From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
A renowned Catholic priest, the Rev. George Ehusani, has suggested an urgent change in the mode of fundraising activities in the Catholic Church with clear guidelines indicating what type of fundraising can be considered appropriate in Catholic churches that fall under liturgical and paraliturgical contexts .
He said it has become embarrassing to see how fundraising issues are handled in Catholic churches without respecting the doctrines and teachings of the Catholic church, especially with regard to thanksgiving activities. annual and bazaar.
Prof. Ehusani, Executive Director of the Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, in a paper presented to the 2022 General Assembly of the Archdiocese of Abuja last week, expressed concern that financial pressure is increasing on church members, some of whom are deeply affected by the nation’s bad economy.
He said, “I had reason to share my dissatisfaction with the conduct of Thanksgiving and Harvest Bazaars, as well as the conduct of fundraising in general in our churches these days. I have told people how embarrassed and distressed I have become by all the elaborate arrangements which precede the harvest every year, by which for many weeks, if not months, precious time of worship and religious instruction is devoted to preparing members of the Church for thanksgiving and the harvest bazaar.
“In the process, the sanctity, integrity and solemnity of traditional Catholic liturgy are violated, and the vanity and vainglory of the people are not only accommodated but celebrated just so that more money can be raised for the work of God. Sometimes secular comedians as well as fans of various football clubs are brought in to urge Church members to contribute more.
“The ingenuity and creativity of some parish priests and harvest committee chairmen reaches the point where various items and foodstuffs like apples, oranges and cakes are made into sacramentals, with specific rituals designed to bless these items, so that parishioners can buy them and consume them or take them home, so that they can receive special blessings or have their problems solved.
“At funerals and weddings, the families involved are ambushed, forced or coerced into announcing a donation for the Church even as some of them mourn deeply for their deceased family member or are in a state of economic distress and indebtedness.It’s all so sickening, nauseating and agonizing.
Prof. Ehusani referred to the incident that took place at St. Philip Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Anambra State on Sunday, August 6, 2017, which led to the unfortunate massacre of 13 worshipers .
He said: “The Ozubulu experience was the case of a young man with no known pedigree, no qualifications, no background in business etc.; but who came back from South Africa, and threw money all over the place, and single-handedly built a church and dedicated it with a bang, and no one asked any questions.
“It has been alleged that many among the clergy and laity knew that the young man could not have made such wealth legitimately, and that many even knew that he was a drug lord. However, the Ozubulu case is not isolated.
“After this incident, I addressed a memorandum to the Catholic Bishops in Nigeria, pleading that they consider it a priority to urgently come up with clear guidelines on the type of fundraising that can be considered appropriate in our Churches, and particularly in liturgical and paraliturgical settings.
“Today, rogue public office holders, known treasury robbers, corrupt officials and kidnappers are now celebrated in our churches, considered pillars of the Church, decorated with chivalry, patrons of pious societies and are regularly encouraged to come to the Shrine and given a microphone to address the congregation at Sunday Masses, Funeral Masses, Wedding Ceremonies, and Priest and Religious Birthdays, etc., in anticipation of a donation for church or mission house construction projects.
“These days, some so-called powerful priests have made themselves expert fundraisers, going from diocese to diocese, being invited across the country to preside over Thanksgiving and Harvest Bazaar, or other fundraising events, and have even alleged that some of these fundraising priests ask for a percentage of the funds they help raise using the most unorthodox, irreverent, obnoxious, if not nauseating and possibly sacrilegious methods.
He asked the Archbishop, Auxiliary Bishop, parish priests and all other stakeholders to work on declaring a state of emergency on fundraising protocols in Catholic churches, with the conviction that no lasting good can come from the abuse of the liturgy and the house. of God, in the name of fundraising.
He said: “Obviously the reason for the mad drive to fundraise in our churches is the excessively rapid and uncontrolled growth and expansion of physical structures, and our inordinate fondness for very huge and expensive structures like church buildings everywhere today. We are trying to build the kind of structures that have taken over 500 years to come into being in Europe.
“For example, the Archdiocese of Abuja is only 41 years old. But during these 41 years, we have been engaged in building large churches in more than 150 parishes and pastoral areas. Thus, almost every parish builds either a church, a hall or a mission house, and the archdiocese builds a new cathedral at the same time. The same applies in other dioceses across the country. This unprecedented expansion of physical structures places a huge burden on the faithful and a lot of pressure on priests and parish councils, at a time of deteriorating economic conditions for the Nigerian people.
“And while this is happening, if we pay good and sufficient attention, we will realize that this unprecedented physical and structural growth is not accompanied by a real and perceptible deepening of the Catholic faith and Catholic pastoral care. , especially among the young population.
“You will be concerned if you check the average age of those who regularly attend weekday Masses, Sunday evening blessings, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, parish retreats or diocesan celebrations such as the Chrism Mass and the Cathedraticum. Most of the time, young people, aged between 15 and 35, do not find themselves in large numbers at such events.
“Many of the children of our devout and faithful Catholics, on whom we often depend to make major contributions to these projects, have in many cases left the Catholic Church or abandoned religious practice altogether. As we pursue these adult Catholics faithful for money, we often don’t ask for or show enough interest in their children’s faith commitment.From all indications, many of them are abandoning the faith.
“So who are we building all these expansive and expensive structures for? Churches are usually built for future generations, not really for the current generation. That’s why they’re built to last for hundreds of years. But from what we see of our global youth culture, reflected in our country’s social media today, the dire indications are that many of these Church structures could be empty in just 20 or 30 years. , if we do not take urgent measures with the Grace of God, to reverse the trend. This will not happen if we continue to drive the brightest, most educated and most enlightened of our youth from the churches, with our embarrassing and crude fundraising methods. We must begin today to do things differently, and we will obtain better results to the Glory of God.