Opening address by Fr. Peter Audu – JDP/Caritas Nigeria AGM

OPENING ADDRESS BY REV. FR. PETER BABANGIDA AUDU, SECRETARY, JUSTICE, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE/CARITAS NIGERIA AT THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF JDP/CARITAS COORDINATORS AND PROVINCIAL SECRETARIES HELD AT THE SACRED HEART PASTORAL CENTRE JOS, PLATEAU STATE, FROM JULY 20 – 24, 2009

Preamble
Your Grace, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama the Metropolitan of Jos Archdiocese and Vice President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), My Lord the Bishop of Enugu, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga, Our Guest speakers Very Rev. Fr. Peter Bauna Tanko, and our own brother Rev. Fr. Thaddeus Ajayi, Provincial and diocesan coordinators, Provincial Secretaries, my great colleagues and amiable staff of CSN, distinguished guests, gentlemen of the press, brothers and sisters in the Lord, it is with great pleasure that I welcome everyone here present to this opening ceremony of our AGM for the year 2009 which, as usual, is aimed at reappraising our services in the work of the Church in the areas of Justice, Development, Peace and Caritas Nigeria (JDP/Caritas), with the ultimate goal of charting future plans for the achievement of the set objectives of the Church in Nigeria for the benefit of mankind.

In a very special way I welcome our distinguished guests and new coordinators who are joining us in this AGM for the first time. To our guests I say thank you for honouring our invitation with your distinguished presence.

Most importantly, I thank the Almighty God for the journey mercies granted all of us from far and near to the venue of the august gathering and pray that same protection shall be granted us at the end of our deliberations.

The Past Year in Retrospect
Among other things, we are expected at this meeting to give an account of services in our various dioceses in the past one year, articulate our problems as well as table our plans for the coming year, so that together, we can chart a common front in tackling the various problems and plan the future as one family. It is my sincere hope that we shall all take advantage of this unique opportunity to enhance the work of JDP/C in our respective areas.

A Special Year
As we have all seen, the year 2009 is a special year in the life of the Church in Africa, as the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has convoked the Second Synod For Africa, fourteen years after the First Synod was convoked by his predecessor, the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II. From the perspective of the theme of the Synod – The Church in Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace, the significance of the year 2009 in the life of the Church in Africa relates mostly to our work and therefore, there is the need for us to be more involved in this synod at all levels from the preparation to the synod proper period from October 5 to 24, 2009; and the post synodal implementation activities, particularly after the release of the Apostolic Exhortation.

As the preparation for the synod is in top gear at all levels all over the continent, I admonish us to study religiously the Instrumentum Laboris, copies of which are with most of us if not all; and your comments in writing are welcomed in this respect. Furthermore I encourage us to ensure that the synod prayer be said daily by all the faithful as approved by the CBCN.

Today’s Challenges
My dear brothers and sisters, we are all aware of the present economic global crises christened Global Economic Meltdown and its biting effects which almost grinded the economies of the entire world to a halt. The situation has led to some governments cutting back on promised responsibilities especially foreign aid. The JDP/Caritas Nigeria is no exception from the effects of this meltdown as our funding partners have continued to cut down on projects funds while in some cases, some have opted out of the partnership.

This situation poses a great challenge to us collectively and individually as members of the Church in Nigeria. There is therefore the need for us to source for funds within our immediate environment to sustain all the charity projects of the Church in the country. For the continuity and sustainability of our projects, the time has come to harness resources from within to solve our own problems. This is a challenge for us to build our own identity, understand who we are, what we do and put in place a structure that can make us functionally independent. This requires a lot of strategic thinking and reflection to come up with a clear identity and core values that define us and our work. In this respect, we should make the Lenten Campaign programme and other activities of our commission more vibrant and more revenue yielding.
A clear defined identity cannot function outside structures; that is why we are right now in the process of building a strong structure and systems through which we can achieve our mission of facilitating the teaching, prophetic and pastoral care ministries of the Church in Nigeria through our projects, activities and publications in Nigeria. This structure will soon be a reality and we urge you all to be a part of it, through your support, prayers and cooperation to make it work.

