Nigerians have been advised to live in love, peace and unity with one another in order for the country to remain indivisible.
Recently, St. Thomas More Catholic Chaplaincy, University of Lagos (UNILAG) celebrated its Family Day to mark its tenth anniversary. The event featured awards to the elders in the church who were 70 years and above.
Chaplain of the church, Reverend Father Paul Otiko, while speaking during the event, said the aim of the event was for people to share love and unity as one big family, adding that Nigeria is in want of unity and should borrow a leaf from the event.
According to Father Otiko, the event was aimed towards celebrating the tenth anniversary of the chaplaincy.
“So we are grateful to God for His love and His mercies. We are also celebrating our fathers, mothers, children and grandparents. The people we awarded today are the elders, the people that started the good work with us and are still with us.”
Chairman Organising Committee of the Family Day Celebration, Doctor Cornel Onyekaba, said as a university community where lecturers, students and other members of the community worship in the same space, the church found it very important to have a day every year to become a family under God’s umbrella, where professors and students sit in the same place eating, drinking, laughing and sharing experiences.
“If you look at the world now, especially in Nigeria, every day we hear of people committing suicide. The most consistent thing in all the stories is loneliness, lack of mentorship, and the fact that there is no one to talk to. When there is no one to talk to or listen to you, sometimes it can really lead to things like suicide. So events like this really help.”
On the award to septuagenarian members of the church, he said the chaplaincy had been in struggle, adding that the members used to worship at different locations before an event changed that.
“They had to pull out and start afresh. Most of these elders here even pushed wheelbarrows to build this place.
“I am someone that is drawn to that injunction in the bible that you should honour your father and mother. That is the only instruction in the bible that has a promise of long life.
“I believe that by honouring these elder people today, the entire people in this chaplaincy have tapped into the fountain of long life because we have celebrated them and heaven will celebrate us.
“Some of them are 80 years and above and sometime in a week nobody knocks on their doors. So many of them are dying of loneliness. Bringing them here and celebrating them has added something into their lives.”
He urged Nigeria, as a nation in need of unity, to go back to smaller structures of its components to borrow a model for its own nationhood in terms of defining what unity and family are.
One of the awardees, Christopher Shobande, was excited at the award. He said: “I feel happy and appreciated. I started coming here about three years ago. Being a close circuit of cerebral people, they appreciated me despite not being an academic. I am just a retiree. I retired over 30 years ago.
“This has encouraged me, I will go home and show this to my wife and children. I have been a member of a different parish of a Catholic church till I started coming here three years ago. I never got an award or appreciation anywhere else, so you can imagine how happy I am with this award. I love it here; there is love and unity. The academia has been able to absorb us. I come from a far place to this chaplaincy.”
Mrs Mary Muji Edebiri also expressed her appreciation for the award.
“It’s a great joy being one of the awardees today. A great joy in the sense that I was one of the people who laid the foundation of the Chapel, the hall, the priest’s house and the foundation of the Mother Mary Grotto unveiled today,” she explained.