Societal and religious conflict resolution expert, motivator and human rights enthusiast, the Very Revd. Msgr. Livinus Ukah last Sunday took the worldwide Fathers’ Day celebration to a higher realm by including the children of every family in the annual celebration.
Indeed, the celebration became a unified, all inclusive family affair at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, Aboru, via Iyana Ipaja area of Lagos last Sunday, as fathers and children of every household trooped out in thanksgiving to celebrate God’s greatest gift to man – the family unit which He set as an example in the Garden of Eden.
Mothers would not be left out, as one of the colourfully dressed wife and mother of a family asked The Daily Times, “can there be fathers and children without mothers? So, as the world is celebrating husbands, and now our children have joined them, we mothers who make the circle of the family complete, will definitely not be left out.”
Reading from the book of Zechariah earlier at the celebration, Revd. Fr. Leonard admonished fathers to hold God to His promise to fathers.
“God said, ‘As you call upon Me, I will restore your family,’ he encouraged the men. “The sure mercy of God demonstrates the depth of His love for fathers by choosing Solomon, the child of that controversial union with Beersheba, to succeed David as king. Remind God of His promises concerning fathers today.”
At a private chat with our correspondent at his parish home afterwards, Msgr. Ukah explained his reason for exalting Fathers’ Day to include the children.
“Fathers’ Day with children is a sign of progressive civilisation. Father is a fine man, one who maintains a sacrifice; he doesn’t mind losing his meal to make sufficiency for his family.”
Revealing that this is the maiden edition of Fathers’ Day and their Children celebration, the people’s priest exalted the virtues of fathers; “I felt that in order to make it blend, children should be there because they all came from their fathers; so they should support them, make them happy.”
Reacting on the financial pressure on families forcing couples to trim down the size of their children, Fr. Ukah counseled couples not to decide the number of their children they will have because of bad economy.
“A good number of women don’t want to have more than two or three children; they say the economy is bad, but there’s nothing God cannot handle.”
Commenting on poor families in Ajegunle where some six or more children live in one room, Ukah said, “Those children are very important people; you don’t know what they will become in future. We can’t imitate the Western people; like Barak Obama that has two girls or Bill and Hilary Clinton that have only one girl and so on. We are Africans; we populate the world because God said it; God cannot tell lies; he knows how to come into our lives and handle our family economy.”
Acknowledging that Nigerian children have lost faith in fatherhood due to corruption in high places, Msgr. Ukah said, “When you see EFCC arresting fathers in handcuffs for looting treasury of their state, that is the culture of their time…”
Whose time, the children or their fathers?
“Their fathers; they feel that if they’re out of power they won’t get enough to feed them and their families; it’s wrong option; they should show sign of fatherhood because their children are learning something bad from them; they’re acting out of script.
“They degrade themselves; what’s the use of having money and you are degraded in the public? And our people celebrate them; when they are released, the same people will say Oga, happy weekend.”
Message to fathers:
“Let fathers remember why God created and made them fathers; that they help God to procreate and multiply and they must try to show good example to their children who are watching; especially children of this internet age: they are like computers themselves! We must not scandalise them by our mean way of looking for money to give them false sense of luxury and security. Money cannot give us lasting joy or happiness.
“Your wife is your best friend. Be friendly with your children; make yourself approachable. Father is a symbol of the Church; he cares for everyone.”
How does he explain the disparity between father that are poor and those that are rich in managing their families?
“In fact, we are all managers in this drama of life. This is a wonderful method used in management of crisis. It is also an interventional psychology method. We are all different, different in ideas, different in understanding things, some are global icons, some are at the bottom of the ladder; some are social outcasts, while some have no voice in the society because they are the peripheries with no trappings of authority.
“Some are those who sleep under the bridge and immediately the red light shows, they rush to you for help with a look that may be very offensive; then how do you manage them? They do not belong to your class, so how do you make them feel as somebodies? How do you manage their lack of mannerisms and politeness when they want you to help them?
“In any human relationship, there must be ‘give and take’. There must be a way of lowering your ivory tower, bring down your ego so that people can meet you there to unveil to you how life is treating them, how they have been living in an island of misery and how lack of contact with those who have the capacity of solving their problems ended in bureaucracy and resulted to depersonalisation of the person in need of help.
“Human beings are very complex and we must learn to manage them for the good of the world,” he concluded.
The grand celebration included thanksgiving and child dedication by Mr. and Mrs. Ugochukwu Boniface and others.
The Church in turn celebrated their children under the aegis of Missionary Childhood Association (MCA) whose trio – 11-year-old Justa Ifenkwe, Okonkwo Angel (11) and Azeta Osaremen won laurels for the parish recently.
The award winning DVD of the children’s triumph was launched after Justa of Bossgee Divine School, Meran, rendered Ijoba Orunwith such passion and professionalism that the church gave her a standing ovation; the ministering priest said ‘he felt like crying’.
One peculiar sight was a child photographer, Onome Okoro who covered the programme for the MCA.
Not to be outdone by the children, Mr. Hart, on behalf of fathers, rendered a special song, where do I go from here? Our correspondent found that St. Alphonsus is a parish of great talents across board; Mr. Hart turned out to be one time actor with the African Magic.
The rest of the day was celebration galore in every family, as well as the children who were given a treat at the Parish house.