Communique of The Diocesan General Assembly 2017

TOWARDS PRESERVING AN UNDILUTED CATHOLIC FAITH: THE RESOLVE OF IKOT EKPENE DIOCESE

A communiqué issued at the end of the Maiden Diocesan General Assembly 2017 in Queen of Apostles Seminary, Afaha Obong, Abak, AKS from 15th – 18th November, 2017.

1.  PREAMBLE:

We, the entire faithful of the Catholic diocese of Ikot Ekpene, in union with our Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Camillus R. Umoh, held our Maiden Diocesan General Assembly with the theme: Ikot Ekpene Diocese: Pastoral Challenges, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow in Queen of Apostles Seminary Afaha Obong from the 15th to the 18th of November 2017.  Having carefully, painstakingly and prayerfully considered the pastoral challenges of our diocese; with direction from the opening remarks of the Bishop who convoked this General Assembly; and challenged further by the thought provoking Keynote Address of Dr. Emmanuel Udofia tagged “Go back to yesterday,” we were convinced of the need to regain our endangered Catholic heritage especially in liturgy, Sacramental life and general ecclesiastical outlook. This generated a heated but meaningful discussion towards an action plan, at the end of which, we hereby issue this communiqué.

2.  NEED TO ENCOURAGE ACTIVE/PROPER PARTICIPATION IN LITURGY

It has been observed that attendance and active participation at Masses and other Liturgical activities is not good enough. There has been some non-Catholic tendencies observed in the mode of prayer. The introduction of AKAM KPUKPRU OWO, the airing of Pentecostal tunes and theology in music, and other undue non-Catholic tendencies have been mistaken for inculturation and the decorum of the Liturgy is not maximally upheld according to Catholic character.

In response to this, we need to enforce catechesis especially towards the appreciation of the value and importance of the Mass. Masses must not be too long. The Prayer of the faithful at Mass must retain its Catholic liturgical character. There should be no long introduction to review the homily. It must be kept short and straight to the point with directed intentions first for the Pope, Diocesan Bishop and one’s parish priest(s) mentioned possibly by name; secondly for the lay leaders of the Church; then for the secular government and its leaders before other relevant intentions including the intentions of the worshiping community. Only relevant announcements must be permitted at Mass and should be given by one person who must be a good communicator. Generally, everyone praying aloud at the same time - AKAM KPUKPRU OWO - must not be accommodated at the Mass nor permitted at any Church organizational meetings. All Church organizations must adhere to provisions made in their approved Prayer Manual and those who have none should submit their proposed Manual to the appropriate ecclesiastical Authority for approval before use. Fund raising must not be allowed within Mass but after final blessing. In the spirit of religious patriotism, all are encouraged to sacrifice sometime after Mass and sit as a worshipping community for such fund-raising. However, Family Thanksgivings and “designated appeals” which retain the character of Church offering may be taken during offertory but with strict adherence to Catholic character. All unapproved collections, especially those that lack liturgical relevance, must be suspended henceforth, at Mass. In order to foster a healthy liturgical life, every Liturgical action must be accorded its proper decorum. Among these are Funerals. Catholic funerals need to be celebrated in a decent and dignifying manner.  The synod provision, of a maximum time limit of two weeks before burial, must be enforced. For pastoral needs, the Local Ordinary alone reserves the right to grant dispensations where and when necessary. Again, the practice of consulting church organs and its attendant demands of money, foodstuff and drinks must be stopped at all levels.  The practice of combining funerals with memorial service is no longer permissible as it is liturgically and culturally irregular. However, since the need to cut cost at funerals is still to be pursued, memorial services, after the day of funeral, must be celebrated in a low key. A month’s mind, could be an ideal way of remembering the dead at Mass in a simple but beautiful way. The use of undertakers to toss the coffin carrying the remains of a practicing Catholic is to be discontinued. Instead representatives of CYON, CWO and CMO are to carry their dead in a decent manner.

3.  NEED TO CULTIVATE A HEALTHIER SACRAMENTAL LIFE

It is observed that participation in/reception of the sacraments is not encouraging. Some Catholics absent themselves from Mass; many are far from the confessional. Young people especially girls, shy away from the sacrament of Confirmation. There are inconsistencies in the appreciation of marriage as a Sacrament. The apostolate to the sick and the elderly needs more attention.

In response to this, we need to re-enforce catechesis on the importance of the Sacraments. Regular Confession especially during the first Sunday weeks should be revived to ensure proper reception of the Eucharist. Priests need to be more available to the faithful and encourage their attendance to the Sacraments. The combination of Traditional Marriage and Wedding on same day is good as it cuts cost but the program of that Traditional Marriage after the wedding must be streamlined to project and respect the value and prominence of the sacramental wedding. The hope is that the availability of the Priest to his parishioners will promote proper care of the sick and a healthier sacramental life for all. Introduction of unnecessary parts into the Liturgy must be discouraged in order to retain a refined Catholic Liturgy. Our liturgical music is in need of attention. Protestant hymns must not be used at Mass. The choir needs to be given a re-orientation away from Protestantism to Catholic orthodoxy in song and instrumentation. The true Catholic Hymn-book must be made available and new indigenous Catholic compositions should be encouraged but must be screened and approved to meet liturgical standard.

