By MAGNUS EZE
At first sight, it could pass for a sculptor’s gallery with the larger- than- life skillfully made statues dotting one of the sprawling hills along the Musa Yar’Adua Expressway which leads to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
But, as the visitor veers off the highway and approaches the entrance, he gets more confused as the outward impression he gets is that of a metal workshop because of the metal works scattered on the premises.
In fact, the signpost could make him conclude he was at the wrong place. But on inquiry, the visitor finds out that he is neither at a sculptor’s galleria nor a metal workshop. He is actually at the National Pilgrimage Centre of the Holy Family Society, Gosa, Sabon Lugbe in Abuja. The society is one of the pious associations of the Catholic Church.
Founder of the Holy Family Society, Sir David Osunde, told Abuja Metro that the place was being developed for families, irrespective of their denominations or religious beliefs, to come and commune with God.
Osunde said the renewal of family values was an imperative duty of everybody to facilitate the life of holiness advocated by the teachings of the church and in consonance with African traditions and culture.
“We intend to care for the spiritual needs of families. So many things have gone wrong with families. We plan to have experts who would serve as counselors. The problems in the world cut across race, situation or countries.
“There will be accommodation for families to come and empty themselves. People should know that there are solutions to their problems; they must empty themselves or before you know it, they begin to commit suicide”, he said.
It was gathered that the mission of the Holy Family Society is to bring families back to God. The Holy Family exemplifies and propagates the virtues of obedience, simplicity, patience, self-abandonment, love, prayerfulness, faithfulness and hard work.
Founded 16 years ago, the group has membership across Nigeria, United States Britain and Rome. It spread into Cameroon two years ago. But the national grotto was commissioned on October 8, 2010 by the Archbishop of Onitsha Diocese, Most Rev. (Dr.) Valerian Okeke, during the pontification of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.
Abuja Metro learnt that the society’s biggest activity, the annual Feast of All Saints holds on November 1 at the centre. It is indeed, a pilgrimage of sort as pilgrims from all parts of the country and beyond congregate. In a bid to control the horde of pilgrims since all the facilities are yet to be put in place at the centre, various Catholic provinces are usually allocated the number of pilgrims to participate in the spiritual revival.
Checks also indicated that the pilgrimage ground becomes a huge market place during the period as all manner of vendors of foods and beverages, spiritual materials, including memorabilia and clothing, flock the place.
Beyond the spirituality of the Holy Family Society National Pilgrimage Centre, it is unarguably a sure tourist site. The grottos of saints adorned in African mode coupled with the scenic view of the undulating hills and rocks within the landscape would be a delight for tourists.
Abuja Metro observed that the ‘Africanness’ of the statues, particularly that of the Holy Family of Jesus Christ, Mary and Joseph, depict the universality of God. It evokes the engaging feeling that God is not actually foreign, but within.
Osunde advised every family to have the Holy Family of Nazareth as their role model, adding: “Those who make the necessary sacrifices to model their lives after Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Model Family for the world, will not only excel tremendously in their spiritual lives, but will also abundantly reap the fruits of their labour in the world and in the world hereafter.”
He stressed that no country can develop without the family in good stead. His words: “If things were well taken care of in the family, we would not have all these social vices. If you take care of the home, you see that your family will protect life; will bring about progress, bring about development and bring about personal communion with God.”