12 October 2017
By Anne Schulte, SHCJ
“It is great to see you again Sister,” was the enthusiastic greeting given to Sr. Lydia Alphonsus when she arrived at the waiting bus, parked at Church of the Assumption, Falomo, on Sunday 8th October, having just arrived from Jos the day before. The greetings came from her fellow catechists, with whom she had started the Course for Catechists, at the Antioch Pastoral Institute Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos (APICAL), two years ago. When Sister was moved to Jos in September 2016, she had continued the course “on line” and now was joining her fellow catechists for the special day of the Graduation and Commissioning ceremony. They were so delighted to see her again and know that she had finished the course.
The bus arrived at St. Kizito Catholic Church, Lagos, in good time for the Mass which was scheduled for 10.30am with the Archbishop of Lagos as the chief celebrant. To Sister’s surprise there was a big crowd of catechists present, 187 in all, from many parishes in the Archdiocese. The course had taken place in two centres, one at the Cathedral and the other at St. Dominic’s, and now the two groups had come together for the Graduation and Commissioning. Her next surprise was when she was presented with a green graduation gown and cap and certificate! It was certainly a special occasion!
The Parishioners probably also got a surprise when a long procession of men and women in green graduation gowns, preceded the priests and Archbishop into the church. For weeks they had known about this event, but as it was the first time in the Archdiocese, most people were not sure what to expect, but all were up to what was needed, including the enthusiastic choir, who caught the excitement of the occasion, as even the normal parish group had expanded with the families and friends of the graduands present to rejoice with them!
In his homily the Archbishop stressed that they should not see themselves as people who now know the catechism, they should continue to grow in the understanding of their faith. He also stressed the need for the planning of their lessons, and the importance of teaching with passion and compassion.
The homily over, the next surprise for Sr. Lydia, was when she heard her name and she was called out, to get special congratulations and be introduced as the first catechist to continue the course “on line” after she had moved from Lagos! She is also the first SHCJ sister to complete the course, and one of just four sisters among the 187 graduands!
The Graduands then made long lines across the Sanctuary, as the Archbishop went up and down to hand each one a Catechism Book. Next each was given a lighted candle to be held during the Commissioning prayer when they were asked to receive the “Light of Christ” and then told “Go and make disciples of all nations.” The Church erupted into enthusiastic clapping! At the end of the Mass there was a special “Thanksgiving” for the Commissioned Catechists, with lively dancing and singing from everyone with happy and smiling faces. There were refreshments afterwards, and the sister graduands joined the Archbishop and priests for a welcome meal.
Sr. Lydia has been teaching catechism in St. Anthony’s Church, an outstation of St. Murumba’s Parish in Jos, and she said how much the course she has now completed and the Archdiocesan Syllabus had helped her in her present work. Many congratulations Sr Lydia for completing the course and coming down for the Graduation and Commissioning ceremony!