Fr. Peter Hassan, a member of the Clergy of Nigeria’s Jalingo Diocese, has been lauded for his ability to “transcend narrow ethnic boundaries”, embracing “all without prejudice, jealousy, or hatred” in his 25 years of Priestly ministry.
In his homily on the occasion of Fr. Hassan’s Silver Jubilee of Priesthood on Thursday, September 21, Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Nigeria’s Abuja Archdiocese recalled his first encounter with the Nigerian Priest, then a student in the Minor Seminary.
“I met Peter for the first time when as a minor seminarian he came to Wukari to visit Fr. Paul Beyeh, his uncle, who was then my assistant parish priest in St. Mary’s parish, in 1988. I took to liking Peter immediately, because he was lively, cute, and intelligent,” Archbishop Kaigama who started his Episcopal Ministry as Bishop of Jalingo in April 1995 recalled.
He went on to recall the Priestly ordination of Fr. Hassan, and congratulated him for continually serving the Lord since he was ordained a Priest.
“Perhaps many of you were present in Zing on the 20th of June 1998 for the priestly ordination of Fr. Peter Hassan,” Archbishop Kaigama told the congregation that gathered at Our Lady Queen of Peace Cathedral of Jalingo Diocese on September 21.
He continued, “I am so glad that after 25 years of consistent and unbroken years of priestly service we are gathered to celebrate Fr. Peter as we thank God for him and with him. Congratulations Fr. Peter.”
The Nigerian Catholic Archbishop further recalled the collaboration he has received from Fr. Hassan over the years, saying, “As a priest, he worked very closely with me. I remember how we used to work well into the night, typing, and duplicating documents.”
“Fr. Hassan has shared his talents with me and helped me as the Bishop of Jalingo, Archbishop of Jos and even now as Archbishop of Abuja. Thank you for the good work you do quietly when I ask you to help me,” he said during his September 21 homily.
Archbishop Kaigama highlighted other accomplishments he said Fr. Hassan has “excelled in”, including his ministry at “St. Augustine’s major seminary as a professor, dean of formation, dean of studies, acting rector, head of the department of theology, etc.”
“It has been this unwavering dedication to duty that has led to Fr. Peter’s recent appointment as the rector Magnificus of St. Augustine’s Major Seminary, Jos,” the Local Ordinary of Abuja further said, underscoring the fact that he was not the only one lauding the “good” Priestly ministry of Fr. Hassan.
He went on to acknowledge with appreciation Fr. Hassan ability to establish and maintain good relations with others, saying, “As a Dean in Jalingo deanery cathedral administrator, chaplain to various groups, diocesan secretary, education secretary, parish priest of Kona parish and in many other assignments he blended so very well with the people.”
“This is because of his maturity, broad-mindedness, and the ability to embrace all without prejudice, jealousy, or hatred,” Archbishop Kaigama said about Fr. Hassan, adding, “He is indeed a priest according to the order of Melchizedek.”
He went on to challenge members of indigenous communities in Jalingo Diocese to go beyond their tribal affiliations, saying, “Since Fr. Hassan whom we celebrate today has the capacity to transcend narrow ethnic boundaries, let me encourage the various tribal groups which make up Jalingo Diocese to strongly unite: Jenjo, Wurkum, Karim, Mumuye, Kutep, Tiv, Ichen, Jukun-Kona and others.”
“I would like to see more friendship and harmony between Mumuye and Jukun-Kona of Jalingo Local Government,” the Catholic Archbishop who was at the helm of Jalingo Diocese for five years said, and added, “There must be a healing of memory, forgiving the past so that we can be a formidable force in the economic, political, and social spheres.”
He cautioned against underestimating Christian values, and called for unity that is founded on the Sacrament of Baptismal “because the water of baptism is thicker than the blood of tribe”.
“I have seen videos suggesting that Taraba State should not be ruled by a Christian because Christians are a minority. Perhaps our lack of unity is what gives that impression. Our Christian religion should bind us strongly together,” the 65-year-old Nigerian Archbishop said during Holy Mass to mark Fr. Hassan’s Silver Jubilee of Priesthood.
He called upon Fr. Hassan to remain focused in his Priestly ministry, cautioning him against detractors.
“Fr. Peter, as you continue to serve God, remember that people only throw stones at a fruitful mango tree and not a barren one. People will throw stones at you because you have fruits,” Archbishop Kaigama said, adding, “Remember also that no matter how good you are, not everyone thinks you are good.”
“Do not worry about who is and is not on your side: simply make sure that God is with you in all you do. Have a clear conscience and God will defend you,” the Nigerian Catholic Church leader said, underlining the need to imitate the person of Jesus Christ, whose heart was pierced by “the sword of unfair and uncharitable criticisms”.
Turning his attention to the congregation during the September 21 celebration, Archbishop Kaigama implored, “Dear people of God, please keep Fr. Hassan and all priests in your prayer, and may God bless you and your families too with an abundance of graces and multiple material favours especially in these harsh economic times.”
“I pray that by God’s grace, we shall see many more priestly Silver and Golden Jubilees in Jalingo Diocese,” the Nigerian Catholic Archbishop further implored.