By Chikezie Ogbonna
The leadership flow and cohesion in an encompassing leadership structure of the Catholic Church is said to be one anchored on collaboration, mutual respect and adherence to the core teachings of the church in leadership.
This was reechoed on 17th May, 2021 as the Catholic Diocese of Enugu held a Joint seminar/workshop for Priests and Religious in the diocese on the theme: ‘Church Leaders: Pastoral collaboration among priests and religious’.
In attendance were The Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Callistus Onaga, The Auxiliary Bishop, Most Rev. Ernest Obodo, priests and the religious from different congregations operating in the diocese.
Rev. Fr. Dr. Ferdinand Odo a priest of Nsukka Diocese was the facilitator.
In explaining why the continuation of the formation of priest should happen even after the ordination into priesthood, Fr. Ferdinand described a leader in the Catholic Church as called, chosen and commissioned by the Church through the action of the spirit in the Church. Sighting John 15: 16, Jesus said “You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruits”.
He further explained that in the process of trying to establish whether a particular individual is called to be a leader in the Church, the particular individual is made to pass through stages of training or formation that would enable the Church determine the veracity of the call using a set of criteria for determining who is actually called. In this formation process, the Church inculcates some essential values into the formants that would enable the person to be an efficient leader in the Church
“Actually, the training of Church leaders is considered a priority because the church understands that a good and competent leader is a key to a successful apostolate in the world. In this regard, Presbyterorum Ordinis states “for above all, upon the bishops rests the heavy responsibility for the sanctity of their priests. Therefore, they should exercise the greatest care in the continual formation of their priests” In the same vein, Optatam Totius of the Second Vatican Council states “priestly training, especially in view of the circumstances of the modern society, should be continued and perfected after the completion of the seminary course” This formation is usually holistic and takes into cognizance the human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral dimension which are indeed vitally expedient in the Church`s missionary endeavor”, he said.
Outlining the cardinal areas the formation of a priests and religious as well should cover, Fr. Ferdinand enumerated, human formation, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation as the core areas that once effectively covered encompasses a relative formation of the church leader.
Having outlined the many forms and areas of pastoral collaboration as it relates to the priests and religious, , Fr. Ferdinand further urged for a stronger collaboration between priests and religious and noted that a priest or religious who fails to collaborate out rightly fails to place his priorities right.
“This is, in fact, indubitable because collaboration is an essential part of priestly or religious life. It is a collaborative ministry where the members that make up the body the church work in collaboration to achieve the desired result. In fact in 1 Cor 12: 20-21 Paul states “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ´I have no need of you´ nor again the head to the feet, ´I have no need of you.´”
“Obviously, the Church as a body has many parts that ought to work collaboratively together. In the church, there are many ministries or apostolate and all these ministries or apostolate have dimensions that cannot just be handled alone by the religious or diocesan priests. It is because of this that the Church continues to approve religious orders whose apostolates develop and enrich an aspect of the church´s ministries. The religious order must collaborate with other ecclesia bodies in the course of her apostolate in order to achieve success”, he admonished.
During the interactive session, the idea of collaboration and respect for each other’s callings were emphasized on in most explicit way, buttressing the hierarchical nature of the church and the Episcopal superiority of the bishop in approving religious orders in a given diocese.
Priests and religious where urge to always seek to know the religious orders approved to operate in the diocese and to always be on high alert to be able to identify fake priests. The seminar came to climax as priests and religious orders were charged to go back and implement all that have been taught as the church can only grow stronger and in its influence in the spiritual life of the people when there are stronger collaboration amongst the leadership of the church, especially amongst priests and religious.