By Fr. Michael Nsikak Umoh, CSN
Preaching to a joyful stream of worshippers gathered at St. Joseph Cathedral in Ilorin for the episcopal ordination and installation of Bishop Anselm Pendo Lawani on Friday February 2, 2024, Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo diocese reinforced the words of Robert Cardinal Sarah that, “A bishop is a sacrificed man.”
With Most Rev. Gabriel Abegunrin, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Ibadan, as the principal consecrator, assisted by Bishops John Oyejola of Osogbo diocese and Jude Arogundade of Ondo Diocese, it was a solemn Holy Mass attended by 30 Bishops including 2 Cardinals, over 200 priests, many female religious from different congregations, seminarians, and a wide representation of the church lay organisations, with dignitaries, Government representatives, traditional ruler, and a multitude of the lay faithful from all over the diocese and beyond.
The preacher ceased the opportunity to remind his colleagues and especially the new bishop of Ilorin diocese of the burden and grave demands of the office of a bishop; as clearly a position for selfless service and not for vain glory.
“My dear Bishop-elect, Anselm Pendo Lawani, the second reading which you chose for today, from the Acts of the Apostles, gives you a personal roadmap for your new mission: watch over the sheep and feed them. As Bishop, preserve the sheep, (the) deposit of faith and the apostolic tradition from ravaging wolves as you act for men and women in their relation to God (cf. Acts 20). Know that the office of Bishop is not for honour but for function. It means you are chosen to serve rather than to rule, to be a pastor who serves, proclaiming the gospel when welcome or unwelcome.”
Bishop Badejo went further to catechetise that the action of the laying of hands confers the fullness of holy orders on the recipient, thereby transforming him into “a steward of the mysteries of God.” As a result, “Christ will henceforth be present through your ministry to continue to confer the mysteries of faith on those who believe and add new members to his body, the Church.”
Additionally, the Bishop of Oyo exhorted Bishop Lawani to follow the model of the Good Shepherd by being a father to everyone in the diocese; clergy, religious and laity. This requires that he strives to know his sheep, be available to them, love them and be compassionate, rather than lording over them like a typical Nigerian leader. “Hardly anybody would readily be a slave of another in Nigeria. Nevertheless, this is the life you are now called to model, to teach and promote as a Bishop. By God’s grace, you shall not fail.”
“Count always on that Holy Spirit who, according to the rites of ordination today, gives life to the Church of Christ and supports our weakness with His strength. With the book of the Gospel which will be placed over your head today, the ring which will seal your fidelity to the Church and the pastoral staff, which will be given to you for keeping watch over the flock, the Holy Spirit truly appoints you, so fear no one nor anything. He is a spirit that unites, and therefore, invites you to promote the cohesion and collaboration of your flock, leading them to shun crass competition and pride,” the preacher counselled.
The prelate reasoned that while the burden of office may make a Bishop’s task seem frightening, for which reason Robert Cardinal Sarah, said “A bishop is a sacrificed man,” nevertheless, with all the priests, religious and laity willing to work with the new bishop, he has a reliable team, which in the spirit of synodality, he can count on. He urged him to also take solace in God’s promise to the Prophet Jeremiah: “Do not say, ‘I am only a child’, for you must go to all to whom I send you and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of confronting them, for I am with you to rescue you” (Jeremiah 1: 5 – 8). “Dear Bishop elect, I pray that God grants you the wisdom of Solomon in your ministry, to be fair and just to all and to govern with equity. With your God-given gifts and formation, your simplicity, humility accountability and for your capacity to listen and to comfort all, God has equipped you for the task ahead. Overall, My Lord, persist in being a man of prayer. More than ever before, the mission of the Church today needs the power of sincere prayers.”