THE GIFT OF CATHOLIC FAITH – Gedenkschrift to Fr Wilfred O.Udoumeobi
THE GIFT OF CATHOLIC FAITH
This book is a collection of different chapters from various authors geared towards x-raying the implications of the gift of Catholic faith in Aguluzigbo. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that He has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is Truth itself. By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God.” For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will” (CCC, 1814).
This book is coming fifty years after the death of the first indigenous priest of Aguluzigbo: Late Fr. Wilfred Udoumeobi. Hence, the chapter on “The advent and growth of Christian Catholicism in Aguluzigbo: Historical survey (1915-2019)” traces the earliest beginnings of the Catholic faith in Aguluzigbo. Aguluzigbo did not only received the gift of Catholic faith, she equally received the gift of Catholic priestly and religious vocations; thus, sharing in the evangelization mission of the Church. To elaborate on this aspect of God’s grace, a number of chapters address this topic, namely: “Religious vocation in Aguluzigbo,” “The challenges of indigenous and religious vocation,” “Today’s challenges to priestly and religious life in Nigeria,” and “The religious life in the Catholic religion.”
The gift of religious vocations came to Aguluzigbo through Late Fr. Wilfred. Like amber that seemed extinguished by his death, just barely a year after his priestly ordination, it took Aguluzigbo a couple of years to get another Catholic priest. Today, the fruit of the seed of faith planted by Fr. Wilfred has grown into a big tree, bearing fruits of Catholic priests, Reverend Brothers and Sisters, as well as Monks and Nuns. Against the thinking of some people at the time, his death has rather assumed a sacrificial offering for the growth of the Catholic faith and the increase in priestly and religious vocations in Aguluzigbo. To portray this fact, a number of chapters explain the theology and mystery of death, especially one who dies witnessing or professing the Christian faith: “Life and Times of late Fr. Wilfred Udoumeobi,” “Blood of the martyrs as seed of the Church,” “Life is changed, not ended,” and “Remember death.”
A very critical area of witnessing to this Catholic faith worth mentioning here is the pursuit for peace. Fr. Wilfred died while ministering to the people of God torn apart by the ravaging effects of the Nigeria-Biafran civil war. We know that war ensues where there is no peace and without peace there is no progress. Hence, to re-echo the message of peace and reconciliation, with God and one another, some chapters in this book highlight the means of attaining peace with God and fellow human beings. They are: “The sacrament of anointing of the sick: Fr Wilfred Udoumobi as a witness to hope and wholeness,” and “The act of forgiveness: a vocation to all.”
Above all, this book published by “Aguluzigbo Religious Vocations Association” celebrates in general the gift of Catholic faith in Aguluzigbo and in particular the gift of Catholic priestly and religious vocations to her sons and daughters; beginning with Late Fr. Wilfred, but never ended with his passing on to eternity. This book equally calls on Aguluzigbo people and indeed all people of God to keep the flames of the Catholic faith alive. It recommends Virgin Mary as a model, one whose role in our salvation economy must be appreciated and appropriated; hence, these two chapters titled: “The role of the blessed virgin Mary in the history of salvation” and “Mary, our mediatrix and model.”
Finally, this book posthumously celebrates Late Fr. Wilfred who poured out his blood as a libation for the sake of the Catholic faith (keeping the memory of his heroic faith alive) as well as encourages Aguluzigbo people to cherish the gift of Catholic faith they have received. Thus “faith as a theological virtue is a gift which God bestows gratuitously.” It must be received with gratitude and kept alive. Hence, “the disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: “All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.” Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation (CCC, 1816). This is exactly what it entails to keep the faith alive.
Rev. Fr. Simon-Peter N. Okanumee