of God’s children. According to St Paul’s counsel which he wrote to Timothy: “Let no one disregard you because you are young, but be an example to all the believers in the way you speak and behave, in your love, your faith and your purity”. Be conscientious about what you do and teach”. (1Tim 4: 12-16)
My Lord Bishop, Ijebu land is a rich environment for the 5 pillar template chosen for the Church as Family of God during the first Synod of African Bishops. Of those five pillars, Interreligious and ecumenical dialogue feature prominently. Having predecessors and priests from Muslim families and many converts from traditional religion must compel us to teach the world something valuable about peaceful and harmonious living as God’s children. Interreligious dialogue can do a lot to help us banish from these parts the sort of tragedy occurring in Northern Nigeria, Sri-Lanka, Kenya, France etc. Jesus said, “There are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead those too (Jn. 10:16) Ijebu ode diocese is a microcosm of Nigeria in this regard with a strong presence and expression of other faiths and denominations. We must continue to grow ecumenical and interreligious relationships that can teach the world that all men and women share the same dignity as children of one God. This is why the activities of the JDPM must continue to grow and permeate every institution and activity of the Church.
Finally you know My Lord, that the Ijebus are known for glamour and industry. Were we not the first around here to “have our own money”? (owo ijebu) Who around here knows better the worth or the “eye” of money (oju owo) than the Ijebus? Is it not true that the Ijebu who studies accountancy is only there for the certificates. All Ijebus are born chattered accountants. With the help of the priests and the goodwill of all the faithful, God will help you to convert that genius and energy to spiritual capital to make relevant the teaching of Jesus: “Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well” (Matt. 6:33)
“I am doing new things. Can you not see” God said once through Isaiah (Isaiah 43). However those new things often leave some people confounded. At such times the heathens rage but the faithful praise. Ijebu Ode diocese is the most recent move in God’s string of surprises in Yorubaland. Lowelowe la nlulu ogidigbo, mo fe lu okan bayi o Aalo o…With Abeokuta in Lagos, Ijebu in Oyo, Oyo in Ilorin, Lagos/Oyo in Osogbo, Osogbo in Ijebu, if you understand my parable, we are assured that God’s word is alive today as ever… “I am doing new things, can you not see it?”
My dear priests and religious of Ijebu ode diocese, these are truly challenging times for the divine ideals that the Catholic Church holds dear. The vows of priestly commitment especially are under attack from within and from without. We must see all this as an outcry for an authentic priesthood and more coherent service. We must not simply go through these challenges but grow through them. With your cooperation with your new Bishop, the one who has called you will not fail you. This diocese will flourish and blossom as testimony to your fidelity and sacrifice.
Dear lay people of Ijebu Ode, thank you for your exceptional contribution to the growth of the Church here especially in the sustenance of Christian family life. With the Clergy you gave a good account of yourselves by the way you accepted and welcomed your new Bishop. Your reward is surely great in heaven. I wish only to remind you of what you already know, that the Church is not only of the Clergy, religious nor is it of only the lay faithful. It is of all. Your role by now upgraded as co responsible for the Church’s mission must be taken even more seriously henceforth. Mark the words of the letter to the Hebrews pleading for you maximum cooperation: “Obey your leaders and give way to them; they watch over your souls and because they must give an account of them; make this a joy for them to do, and not a grief”. You are not known for failure but for greatness. Please let the trend continue. As Bishop Fasina today yields the baton to Bishop Adesina we pray fervently to the one who holds the key to all doors and can open the way. May all the work and aspirations of the clergy, Religious and Lay people of Ijebu ode diocese, dead or living, be fulfilled during your tenure. Long live the Catholic Diocese of Ijebu Ode and may God bless you all!