My dear brothers, our beloved ex seminarians, I greet you wherever you may be. This message is for all of you whether you stayed just one day in the Junior or Major seminary or you left the seminary a day to your ordination.
Many of you were attracted to the seminary by the burning desire to serve God and humanity in the services of the altar. The purpose of that desire has not yet expired.
I know so many of you who would have become excellent priests. Some of you were expelled for flimsy reasons that a simple warning or cutting of grass could have atoned for. Some of you were expelled for infractions that they did not even commit. Some of you left on their own because you believed that the seminary was not for you. Some of you left as a result of lack of sponsorship. And so on and so forth. In all you did not become priests but you were also NOT rejected by God.
Do not allow that desire to serve God and humanity that once engulfed you to die off. So many people in the Bible and in our time who were, and are, being used by God in special ways are not priests. They were/are people who nursed the same desire like you, but who were or are not deterred by any circumstance from working for God.
It has never been the intention of the Church that every seminarian would become a priest. The plan has always been that those who do not succeed in becoming priests should in their various capacities be ambassadors of the Church, and will conscientiously continue to serve God and humanity in many other ways.
My dear brothers, you are a precious group and rare gem in the Church and society. Living at all nooks and corners of our country and the world you reach out to those places where the priests cannot, and as such are not only ambassadors but also the foot soldiers of God and the Church.
Remember that you are in the majority and more dispersed than priests. You are everywhere and in all professions. Your roles, therefore, in the evangelic mission of God are indispensable and of paramount importance. Now my humble admonitions:
1) Are you sad that you did not make it to the priesthood? Are you still bearing grudges for that priest, senior seminarian, prefect, fellow seminarian who caused your being expelled from, or your leaving, the seminary? Are you still sad when you remember the starvation, punishment that you received while in the seminary? No matter what happened, please forgive! Take a breath and move on.
One door closes and another one opens. Do not close your eyes to see the opening doors. The God who once called you has not stopped calling you. Pay attention to his navigating guidelines and you will understand and appreciate him. God stops calling when you stop answering. He stops directing you when you stop paying attention.
2) Irrespective of where you find yourself now, never you forget that you were called to serve God and humanity in a special way. You still remain one who was called and God’s precious mercenary of grace, mercy, solidarity, and love. Therefore be careful of the life you lead. You are a layman with a difference; a layman who has seen the corners of the altar. Let whoever comes in contact with you notice that you once had a solid formation in the seminary.
3) As a father, respect and love your wife. Train your children well and be an example to them so that the dream of every young woman will be to get married to an ex-seminarian. Let your children be proud of the fact that their father is an ex-seminarian.
4) You are also called to be prophets. Remember that the prophets of old were called but not called to become priests. They did not serve at the altar and yet were the watchdogs of the society. You live with the people and therefore know the societal malaise even more than the priests. Be quick in the condemnation of evil wherever you are. Protect the weak and counsel the ignorant. Be at the forefront of restoring order to our chaotic nation. Let people around you always say: “Let’s be careful of what we do before him because he was once a seminarian.”
5) Join non-profit organisations that alleviate the sufferings of humanity. Be ready to help in the work of evangelization as a member of the parish council or pious organisations. When you do this you rekindle once more the fire of your vocation. And the God who called you will always find favour with you.
6) Avoid anything unbecoming of your status. Never join antisocial groups: secret cults, armed robbery, kidnapping gang or cyber-crime. Let such things not be mentioned among you.
7) No one knows the priests like you do. They were your colleagues and friends. You know their strengths and weaknesses. When you hear anything negative about anyone of them, never join the court of public opinion to condemn them. Even if they are not your parish priests visit or call them. Hear them out. Advice and encourage them. They will appreciate it.
8) If you are a teacher encourage your pupils and students to discover and pursue their talents especially in vocational schools. Do well to encourage those who exhibit signs for the priesthood and direct them to the right people.
9) Be available to help foster the growth of your parish and diocese. Assist your parish priests and bishops. Some of you who turned out to be pastors in other Christian denominations, please keep doing your best in building the people of God and the society.
10) We live in a country where politics has been completely commercialized and diabolized. Many priests would have joined politics so as to change the face of politics in Nigeria but are always reminded that the Canon Law does not permit them to be partisan. Unlike the priests, no Canon Law stops you from joining politics. We encourage those of you who have leadership qualities to do so. We need principled and sincere people who would change the rotten pattern of politics in Nigeria otherwise it will completely be in the hands of the devil soon, if not already.
11) Remember that the God who once called you is still calling you. Remember to see him not only in the Eucharist or his Word but also in the face of suffering masses. As a political leader (for those who will join or have joined politics), insist always on transparency, rule of law and good governance. Even if others abandon you, remain steadfast. That is the only way to liberate our country and save the suffering masses for whom Jesus also died for.
12) Familiarity breeds contempt they say. Do not joke with your prayer life.
13) Always pay visit to your alma mater. Join them for prayers, meals, or games from time to time. Such visits could be really refreshing. Help in the structural development of your alma mater. Make donations to them whenever possible, no matter how small.
14) You are a mediator between the priest and the people. Always let them know what people feel about them. And do let the people know their sacrifices, pains and agonies.
15) Indeed, I am aware of the so many challenges some of you are passing through: Joblessness, childlessness, sickness, loneliness in the midst of people, fitting into the world, deciding for a new vocation, finding a wife and so on. Be assured that we are united with you in prayers.
16) Help your fellow ex-seminarians who up till now have not found their feet in the world out there. Be united with each other in purpose and solidarity. Today, social media has served to bring most classes together. Be active in the group especially in showing solidarity towards one another. Shine everywhere you are so that like stars we all will help illuminate our dark nation riddled with misrule and wickedness.
17) Indeed many are called but few are chosen. Yes, you were not “chosen” to become ministerial priests but don’t forget that you were called and are still being called and ‘chosen’ for other vocations. Never stop listening and never stop answering!
May the Holy Eucharist, we unworthy priests who are your colleagues and friends, offer each day be a source of spiritual and corporeal nourishment to you all.
May God bless you and make your life’s journey peaceful and prosperous. Amen.