An open letter to Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka by Jude Ndukwe
I write you this letter with all sense of humility and deep respect for you and your calling as a priest of the Holy Mother Church. This letter has become absolutely necessary owing to your recent political activities which are causing the Church huge embarrassment. As a Catholic myself, I, as other Catholics, are now forced to bear the shame of your recent activities and asked questions about the transfer policies of the Church which ordinarily should not have caused any public inquisition if you had not caused it to be so. Father, it is unfortunate that as a priest of the Catholic Church, you have allowed your emotions to take you beyond your allowed limits in partisan politics before, during and after the last elections.
Pray, what is in a transfer of a priest in the Catholic Church? You were transferred from one parish to another, an exercise that is a normal routine in the Church, and instead of you to move quickly and quietly as expected, you caused a whole lot of needless hullaballoo and in an attempt to curry public sympathy, made your transfer look like anything but usual in the Church. The razzmatazz and revelry that graced your movement to your new parish is alien to the Church! You are gradually eroding the very fabric that makes the Catholic Church unique and uncommon among others.
Were you the only priest transferred? Why did other priests not cry to the public about their own transfers? Did you reach an agreement with the Church on the day of your ordination that you should be exempted from transfers? Father, you need not be reminded that you are a priest of the Catholic Church and not a pastor of any other denomination. It is no longer news that priests of the Catholic Church do not belong to themselves but to the Church wholly, fully and entirely, hence, you took an oath of not only obedience to your Local Ordinary, the Bishop, but your oath also included that of poverty. So, the Bishop exercises his prerogative to transfer any priest serving under him to areas where their services are most needed among other considerations. Just like you were transferred from somewhere else to Christ the King Parish, GRA, Enugu, you have also been transferred to Our Lady’s Parish, Umuchigbo, Njinike also in Enugu.
It would be ignorant of me to think that you actually thought Christ the King Parish, GRA Enugu would be your parish forever. No priest of the Catholic Church would ever think a particular posting of his would last for too long. For example, in Abuja Archdiocese from where I write you this letter, there are brother-priests of yours who have been transferred from the highbrow area of Maitama to a parish in a remote village like Yangoji in faraway Kwali LGA, just as there have been priests transferred from Igu, also a very remote village in Bwari LGA, to Our Lady Mother of Perpetual Help Parish, Gwarinpa, and then to Our lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Garki, and so on and so forth. Are you not aware of brother-priests who have been transferred from the comfort of parishes in Nigeria here to remote places even in war-torn and less developed countries like Chad, Sudan, Mali, Sierra-Leone, Burundi etc, Some of them in areas so remote cars cannot even get there nor is there electricity, yet, they went in obedience and without noise. Father, how is yours supposed to be different?
You complained about the parish house you are to occupy as being too small and by implication, not comfortable for you. The question is, was it not a brother-priest that just used and left there? Are you saying that other priests can remain to serve God’s people perpetually in a one room self-contained apartment while you enjoy the comfort of a gigantic parish house perpetually? Father, John the Baptist served God effectively in the wilderness; all the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ left all the comfort of family and wealth and followed willingly and without complaining, the Son of Man who had no place to lay His head. Father, from which part of the scripture did you get your reason for complaining?
To describe your transfer as a witch hunt is the most uncharitable comment any priest can make against his bishop especially in public. You are not a Pentecostal pastor or a General Overseer of any church, you are a priest of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. You own no church and you own no parish. The gifts of the Spirit (miracle, healing, prophecy etc) which God has blessed you with are not the emphasis of the Church. The Catholic Church places more emphasis on the fruit of the Holy Spirit which is what ultimately helps a man to make heaven: “…Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name. But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws’”. There is no ordained priest no matter how gifted that has survived a confrontation with the Church. They go quickly into oblivion soon after while the Church waxes stronger. Father, be very careful!
You lamented about the assets of the Adoration Ministry and where you were going to keep them since your new parish is too small to contain them. I understand your concern especially as I am also aware of the enormity of the assets being an archdiocesan official of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of Nigeria, Abuja, myself. However, just like you admitted, you have “given” the assets to the Catholic Church in Enugu. So, if you have “given” the assets to the Catholic Church, why not just hand them over to your Bishop who knows how most appropriate to take care of them. Why do you still cry over that which you have “given” out? More so, you know that as a Catholic priest, you own nothing! There is no major asset even including a car that you can own without the consent and blessing of your bishop. This is how the Catholic Church is structured. This is how the Catholic Church works. So, those assets never belonged to you ab initio , they have always belonged to the Church. Just take an inventory of them and hand them over to the appropriate authorities. They know what to do with them.
One of the reasons why our priests are not allowed to own anything of their own is so that when the call of service comes and they are asked to go anywhere at the shortest notice, they would not have to look back at what they would be leaving behind so that they do not drag their feet on obeying the call to service. Lot’s wife looked back and turned to a Pillar of salt. Father, why are you looking back?
As I end this letter, let me remind you that your gifts of the Holy Spirit do not come in isolation. They come with enormous responsibility! Enough of this ridicule you have subjected the Church to. Focus your attention on your apostolic calling and leave politics for politicians. If you are so interested in joining politics and making your mark there, you know the right thing to do. Stop parading about like a colossus that the Church is so badly in need of. No one man or group of men can hold the Catholic Church to ransom. Even if the Lord decides that you answer the eternal call today, Enugu diocese will never fold up!
I pray that God will lead you aright in all your endeavours!
Jude Ndukwe, a political analyst, lives and works in Abuja, Nigeria. He tweets from @stjudendukwe