By Zika Bobby
Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah in his funeral sermon for late Grace Adichie, mother of novelist, Chimamanda, said her passing is a celebration of motherhood.
Kukah said though he did not have the honour of meeting either Prof. James Adichie nor his wife, Grace, it was interesting that in the funeral announcements for both of them, all the media reports had to remind Nigerians that they were father and mother of Chimamanda, the best-selling novelist from Nigeria.
“In other words, relationship with their now famous daughter was important for validation of their identities. We gather as Christians to mark the most important phase of our human existence, a time to say goodbye and farewell to those whom we love dearly. It is even more telling when those who we are paying our respects to are our parents. For the children of the Adichie family, burying their mother shortly after their father must be a huge burden on their shoulders. Yet, it is for times like these that being a Christian is so meaningful. As the heart sinks in despair and fear of the future without our loved ones, the words of Jesus to Peter as he sank in the sea come to mind; Courage, it is I, do not be afraid (Mt. 14:27).
“The goodbye is temporary because, as Christians, we bid them farewell in hope, praise and thanksgiving to God Almighty because as we say in the Preface in this Mass, in death, life is changed not ended. Every burial gives us Christians an opportunity to reflect on the rare opportunity that God has given to us by enabling us to call Him, Our Father (Mt. 6:9). Different religions have diverse concepts about life, death and the afterlife. However, for us as Christians, there is something definitive and distinct, even special. We Christians have no room for speculation about the life beyond because the resurrected Christ has given us a guarantee. Jesus said: I have come from the father and I am going back to my father…. I am going to prepare a place for you and I will come back and receive you to myself…”
so that where I am you will also be with me (Jn. 16: 28 and Jn. 14:3).
“Today, we are celebrating the centre of gravity of the Adichie family. We are therefore celebrating womanhood and what is means to be a mother. To celebrate a mother is to celebrate the enigma called, woman. This is a time to pause and think about woman in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the Church for those of us who are Christians. I will not enter the thorny debate about feminism. Unfortunately, the debate has become ideological and quite strident, leaving in its wake, more heat than light. I will only briefly refer to the position of the Catholic Church now.”
“The 1995 Beijing Conference marked the epoch of the ideological disputations over the rights, dignity and aspirations of women. A lot of the issues got drowned in the strident noise with both sides hardly listening to one another. Women were accused by men of wanting to be like them. The shrill voices of some feminists did not help matters and all sides more or less talked past each other. Unfortunately, very little attention was paid to the contributions of the Catholic Church under Pope John Paul II, now St. John Paul. He had shown greater urgency and dedication to the issues of freedom and justice than most of his predecessors. He was in almost every sense, a friend of the oppressed as the evidence showed in his endless travels and appeals for a more just and equal society. He had a special place for women and he promoted their cause by the number of Women saints he created during his time. The Sudanese slave who would later be canonized as St. Bakhita was the first cause he took up.
“In a letter dated June 29th, 1995, ahead of the Conference, addressed to Mrs. Gertrude Mongella, the Secretary General of the Conference, he said: the Catholic Church “desires to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the ‘mystery of woman’ and for every woman-for all that constitutes the eternal measure of her feminine dignity, for the ‘great works of God’, which throughout human history have been accomplished in and through her…..Unfortunately, he continued, we are heirs to a history which has conditioned us to a remarkable extent. In every time and place, this conditioning has been an obstacle to the progress of women. Women’s dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude…for this, I am truly sorry. ….. However, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State. This was almost 20 years before Chimamanda appealed that: We Should All Be Feminists! The Catholic Church is often closer than Feminists think!
“The Holy Father appealed to the world to thank God for Women as mothers, wives, sisters, aunties, grandmothers and so on. He drew attention to a rather innocuous but very significant point when he said that one of the key attributes of women is that; women see with their hearts. This seeing with the heart is what sets women apart for a distinctive role in society. It is this seeing with the heart that made our Blessed Mother say at the wedding at Cana that; they have no more wine (Jn. 2:3). It was seeing with the heart that made the women of Jerusalem follow Jesus even though they did not know what was happening and were totally powerless to do anything as we see in the 8th Station of the Cross.
“In his 1992 book, Men are From Mars and Women are from Venus, John Gray laid out evidence of the fact that both sexes inhabit distinct universes and each operates within that logic of their universe. For example, while women prefer to talk about problems, men like to solve problems. While women are concerned about the environment of the school for the children, men are concerned about the fees. As St. Paul tells the Ephesians, women want to be loved while men want to be respected (Eph. 5:33). I believe our Mother, Grace Adichie also saw with her heart.
“Surely, many alumni of the University of Nigeria Nsukka who encountered her as the Registrar of that University would have stories to tell. Think of those students who struggled over missing scripts, certificates, adjusted marks, threats of rustication, hassle over school fees etc and had to head to the Registrar’s office. Mrs. Adichie most likely saw most of their problems with her heart!
The Bible says; Happy is the husband of a good wife, twice lengthened are his days (Sir. 26:1). There is nothing said about the fate of the wife of a good husband! Mother is a clock and a thermometer. Every member of the family takes their time and she knows the pulse of all. Her brain is an orbit around which the entire universe of the family revolves. Her husband and the children, depend on her for emotional stability and comfort. All of this is merely a fraction of the complex life of woman.
“I thank the Adichie children and plead that you keep the home fire alive. I was honoured to be told by Chimamanda that her parents often spoke about me. I also really wanted to be here because, having only recently become an orphan myself, Chimamanda qualifies as a perfect choice for Secretary General or Ambassador for the Association of Orphans in Nigeria.
“Finally, I want to acknowledge a little heroine without whom, I would not have been here, Ms. Munachino, Chimananda’s daughter. She it was whose timely telephone call rescued her mother after her dreadful fall. Without God using her, the story would have been different and I might not have been invited to this funeral. May you surpass your Mama in accomplishment.
“The Holy Father, Pope Francis only recently wrote an Apostolic Letter, Candor Lucis Aeternae to honour of the Italian writer (1265-1321), author of the famous Poem, The Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso). In doing this, Pope Francis joined other Popes before him to honour Dante and acknowledged him as one of her children. Dante wrote at a time when the Catholic Church was encountering great hostility. It is hoped, my dear daughter that one day, just one day, may be, the Church, even in the Diocese of Awka or Nigeria will honour you also as a daughter of the Church. Every writer is a writer in faith. It only depends on which faith he or she professes. God bless you, your siblings as you take the baton and march on. May He rest our dear mother.”