Election Project 2011
As we all know, sustainable and true democracy is still on trial in our great country, Nigeria and elections for the fourth stanza of our present experiment are around the corner. As from next year, the country’s political platform will be aglow again with activities preparatory to the next general elections in the present democratic dispensation in 2011. In our usual disposition, we have a major national civic role to play in this perspective, to help the country attain sustainable democracy through credible elections. However, our intervention will continue to be as independent umpires.
We have carried out a baseline survey but the final report of the survey is not ready because some dioceses are yet to submit their responses. Please kindly submit your responses here so that our officers can complete the data analysis and report. We have dedicated a session at this meeting to present the concept note on our activities for the election. Your inputs will be greatly appreciated.

Our Spirituality: Our sense of pride and purpose
It will not be fair on my part to conclude this address without making reference to some observations about how we discharge our duties as JDP/C officers of the Church without adequate and commensurate consideration for our spiritual life in this respect. Without doubt, developing our spirituality is part of our identity, however, we must note that it is sometimes easy to get carried away by working for the Lord and at the same time forget the Lord of the work.

In this respect, I wish to appeal for a change of heart on the part of some of us whose nonchalant attitudes toward the spiritual activities of our programmes have continued to be of great concern. Among other issues, attendance at Mass during JDP/Caritas programmes, the non-clerical appearance especially at masses, and our lackadaisical attitude to official mails, even in times of urgencies are really worrisome and there is the need for a change of heart in this respect. If we are aspiring to help correct the anomalies in the political and social systems of our country, then we should lead by example and not be found wanting particularly in our spiritual life. While I encourage us to continue to spread the faith and Gospel of Christ by our words, actions and appearances, there is need to incorporate pastoral activities in our programmes. Spiritual activities should also be at the core of our work in building a kingdom of justice, love and peace.

This Year’s AGM
Our programme for this year’s meeting will include two days of presentations and discussions to be facilitated by Rev. Fr. Thaddeus Ajayi whose address today will be on Social Analysis and Very Rev. Fr. Peter Bauna Tanko whose presentation is premised on The Challenges of JDP/Caritas’ Work in the Light of CST. It is my sincere hope that we shall all benefit from the presentations of these eloquent speakers and whatever gained will be used to facilitate the work of the commission in our respective dioceses.

New Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI
The Holy Father’s latest encyclical titled Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) basically addresses social issues such as the effect of the global economy, environmental issues and business ethics. He laments the situation whereby people prefer to pursue riches to the detriment of ethics and morality. The encyclical draws inspiration so much from Pope Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio and the writings of Pope John Paul II. Some analysts have predicted that from the Left, Steadfast capitalists will not be happy while from the right: Liberals don’t understand this pope.

But I have a different question: How much does it matter what the encyclical says? Who will pay attention? Is there any evidence that a papal pronouncement in 2009 has the power to change minds or even behaviors? My answer is YES! I urge us as JDP/Caritas workers to study the new encyclical personally and also create more awareness on the document by organisaing interactive sessions and round table meetings on how it can be implemented. His Holiness’ words can only come alive if we act on it!

Conclusion
My dear brothers and sisters, it is my sincere hope that our activities during this our one week stay of brainstorming in the tin city of Jesus Our Saviour, Jos will be most fruitful and help move JDP/Caritas forward in the service of the Church to ensure justice and equity in an egalitarian Nigerian society. While admonishing us to make the best use of the opportunity offered during deliberations, I also urge us to find time, during our spare time, to relax and possibly explore this historic city on the Plateau.

This I am sure will however, be facilitated by our hosts and it is my sincere hope and believe that at the end of our one week stay, we shall return to our various dioceses refreshed in both mind and body to face the challenges of the years ahead in the service of the Lord for the benefit of our great country, Nigeria.

Finally I wish to thank you all for the support we have enjoyed so far since I came into office. Let this week be a happy and a successful one.

Once again, welcome and God bless you.

Rev. Fr. Peter Babangida Audu
National Secretary, JDP/Caritas Nigeria

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