A Nigerian proverb advises, “A single man cannot build a house.” And so, it was appropriate that 52 Vincentian Family members gathered, March 1-4, in Enugu, to “build their house”—to strengthen collaboration among the already vibrant family arms in Nigeria. VFCAP presenters were warmly hosted by the Congregation of the Mission’s Provincialate in Enugu, by Very Rev. Fr. Cyril Mbata, Visitor; Fr. Joachin Nwaorgu; and Fr. Lazarus Iwueke.
During its annual Vincentian Family Meeting, members of the 7 Nigerian Vincentian branches, participated in the Vincentian Family Collaborative Action Program (VFCAP). Fr. Flavio Pereira Tercero, CM Assistant Co-ordinator, Vincentian Family Office; Sr. Margaret O’Dwyer, DC; and Mrs. Dee Mansi, International Representative of the AIC, delivered the programme at the Daughters of Divine Love Retreat Center in Emene, Enugu. The thought-provoking presentations were well received, discussed and resulted in 14 family members willing to facilitate future VFCAP sessions.
In his welcome, Father Cyril Mbata, CM, called attention to the issue of homelessness. “Today, many in our society have no home or decent accommodation and so are always on the move looking for a good shelter,” he said. “This gathering therefore, offers us the opportunity to rub minds together in a bid to fashion ways to tackle this menace starting with our immediate environment.”
A group of about ten participants were welcomed to the home of Bishop Callistus Onaga, on the morning of March 2. He encouraged them in their work with persons living in poverty and broke bread with them at breakfast. Bishop Onaga was provided a beautiful Vincentian Family calendar by Sylvester Ojubiaja, SSVP and main organizer of the overall gathering.
Bishop Onaga sent a letter supporting the Vincentian Family’s efforts to eradicate homelessness which was read during our opening session. VFCAP modules were delivered over Friday and Saturday, March 2 and 3, through a combination of powerpoint presentations, interaction and videos, capped by a Vincentian Water Ceremony which included a procession around the Divine Love Retreat Centre grounds. In a closing ceremony during which Fr. Flavio presided, participants were given Vincentian Family pins as a symbol of completing the modules. Fr. Flavio encouraged them to “go” (out to serve persons in poverty), assuring them they do not go alone, but with God and the Vincentian Family.
Significant memories of the week include those of bright Vincentian clothing, such as a tunic featuring the Miraculous Medal or Saints Vincent, AIC work tabard and Frederic Ozanam; a challenge by Fr. Flavio to create a chronology of Nigerian Vincentian Family events and to be very aware of the realities experienced by people of the country; energetic participation in a consensus-building section; the sense of Family members mixing and getting to know each other for the first time; a rollicking gala which included jokes, a delicious meal, and dancing; and Sunday Mass with both men and women wearing indigenous dress.
During this time, the Daughters of Divine Love participants were welcomed as the newest members to the global Vincentian Family. Their foundation is based on the Daughters of Charity constitution and they also supported their formation at their inception.
It was moving when Stephen Ajala, CM, (to be ordained July 13, 2018) delivered a summary “communique” of the entire proceedings; a VMY rep was late because he had a successful job interview – a week out of college; and a Lady of Charity lawyer said it had been the best training session she had ever attended.
The Nigerian experience included vespers and a meal with 45 promising theology students, a visit to DePaul Nursery and Primary School, and an evening meal shared with the priests of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. Fr. Cyril Mbata offered a visit to a former hostel building which is being renovated to serve as a hospital to strengthen health care in the area. Fr. Joachin, Provincial Secretary, provided a tour of Bigard Memorial Seminary, Holy Ghost Cathedral, St. Paul’s Book Store, and a visit to Dr. Cecilia Asogwa, Executive Director of the Development Education Centre and a strong advocate for women and girls. Dr. Asogwa has agreed to contribute to AIC work in UNESCO & UN.
The now 7 branches of the Nigerian Vincentian Family is thriving, and the overwhelming feeling was that this Collaboration must continue in the service of those most in need. “The grassroots must now be involved in this collaboration to create systemic change for the poor.”