EPISCOPAL ORDINATION AND INSTALLATION OF MOST REVEREND ANSELM LAWANI AS BISHOP OF THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF ILORIN DIOCESE
At St Joseph Catholic Cathedral Ilorin, February 2, 2024
Homily of Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo, Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Oyo
Your Eminence, John Cardinal Onayekan, Bishop emeritus of Ilorin and archbishop emeritus of Abuja archdiocese, Your Eminence, Peter Cardinal Okpaleke, bishop of Ekwulobia, Your Grace, Most Reverend Gabriel Leke Abegunrin, archbishop of Ibadan and Metropolitan Archbishop of Ibadan Province, Your Graces, My Lord Bishops, particularly Most Rev AyoMaria Atoyebi, bishop emeritus of Ilorin diocese, the chargee D’affaire of the ApostolicNunciature, Msgr. Carlo Donati, Very Rev Monsignors Reverend Fathers and Reverend Sisters, especially of Ilorin diocese, Religious Leaders of other confessions, Leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Knights and Ladies of the Church, distinguished dignitaries of Church and State, the Lawani family, my dear people of God here present, my dear Bishop elect Msgr Anselm Pendo Lawani, by the grace of God, soon to be ordained local ordinary of this jurisdiction, I greet you all in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Mmmm The day of joy which we have all prayed and waited for, for the ordination of the new Bishop of Ilorin diocese is finally here. Let us be glad and rejoice in it as we all gather to pray and enjoy this very special God-given occasion.
As we say in Nigeria: The Lord is good, all the time…. In East Africa they add, “and that is His nature … waaao … “ Waaao indeed! Let us rejoice in thanksgiving to the giver of all good things and graces, because we have eloquent evidence before us that THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS BEEN AT WORK IN ILORIN DIOCESE and I mean that spirit of God which blows wherever it wills. Allow me to explain. When our venerable brother Bishop Paul Olawoore died on New Year Day 2022, it was utter shock and confusion all around. The Metropolitan of Ibadan Province, Most Rev Gabriel Abegunrin had to rally with others and give courage and strength to the decapitated diocese. Unknown, to us battered as we were by sorrow, the spirit of God, like at creation was already hovering over the void and confusion.
Having recovered somewhat from the initial shock the Metropolitan archbishop, as authorised, asked the diocesan Consultors to choose one among them to lead the bereaved diocese through the trying time. After consultations they elected Rev Fr. Anselm Lawani, who took up the task with a mixture of consternation and trust in God. Then the waiting, which Fr Daniel the diocesan chancellor referred to as “the long advent” began. That “mid-term” or if you wish, bye-election was held without campaigning, godfathers or dubious electoral commissions. Gratefully, here we are 2 years later in thanksgiving. Not only has a new Bishop of Ilorin diocese been elected, but it is the very person Msgr Anslem Lawani, whom the presbyterium on their own chose to hold the fort that has been chosen by God and by Rome to carry the staff and don the mitre. Well, is there anything to stop us from saying: THE LORD HAS ANSWERED OUR PRAYER WE WILL SING PRAISES TO HIM. Everybody praise the Lord now. I learnt a new chorus yesterday “Everybody dance o, dance o, if you no fit dance o, shake your body….”
SO, INDEED FROM OFFA TO ERUKU, FROM ORO TO GUFFANTI, FROM ILORIN TO. KAIAMA…LET THE SONG OF JOY RING OUT…
The joy of this day overshadows all our troubles, bad governance, high cost of living, insecurity kidnapping etc only because it is the joy of the Lord. We rejoice with Ilorin diocese that we can show to the world a smooth, normal period of expectation and episcopal election devoid of abrasion, consternation and confusion. By God’s grace we can say to the world today: “This is the way the Catholic Church works, this is the way it ought to work … and this is the way it has always worked. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning it is now and ever shall be world without end. If we were to let Yoruba drummers into the fray today I imagine their drums would be saying … ee rile wa bi, eyin ten se leyin jatijati, e o rile wa bi? Were lo bawa see ee were lo bawa se…For this I congratulate the priests, religious and laity of the Catholic Diocese of Ilorin, who have shown that the project of the diocese is not a BISHOP PROJECT but that of the people of God. Congrats to the ecclesiastical Province of Ibadan and the Church in Nigeria. May God judge us all kindly for our faith in him and he Church. Amen.
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, deposit of faith and the apostolic tradition from ravaging wolves as you act for men and women in their relation to God. (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. Today, in a very special way you can say with the Lord Jesus who has called you: “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me for he has anointed me … to preach the good news, free the oppressed, give sight to the blind and proclaim liberty to captives, (Lk 4:18ff). May that spirit descend mightily upon you today to empower you. May he make you truly one of the successors of the apostles who received their mandate from Christ so that the service of preaching the Gospel, gathering God’s people into one flock to be governed in the way of holiness might continue to the end of time. By the laying on of hands at this Mass, you will be accepted into the college of bishops, the sacrament of holy orders will be conferred on you in its fulness and you shall become a steward of the mysteries of God. As a consequence, 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.