4.  NEED FOR INCREASED MEMBERSHIP THROUGH PROPER EVANGELIZATION

It is observed that even after over 50 years, the impact of evangelization towards winning more converts into the Church, has not been very much felt. Even though there is improvement in catechesis, the desired effect of increased membership in church is not achieved. Efforts by appropriate agents and groups, like the Diocesan Evangelizers Fellowship, are not as effective as expected.

In response to this we agreed that all agents of evangelization (Priests, Religious, Catechists, groups, etc) should be more committed and re-strategize to accommodate modern means of evangelization. Religious are important agents of evangelization. Parishes should be open to welcome Religious, engage them and maintain them towards true witness to our common faith and pastoral services. Priests need to pay more attention to youth ministry. There is need to be more pastoral and didactic in the homilies. Sodalities and pious organizations like Legion of Mary and station Churches have to be directed to reach out to sick and elderly people in the Name of the worshiping community.

5.  NEED TO ENFORCE PROPER CATECHESIS TOWARDS RENEWED CATHOLIC PRIDE

Catechesis is the foundation of a solid Catholic faith. The Agent of catechesis must not only be available but also be well informed. Challenges have also been observed in the methods of catechesis. We re-emphasize that catechesis be re-introduced before Mass. On Sundays, before Benediction, some time should be given for catechesis. This should also be done before other major liturgical functions.  The use of Church Documents to complement the teaching from the Bible and Catechism must be encouraged.

6.  TOWARDS PASTORAL SERVICES AND RESPONSIBLE STEWARDSHIP

The spirit of service and stewardship is needed for the proper working of the church. Pastoral care by priests must address the challenges of the family.  Christ’s faithful also need to exhibit their spirit of stewardship in the support of the church and her ministries. The perceived apathy among some Catholics with regard, especially, to diocesan projects is not healthy and must be discouraged through increased stewardship and patriotic support of Church activities to ones sincere ability.

Also, in charity, we Catholics must communicate Catholic belief and tradition in the community. This must be done through service and outreach to others. In the Deanery, stronger parishes can adopt and help the weaker ones and also in the parishes, stronger stations can adopt and help weaker ones to grow. The Bishop, as the local ordinary, is the sole Trustee of the diocese and by virtue of the Apostolic office he occupies must be supported as the father of the diocese. This demands respect, followership, obedience and patronage.  The relationship between the Priest and the laity council must be cordial and the affinity between the Laity and Pastoral Councils would demand that the Laity President of the Parish be the Vice President of the Parish Pastoral Council for continuity.

7.  TOWARDS BETTER COMMUNITY RELATIONS/OUTREACH TO THE NEEDY

The Church must be all things to all men. In our diocese, efforts have been made to reach out to people with special needs, for example in St. Louis Special School, Ikot Ekpene and St. Joseph Rehabilitation Centre, Ukana but much is still desired. There is need for the Church, where possible, to think of how better to engage these people with special needs after their training in our institutions. In addition to those on special needs, we need to reach out to the sick. Our new churches should be wheelchair accessible and our language could be inclusive. Pastors and agents of evangelization are encouraged to take the opportunities in these institutions and learn “sign language” for better apostolate to these with special needs.

8.  NEED TO PROMOTE CATHOLIC EDUCATION

In order to ensure solid Catholic character in our children, the importance of Catholic education cannot be overemphasized. The establishment of Nursery schools is primarily for evangelization. The management of these schools must work hard to keep the schools viable. All Stations, parishes or Deaneries running any Catholic School must understand that such schools belong, by ecclesiastical right, to the Bishop who is the Proprietor. The Diocesan Education Commission should re-strategize in order to further improve academic and moral standards in our school.  Catholic parents are encouraged to send their children to Catholic schools and also be disposed to support the diocese by paying the token fees charged there instead of looking for a tuition-free treatment from the Catholic schools and then going out to pay double or triple in some non-Catholic or private schools. In order to enforce Catholic orthodoxy, we must equip, patronize, support and manage our schools to deliver on authentic Catholic formation. Our Catholic school must adapt the curriculum to further the Catholic doctrine. The DEC should look into the welfare package of staff in Catholic Schools and should strive to obtain ATO from the government for new Nursery Schools.

9.  TOWARDS DECENT USE OF TECHNOLOGY

Technology can be used to the benefit of the church. But we also need to avoid the distraction by the use of phones in church. Public notice should be given in parishes to this effect. Use of phone to take pictures during the Liturgy should not be allowed but video/still picture coverage can be permitted provided it does not bring distraction.  There is need for proper decorum. The Mass is not a “Show”.

10. CONCLUSION: WE ARE A CATHOLIC COMMUNITY OF FAITH

We, as a diocese, are thankful to God for the gift of the diocese, our Bishop, Priests, Religious and Christ’s faithful. We appreciate the firm foundation handed on to us from the Apostles through our forebears. We profess it and hereby commit to retain it undiluted and uncompromised. Building on the gains of the past and challenged by the experience of the present, we have resolved to uphold this future pastoral plan which promises to give proper direction to us now and the next generation of Catholics in our diocese. We call on every body to live out the Catholic faith with its attendant character that came to us from the Apostles and for which our diocese has been known since inception. We must now work hard to implement this action plan for the benefit of all. We rely on the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the Holy Apostles Philip and James to achieve the desired success in our diocesan pastoral life.

So help us Lord

 

HIS LORDSHIP, MOST. REV. CAMILLUS R. UMOH                  

Diocesan Bishop

VERY REV. FR. PROF. J. O. UMOH

Chairman, CPC

HON JUSTICE PIUS IDIONG

President, Diocesan Laity Council

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