I began to notice this on Sunday that preceded the Holy Trinity Sunday, which was Pentecost Sunday. The Parish vicar solicited for help from the parishioners towards St Patrick’s Statue which the youths accepted to erect since previous year. The project was estimated to cost one million Naira.
The priest disclosed that the youths needed sponsors in order to accomplish that project. It was unlikely of the parishioners. The church was as cool as the under world. Not even a scratch of leg was heard. After some minutes of placation by the parish vicar, one aged woman recognized as mama fada came forward and made a cash donation of two hundred naira (#200). It seemed as if the journey had been kicked off. Usually, I was thinking that the people were waiting for who will be the first to stand out.
But after sometime, about another five minutes, the atmosphere was still frigid; no one was sighted except those that walked out through the side doors. I walked with them with my eyes and I discovered that they weren’t going to ease themselves, they were going home.
I was astonished at this new development which had never been the case since I became a conscious member of that parish. Obviously, the parish priest had once complained that our parish is not supportive at all. It did not call to my mind to interpret that statement. I left the church with nothing bothering me.
About five or six persons later walked up to the sanctuary and made some cash donations before the priest opened the floor for general collection. People still came out in their numbers with exquisite dance to drop naira notes that ranged from fifty,to twenty and ten. Even without being told, one could adduce that the total money collected cannot buy two bags of cement.
It was unexpected of my parish that had been in support of all the projects that had been carried out.One woman beside me murmured when the floor was still open for donation: ‘Every time they will be asking for money without thinking of what we are doing to get the money’ It struck my mind like an iron rod. I tried to understand her point from different perspectives. However, she was right in all the perspectives I applied her statement.
After the Mass, the youth president assigned Obinna and I to meet my uncle for support. Though he was around, he wasn’t present at the mass. We moved from the Church to my uncle’s house which is also my house. We were fortunate to meet him having a discussion with someone in his garage.
We stood some distance away from them, waiting patiently and hopefully. Finally, the man was dismissed, it became our turn. He called me by name which melted my fears and gave me courage to speak hopefully like Joshua. We greeted him and moved straight to the reason behind our presence.
He gave me chance to land and made sure that I had nothing further to say before he took over the floor without any sign of having premeditated his thought.
‘This is my problem with the Church. Even the youths are deteriorating their condition. How can you be moulding a statue worth a million naira when almost all of you have no job? Do you think the statue will generate any money to the Parish in order to curb unnecessary task on the poor worshippers. We already have a small statue of St Patrick inside the church which is okay for me. I can’t support such a non-productive project, he said’.
He dipped his right hand into his right pocket and brought out two thousand naira and gave us for our personal welfare. We thanked him. Our eyes remained fixed on him till he drove out.
Obinna and I exchanged gazes, not knowing what best to do. Obninna suggested that we take the money to the president as my uncle’s support. I debunked it with the view that it wouldn’t convey his message which needed to be conveyed and if possible be considered. This drew Obinna’s attention and some other youths who had joined the discussion to listen to me more as I began to speak:
‘It is obvious that what we do in the church is for the worship of God. It is meant to furnish us with the grace of God and prepare us for everlasting life. But haven’t you considered it as foolishness to meet Christ on the way to church and fail to attend to him because where you met him is not the church. The grace of God is everywhere around us, it is only by positive effort that we can harness and utilize it.
‘Moreover, most of the people in the church are tired of everyday bring this, bring that and do this, do that without anything positive to show for it. Vividly, money donated for building Church structure is a buried money. It has no economic contribution.
Yes, we are not questioning it because a place of worship is necessary for a worshipping community. What of other projects that are unnecessary? Frankly speaking, Church building should be identifiable with the people that built it. A church in a poor village where people hardly eat and have access to basic amenities should not look like a church built in Washington DC, an exemplar of rich city.
It was Fulton Sheen who wrote that, ‘The only way one can understand the poor is not by writing a check but by direct contact. I was reminded of the meaning of the incarnation. God did not remain aloof to the agonies, pains and injustices of this world, but took a human nature like ours in all things, save sin, to prove that true love is identification’.
‘The need of the Local Church and her priests must be in line with the people. More so, the church should have direct identification and impact in the life of the people that erected it.
