A first for Nigerian Catholics in T&T

Catholic News - Saturday 12th April, 2014

The Nigerian Catholic community in Trinidad and Tobago held their first public Lenten Retreat on April 5 at St Charles Borromeo RC Church, Tunapuna.

Nigeria-born Fr Pax Jey-Sharwan VC dances as he sings praise and worship songs with the congregation. Photos Jameel Boos
Members of the Nigerian Catholic community in T&T are joined by Erin parishioners for a group photo. At centre is Fr Pax Jey-Sharwan VC.
Fr Pax Jey-Sharwan VC with some of the Nigerian women in traditional wear.

Some members of the community wore the traditional garb of the Igbo ethnic group; in Nigeria, the majority of the Igbo people are Christian, with well over half being members of the Catholic Church.

The retreat began with the recitation of the Sorrowful Mysteries, followed by Mass at which Nigeria-born Fr Pax Jey-Sharwan VC presided. Fr Jey-Sharwan had invited his Erin parishioners to attend the retreat and the Nigerian community extended a warm welcome to the local guests, greeting them in song and with warm embraces.

Led by musical director Philip O Kafor, they sang songs of praise in Igbo and English, including “Ome Mma” which means “Our Lord is a Good God.”

In his homily, Fr Jey-Sharwan examined the purpose of the Lenten season. Stating that the Church’s seasons prepared the faithful for ordinary time, he described Lent as a time of discipline, prayer and fasting, when “we give up ourselves, so that the Lord can take over”. He said the faithful would encounter detractors “who are militant against who we are and what we do” and would have to face comments about being too “churchy”.

Fr Jey-Sharwan added that all activities should “converge you to the direction of Jesus Christ… Connect everything you do to Jesus Christ”. In re-directing one’s thoughts, actions and words to Christ, “you transform your life into a life of sacramentality – an outward sign of inward grace”, he said.

After the homily, the congregation was encouraged to dance up to the altar and place their offering in the basket.

O Kafor was the guest speaker after Mass, delivering a talk on The Prodigal Son. O Kafor observed that when one was in a faraway country, the temptation to abandon God was strong. However, he said, “God is calling us back to Himself…God is calling us to repentance.” He added that Jesus was at the door, “longing for fellowship… God is calling us back like the prodigal son”.  O Kafor highlighted the significance of having fellowship with God, saying without God “there is no life or enjoyment” and education without God “breeds vipers”. He spoke too of the need for fellowship and to study God’s Word to ensure spiritual survival.

After the talk, there was a short healing service conducted by Fr Jey-Sharwan and then closing remarks by Professor Chidum E Ezenwaka. The retreat ended with a sharing of light refreshments.