The entire Catholic Faithful in Nigeria have just rounded up a year dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in union with the universal Church as she marks the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother in Fatima to three children way back 1917. The three children were Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta who were of peasant background. To mark the Centenary of the apparitions at Fatima, Pope Francis canonized Francisco and Jacinta as Saints of the Catholic Church on 17th May 2017.

Due to the pastoral ingenuity of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN the Centenary was merged with the National Marian Congress which ordinarily would’ve come in 2018, thereby giving the entire Church in Nigeria the opportunity to deepen her relationship with the Blessed Virgin and to also re-consecrate Nigeria to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. With the theme “Do whatever he tells you,” (John 2:5) the Marian Year was set to bring the whole of Nigeria to the foot of the blessed Virgin Mary in order to listen to her instructing us to do what the Lord tells us.

With the official coming together in March, 2017, of coordinators chosen by their respective bishops to spearhead the Marian Year activities, Dioceses went abuzz in devotion and honour to the Mother of Our Lord and saviour and the Mother of God. Each coordinator was given the mandate to plan the year in their dioceses and ensure the Lay faithful, Religious, and Priests took part in more profound ways. One would only spend a day on the whatsapp group chat of the Marian Year, Nigeria 2017 and the influx of pictures of celebrations, videos of processions and the magnificent decoration of the statue of the BVM done by various dioceses would probably expend one’s mobile data.

Some dioceses privileged to have information about the Marian Year in Nigeria earlier than other dioceses were more elaborate in their programmes for the year where they celebrated from families to societies, secular groups and other religious groups, with features such as quiz competitions, drama and other Marian activities. The whole celebrations in various dioceses geared up to the quintessential grand finale that took place in Benin City where the Blessed Virgin capped it all with the miracle of the Sun that saw many parting with one favour or the other including healings.

From all available data and indications, Nigeria never had it so sweet that their worship of God for a whole year would become so warm, deeply engaging their faith and manifesting God’s power to renew souls due to the intercession of the Mother of God herself, her manifestations in the various activities in the dioceses and the entire camaraderie that shone in the joy of the faithful receiving her statue and seeking one favor or the other. It was a spiritual blast to say the least. Having gone through the Marian Year successfully, can we decipher that the message of Fatima has resonated the length and breadth of our nation, the Church and our families? Did we listen to Mary as she says to us in all the manifestations that followed her devotion across the country “Do whatever he tells you”?

This is where the challenge begins for us all having re-consecrated Nigeria to the immaculate heart of Mary. We must be able to beat our chest to say that this Marian Year made us listen and understand the language of our mother the Blessed Virgin Mary who knows that our wine in Nigeria is finished. The Archbishop Kaigama describes this wine as the wine to “stimulate our social sensitivity to improve the socio-economic conditions of our people and to see the need to be our brother and sister’s keeper.”(Remarks at the Grand Finale of the Marian Congress, Benin City 2017)

How then do we become the new wine in our Country Nigeria, the wine that will bring about a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria especially in these critical moments of our Nation’s growth? Have we done all the jubilation and the singing and dancing in devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary yet our lives remain the same old life that has given vent to corruption in its grand and petty nuances?

If the Marian Year ended and we are not able to listen to Mary our Mother telling us through her virtues to emulate her lifestyle of obedience and total commitment to the will of God then the most part of Archbishop Kaigama’s warning would’ve being the bane of our celebration for the whole year. The Archbishop warned against “…unnecessary exaggerations in our practice of popular piety, so as not to allow it to degenerate into fanaticism…”

It is in this regard that a synergy is required in the activities of the Church in Nigeria where the fruits of such years as the Marian Year we have had be pursued relentlessly. Now that the Marian year is rounding up in many dioceses it should not leave the faithful in their former state of indifference to the collective good of our nation. All hands must be on deck to promote and foster a life of sacrifice, obedience to the will of God and conscious effort to salvage ourselves from the clutches of hunger and poverty.

We must journey with Mary our Blessed Mother and listen to her through these hard times in our country Nigeria and in our families. Journeying with Our Mother Mary, Queen of Nigeria after this Marian Year should keep us ever reminded of our Lord’s command to fill the empty water jars of our own time. We must work towards filling up spaces and emptiness created by tribal and religious sentiments in our country; we must fill the empty spaces created by hatred, unforgivness and greed; we must fill the empty jars caused by our inability to recapture our heritage of great farmers and great educationists.

Families must pray the Rosary together and recite the prayers against Bribery and Corruption, Nigeria in Distress and for the Marian Year formulated by the Bishops which are apt in giving us reasons to journey with Mary our Mother. In the prayer for the Marian Year, we ask her intercession that what she was able to do for Portugal; she should do for us in Nigeria and be a refuge for all persecuted Christians in Nigeria and in our families. She cannot do for us what she did for Portugal if all that the Marian Year portended for us was only a fanatical show of religiosity without a deeper commitment to change our ways for a better Nigeria.

In conclusion, it is pertinent to continuously ask ourselves what we heard Mary telling us to do in order to bring about the abundance of her Son’s graces upon us as a nation, as a Church and in our families as the end of the Marian Year and Centenary of Fatima in Nigeria marks the beginning of our Lord’s instruction to fill up the empty jars. Mary actually communicated to us throughout the year in the little successes we recorded in the Marian Year celebrations in our dioceses, and at the grand finale through her manifestation in the sun. The question is, did we listen?



Rev. Fr. Anthony B. Shawuya is Deputy Director Media Service Centre Kaduna and writes from Kaduna. October 23rd, 2017.



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