To describe the Church I was born and raised in, I need to start with the missionaries who risked their very lives to bring us the Gospel. In the earliest years of the 20th century we received this precious gift from young missionaries from Europe (mostly Ireland).
I am a third generation Catholic. My grandparents embraced the Catholic faith in September 1926, leaving behind the traditional religion they were born into.
They were very much in the minority as they crossed this threshold. But in the last century an overwhelming majority of our people (the Igbo tribe) became Christian and a large proportion of them are Catholic. From my earliest memories of faith and worship, I have always known the Church to be alive and vibrant. Our local church community was Christ the King, where Mass attendance on Sundays was always impressive. Our church had two Masses and they were constantly packed.
This is quite common in most places that I’ve been to in Africa. Not only is there high Mass attendance, but more importantly most people that I’ve met in church exude radiant joy, firm faith and dauntless hope. Talking to their fellow parishioners, people speak so freely about God or some grace they’ve received from Him. It is natural for them to turn to prayer in times of difficulty or trial.
This is the very conducive climate of living faith in which many Catholics in Africa raise their children. It explains the increasing numbers of vocations in most African countries. I once attended a pro-life event at a seminary in Nigeria. There were 500 students discerning whether they were called to the priesthood – and this was not even the biggest seminary in the country.
On another occasion, I was invited for a priestly ordination. There were 13 young men being ordained that day. We are experiencing a real vocations boom, with more than 2,000 priests and almost 4,000 religious Sisters all praying, working and serving the mission of the Church, especially among the poorest of the poor.
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