Today you are chosen to be the father of the Church in Ilorin Diocese, to be exactly like the Good Shepherd. To do that like the Lord Jesus, you must know your sheep, especially the young people and be known by them. Relate to them with love and trust such that they can practically recline on you like the young John, the beloved apostle did at the Last Supper. Love the Clergy and Consecrated persons, guide them with discipline and shepherd the laity with compassion. 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. As Jesus said today in the Gospel: “You know that among the gentiles the rulers lord it over them, and great men make their authority felt. Among you this is not to happen. No, anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave just as the Son of man came not be served but to serve and to give his life as ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28ff).
You know very well that this message of the Gospel is unfortunately almost alien to NIGERIA our country today. Few indeed today would want to be servants for others? 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.
A Bishop’s task might seem frightening. In fact Robert Cardinal Sarah, reflecting on it once said “A bishop is a sacrificed man”. That may be so, but with the array of priests, religious and lay people willing to work with you the battle is winnable. More importantly, the first reading which you chose for this ordination shows that God called the Prophet Jeremiah himself at a time like this. His words to Jeremiah fit you perfectly. Those words reassure you that you are not a product of chance or happenstance. God knew about you and about this day long before now and he knows whatever anxieties you may have deep within you. How so well the text expressed that: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you came to birth, I consecrated you…. 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) There you have it, Msgr. If this does not give you confidence, perhaps nothing else can.
Indeed, there is a lot more that is special about you. Coming from a catholic family from where two other priests have emerged, plus another priest cousin in your extended family, methinks you have been chosen from a kingdom of priests to serve our God (Rev 1:). And even now, you follow in a succession of Bishops, servants of God who have grown the flock in Ilorin diocese since its establishment in 1969, and who have given a good account of themselves in this noble office. Bishop William Mahony SMA of blessed memory, John Cardinal Onayekan, Bishop Ayomaria Atoyebi and Late Bishop Paul Olawoore. Two of them are here present and their legacy and prayers will company you.
Dear Bishop elect, I pray that God grant you the wisdom of Solomon in your ministry, to be fair and just to all and to govern with equity. In fact you are our bishop of synodality in Ibadan Province. 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. Thank God for your disposition to inclusiveness, in the correct understanding of the spirit of Synodality, walking together, carrying everybody along and leaving no one behind. Such virtues are essential for our church and nation today to create communion, solidarity and collaboration.
As the immediate past chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Kwara State, interfaith and ecumenical relations need no introduction with you because you know very well that Jesus has other flocks outside of our own which he must tend through your ministry. Ilorin is a veritable convergence point of religions, tribes and denominations which demand that you continue to work for harmonious relations and peaceful coexistence among peoples, religions, and confessions. Be sure that the Master who prayed that God’s people may be one, will bless your effort in His mercy. ( JN 17)
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. Pope Francis has just declared a Jubilee Year of Prayer. Lead your flock to pray to God and petition him, not to command or threaten him. One of the reasons that prayer seems to have lost power today is because prayer which should be the lifting of our hearts to God in prayer, has been denuded of its essence and character. Today what is mostly lifted-up to God are our voice, noise, desires wants and deadlines. God however, cannot be intimidated.
My Dear Priests Consecrated persons and laity of Ilorin, I greet and thank you all again for your faith, love and perseverance. Perhaps some of you will look at Msgr Lawani today and ask “ha ha, na so dem de become Bishop”? Just like that? I can answer you… “Yes o, na soo because no be by might or power but by the incomprehensible love and mercy of God. Na him make Jesus talk am dat time for dem leader of the Church say: Anibodi wey hear una, na me him hear, anybody wey reject una na me him reject. And anybody wey reject me don reject di person wey send me be dat o” “Whoever listens to you, listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me” (Lk. 10:16). So I beg una, make una cooperate well well with your bishop, pray for am, helep am and respect am join. Una don try reach dis point, make una try more. Do everything for the love of Jesus. He said: If anyone loves me he will keep my word…He also said “You are my friends if you do what I command you….. That way everything will work according to the motto of your bishop, “all for the greater glory of God”. May you not lose your heavenly reward o. Amen amen.
So, finally My Lord Bishop Anselm, it is your time to step up. Believe the word of God himself from the letter to the Hebrews saying to you: “I shall not fail you or desert you” (Heb. 13:) He will fulfil his promise. The mother of Jesus Christ and mother of the Church, Mary, will intercede for you on this journey. Amen. May the prayer in this hymn come true for you as you begin your episcopal journey. O TI PE MI O BABA MIMO .. MO WA LATI JE O BABA.