‘My landlady complained bitterly one day after she attended a Christian Mothers’ Meeting. According to her, they were told about the renovation of Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka, just after some months a chapel they completed was dedicated. In her view, she has not benefited anything from the hospital.
She is billed the same way someone from another denomination is billed. There is no preferential recognition for the Catholics that contributed towards building of the hospital. This and so many other problems engineered what we are gradually experiencing today in the church, especially apathy among the youths.
‘In my comment under the post made by Fides Media on their Facebook page concerning Bishop Ezeokafor’s assertion that, youths are returning to pagan worship due to business failure, I averred that it is not only business failure but also the adamant attitude of the Church towards the social and economic welfare of her members in this desert country called Nigeria where life is inevitably difficult for every average youth.
Most of the people working in private firms including those possessed by the Church are yet to earn like employees. They are better referred to as unemployed than employed because of their take home wages that are insufficient to serve their immediate needs not to talk of savings and what have you.
In the face of this unemployment and resounding poverty, people are still billed unnecessarily without the skillfulness to permanently rescue the situation. A particular parish priest wanted to upgrade the parish podium that is not up to 10 years old to a 22million naira quality project. The parishioners said no. He insisted that if they fail to raise the money, he will borrow with their name. I later heard that through the intervention of the Diocesan Bishop the project was cancelled or suspended.
The above scenario is not different from what people are suffering in different parishes. How can a parish that the majority of her members are worth less than hundred thousand naira erect a podium of 22 million naira? Don’t you consider it a scam? Most of the youths are graduates without jobs.
Some of the children could not find their way into university due to poverty. Some cannot even afford to attend mission schools since most public schools have completely decayed. Think of the parish that is carrying out a 22 million naira project, it can lead to poverty alleviation among her members. It is capable of cutting the amount levied on people in case of other future projects or need of the Church. Even from that lucrative project, a higher podium can be erected in future.
‘Actually, it is saddening that amid unemployment and abject poverty, we are still looking for more statues to erect in the church. Humanly speaking, it is right time for the parishes to engage in lucrative projects that can assist their needs and the needs of the local parishioners.
As my uncle said, youths can decide to raise funds to set up profitable projects that can create employment opportunities for them, so as to reduce levies among the members.
Instead of erecting one million naira worth of St Patrick’s statue, they can set up a one million naira poultry project that can get some of the youths employed and still generate the money for the statue and other subsequent projects. It should no longer be a time for the church to depend on her poor members. It should be a time for a symbiotic relationship between the church and the members.
One man told me that why I don’t see him in the church anymore is because he is afraid of been taxed or persuaded to make donations in this hard time. Though his position is not strong enough, but the fact remains that over taxing and too much emphasis money in the church is demoralizing the people.
Something has to be done to curb this seeming tradition and institute a system that is convenient and expedient in this part of the world because we can never deny the fact that we are poor and we must cut our coat according to our sizes.
Finally, this is not a discouragement or denial of the fact that the parishioners are obliged to support the church in her ministry. It is rather a call on the Church to restrategise especially in this part of the world where poverty has taken a home to rescue the poor parishioners from ceaseless and excessive levying. Many are already at verge of dropping out. This time it is no longer the case of incompatibility of doctrines, but unaffordability of the Church’s need.
Looking at it critically, it is obvious that such individuals that left on this ground are not to be blamed. Don’t say that most of the Church’s project are built by freewill donation. You and I know that individuals are levied. Even when freewill donation is to be completely relied on, we are still going to run the same risk. Consider being in a Church for a Sunday Mass, a priest started conscientizing the congregants to support the Church’s project reminding that God promised in so and so places in the scripture that he will heal your family and multiply or enlarge your coast. Will you be comfortable sitting there without going to pledge what you cannot afford because others are going? We are humans and we know of our nature is when it comes to such scenario.
Therefore, it is pertinent that the Church, especially parishes and groups move into setting up lucrative enterprises that can assist the poor members in their diverse capacities.
At this point, I saw signs of conviction on their faces, nodding to the fact that the Church in Nigeria needs some level of orientation in her administration and management to meet the demands of the time. When I was done speaking, we took a group photograph and left for the youth President’s House.
Ewezugachukwu Nwankwo ,08102467244, writes from Nanka, Anambra State.