" ITREALMS: Coming from Catholic family prepared me for today – Bishop Badejo


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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Coming from Catholic family prepared me for today – Bishop Badejo

On Thursday, October 19, 2017, all roads led to the ancient city of Oyo, venue of the 10th enthronement anniversary of Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo. Widely acclaimed for his communications expertise and love for music, Bishop Badejo is also the founder of the Catholic Artistes and Entertainers Association of Nigeria (CAEAN). He spoke to TONY AGBUGBA about his childhood and how he handled the expected news of his appointment as Bishop of Oyo ten years ago. 

Being bishop of Oyo diocese:
I have been bishop of the Oyo diocese for ten years now. But I have been in charge of this diocese for the last eight years when my bishop emeritus, Bishop Julius Babatunde Adelakun retired. I am glad and fortunate to say that my childhood was a happy one; happy because I was born into a very Catholic family. My parents were very particular about making their children grow up in the way of God, and grow up in the Church. 
As a family and as children, we had only three choice places to go to everyday; we go to school, we go to Church and we come back home. It was an exceptional thing that you went anywhere else, except you were on an errand. And that helped to form our character. You went to school for your education, 
Church for your awareness of God and home in order to be properly brought up. And the Church has always been right that the family is the first church, is the first school, is the first formation house for every child. And that is why, today, when the church defends the family, and does everything possible to defend marriage, it is for the benefit of society, because the family has done nothing but good all through the history of humanity. So I am happy to have been born a Catholic.

Becoming a priest:
                As long as I had been aware that I was a human being, I have always wanted to join those who were priests and who were around us. They always came visiting my family. My mother was a great lover of priests and seminarians. I do remember that any time a seminarian was sent to our parish, or a new priest came, my mother would send my dad to go and tell that seminarian or the priest, that he has his family somewhere around there. She would ask him to bring the priest or seminarian to the house. And that was always what happened. That means as a child I got to know practically all the priests and seminarians who came through Oshogbo at that time. And because it was the seat of the bishop, quite a number of them came. 

We weren’t a wealthy family. But every time a priest or seminarian came, we knew that my mother was going to give them the best that the family had. That was one reason why I wanted to associate with them. You know, if your dog stays close to you, it is likely to eat the bone of the chicken. And I was the closest to the priests because they were not just Nigerian priests, but even our missionaries who were still Europeans at the time. 

Fortunately, when I was in primary school, I used to be quite good in English, or a little bit better than the rest; a bit better than my brothers.  So, when the expatriates wanted to speak I was like the interpreter for the others. So, there was the initial desire to be like them, to join them.

Entrance into the Seminary:
                When I was in primary five, my brother was going to do the entrance examination to St. Kizito Minor Seminary, Ede. He was in primary six. I remember a missionary came and asked me, himself and the headmaster, asked me to join the group that was going to do the examination to the seminary. And so I went. I remember many of them who were in primary six failed the exam and I passed. So I went ahead of them and they had to come back to the school to try another year. And so my road was charted practically by divine wisdom. I had to go to a minor seminary, and from there, there was no looking back.

Appointment as bishop:
                I felt like I had run into a tipper while riding a motor bike. And I mean that. Because I had come back from a holiday in the United States (US) and I felt it was my time to have a long drawn out time after work at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN). After working at the CSN, I had returned to my diocese to do more work because I practically believed I had been away from the diocese for too long. I indeed worked at the cathedral at Oshogbo for two years and it was hard work because I knew my bishop had agreed that I was going to work for only two years and proceed for my sabbatical. 
So, I went for this sabbatical, and it was in the seventh month that I came back for a holiday. I wanted to come and see my dad who was 90 at the time and then go back. But in the seven months I had spent in the U.S, I had already chunked up a communication project which was to write my doctorate on a communication related topic.

Spirituality in Nigerian movies:
                A lot of people at that time were saying that there was too much fetish activities being portrayed in Nollywood. I wanted to draw out spirituality from under that; because even an outcry in fetishism is a desire for spirituality, deep-down. And I had gathered materials; I had the benefit of meeting some very good families abroad who gave me accesses even to Hollywood; to actors and actresses there. I had done interviews, I had put them down. 

