GARKI IN ASOKORO – An Account of the 2018 Cathedraticum by Fr Kenneth Ọgọnna Agwụ
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan, and his Auxiliary, Most Rev. Anselm Umoren, MSP, together with the Priests, Religious, and lay faithful of Garki Deanery, today, Saturday, March 24, 2018, converged at Church of the Assumption, Asokoro, for the 2018 Cathedraticum. Some believe that Cathedraticum is a compound word deriving from “Cathedra” (Chair/Seat) + Aticum (Age); others think it is a tripartite word from “Cathedra” (Chair/Seat) + “Te” (You) + Cum (With/Together). Whichever, it denotes Christ’s Faithful’s Solidarity with the Seat of the Bishop whose responsibility it is to shepherd them.
Usually, this is an annual event which takes place within the Lenten Season. During the occasion, the faithful in every diocese gather around their Chief Shepherd in a joyful celebration. This gathering is unique as it affords the faithful the opportunity to show their love and support for their bishop through their generous offerings. This is right and just because the Canonical provision of the Catholic Church expects that the faithful do so; as such, c. 222 §1 stipulates: “The Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for the works of the apostolate and of charity, and the decent support of ministers.”
Although, Cathedraticum pertains to episcopal rights and privileges, nonetheless, the faithful are not coerced but are encouraged to support the Church as much as possible. Hence, various parishes and individuals, decide what to bring for the honour and support of their bishop for Cathedraticum celebration. Like many other practices within the Church, Cathedraticum celebration has a long history. In time past, many dioceses used to have the celebration at Chrism Mass. However, for pastoral reasons, most dioceses have decided on a separate date at the discretion of the diocesan bishop.
In Abuja Archdiocese presently, the celebration of Cathedraticum is carried out in six deaneries under the leadership of His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan. Today, in a charismatic humility that has dotted his ministry, the Chief Shepherd of Abuja Archdiocese chose to take the back seat as he graciously allowed the Auxiliary Bishop Umoren to preside at the Mass. At the dot of 10am, the procession had begun. As is typical of Catholic liturgy, the servers led the way followed by priests numbering about forty. When the celebration commenced at the altar, Rev. Fr. Peter Atsewe, the Parish Priest of Asokoro, at the bidding of the MC, Rev. Fr. Vincent Ogunsoro, heartily welcomed the guests. Then followed the liturgy of the word. After the first reading and responsorial psalm by the Garki Deanery choir, Rev. Fr. Jude Nwigwe, the Dean of Garki Deanery, having received the go-ahead from the Chief Celebrant, proclaimed the gospel.
Then, the Auxiliary bishop took the centre stage as he nourished the congregation with the word of God. In an 11 minutes’ homily (10:25am-10:36am), the Lord’s servant began welcoming everyone for the celebration especially the Deanery Choir and His Eminence. He invoked God’s blessing on all present and went ahead to remind everyone of the special nature of the celebration as it pertains to God’s people in Abuja. At the celebration, he noted that gifts which would aid the shepherds in their ministry will be offered. In advance, he deeply appreciated the show of love and thanked the givers. Soon after, he recalled that the gospel (John 11:45-56), set the stage for the week ahead. In this passage he noted, we see people making statements with meanings far beyond what they intended. Lazarus’ resurrection he recalled, brought people to believe in Jesus, making the likes of the Chief Priests fear that if he is not stopped, his preaching will incur disaster on the nation as the Romans may come and destroy it, hence, the thickened plot to get rid of Jesus.
However, Jesus needed precision as to what constituted his offence so he asked, “for which of the good deeds are you stoning me?” Regardless that no justifiable answer was provided, this did not detract Jesus’ detractors from hatching evil. The Jews, he noted, are not the first nor the last, to plot to kill in order to silence the truth. Even till this day, we subtly do same all for selfish interest. Still, God will always make ways even in our crooked intentions. He summed up emphasizing that the Lenten observances for the last 5 weeks was supposed to bring about a new life. It should provide us an opportunity to become better in order to celebrate the Easter well. If Jesus suffered, we too have the possibility to go through same way, he ended.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist began and after the post-communion prayer, thanksgivings from Parishes, Chaplaincies, Schools, Groups and Individuals followed. The section wrapped up with a notification that Holy Cross Apo would host the 2019, Garki Deanery cathedraticum. Recalling the significance of bishop’s presence amidst his flock, an early Christian writer and bishop of Antioch, Ignatius of Antioch once averred, “Where the bishop is, there is the Church, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God.” Garki Deanery Cathedraticum no doubt had the approval of the Chief Shepherd hence, his presence.
Thus, it was only fitting that His Eminence addressed the assembled faithful. In his brief speech, he recalled that the Auxiliary bishop already thanked the faithful and confirmed that he is indeed grateful. As a result of the peoples’ generosity, he has no fears, no anxieties for his wellbeing now and even in the future, hence, he prayed the Lord to take care of his flock. Cathedraticum, he recalled, is mainly for charity which helps the shepherds not only to assist the needy but also to speak freely either to power or to people without fear. He prayed God’s blessings on the people for their continuous generosity.
In furtherance of his epilogue, he explained that Cathedraticum ordinarily should be done once but pastoral necessity made him organize it according to deaneries not just to save time but also to bring the celebration closer to the people. As he wrapped his 5 minutes’ speech (12:30pm-12: 35 pm), he wished the congregation a Happy Easter in advance and prayed the Holy Mother Mary to cover us with the mantle of protection. At 12:36 pm, the Auxiliary bishop gave the final blessing bringing the celebration to a befitting end.