So I knew that writing a doctorate in the next three years would be like a piece of cake. I had all what I needed, and I had got a scholarship in Rome to come and write it there.  I wanted to write it in Rome because as you know, in the Catholic Church, if you write a doctorate in Rome and you passed, then, it was practically a public material for the Church. And I had sent even my book and my instruments like laptop to Rome. I was merely to go back and begin to write this project. And I came home, went to visit Bishop Felix Ajakaiye who was then a parish priest in one of the parishes in Ekiti. I was on my way back when a call came from the Nunciature that I should come to the Nunciature. And I said to the caller that I had no business with the Nunciature.

Indeed, I thought it was about my visa. After a few hours, the call came again and started talking about the bishop. And I said I don’t have any business with the bishop of Oyo. And they insisted that I had to come. That was how it all started. And for days I just didn’t agree to go to Abuja until my bishop then, Bishop Abegunrin called me and said I am to go to Abuja and see the Nuncio. So I went. It wasn’t an easy day at all. We had quite a bit of argument. In the end, he sent me to the chapel; I went to the chapel, I came out, I wasn’t feeling any better. 

But I had no option than to say; well, what do I do now? And he asked me to choose a date when it would be announced. And that is what happened. Since then, I have been the way I am; still surprised till today that I am bishop of Oyo diocese. Not because I am afraid of work or anything, but I had never dreamt in my life that I would be bishop of anywhere. I was really enjoying the priesthood; enjoy doing what I was told to do and doing it in the most creative way possible. I thank God for giving me the privilege to serve in this exalted position as bishop of Oyo diocese. 

But you must understand that when you are placed in a position when you have to tell everybody practically what they have to do, or if you are advising them and they know what you are advising them are things that should be done, then it is a huge responsibility, and I feel the weight of that responsibility. And I can only thank those who have so far worked with me to carry out those responsibilities in the Catholic Diocese of Oyo.

Past ten years been:
                I have seen the goodness of a lot of people. Goodness of God, definitely. Right from the moment I was made bishop, there were many people who came here to help me access the huge challenges that we have here, and have been making their contributions to make sure those challenges don’t drown us and that we can begin to resolve them bit by bit. All I can say is that there have been challenges, but there have not been defeat. And I think that can be attributed to God and the cooperation of the priests that we have here, the religious who work here and the people of God who work with us.

                As you know, every one of us is marking time in history. Nobody is ever going to exhaust the conquering of all the challenges in the world. We need to do our bit. And I can just say that these past ten years, we have seen that there is nothing God cannot do.  Great things happen when God mixes with man. It is just the beginning. In these ten years I can say I do know every corner of Oyo diocese. The diocese is a very vast geographical area.  But we are few in number as Catholics. But to the glory of God the influence of the Catholic Church here is not to be relegated at all to the background.

Other churches, the Muslim community and those who are neither Muslims nor Christians, if you ask them today about the most influential Church in this geographical area called Oyo diocese, most people would probably mention the Catholic Church. Not just because of our presence in the most remote places but also because of the social services that we give to the people. And also our foray into the area of inter-religious dialogue – ecumenism; trying to bring peace while the others would rather bring a rupture, and in the area of education of people who don’t have anything to do with the Catholic Church. 

Schools in this area, for instance, have a population of 75 per cent Muslim children. And we thank our Muslim parents who entrust their children to us. For African families, their children are their most precious possession. If they entrust their children to you, it shows a high level of trust even if they don’t say it in words. 

And so far, we have not had any terrible incident about their children being maltreated or anybody having any regret for sending their children to us here. On the contrary, we even have occasional conversions of Muslims to Christianity in our schools. And many Muslims who work with us, they testify that the Catholic Church is different when it comes to relating with people and affecting the society in these areas.

Then, we must not forget to mention the work of Justice and Development Commission which practically every diocese now has. It was born during the year 2000 when Pope John Paul asked the Church to be liberal and be more proactive in social issues. And they have done tremendously well here.; helping farmers, helping in the formation of young people,  empowerment and intervention in anything that has to do with justice and prisoners, making life much better for prisoners, etc. 

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