January 17, 2016: Investiture of the novices in Nigeria
A deep and conscious preparation
The 17th of January 2016 was a date that we, the novices of the Schoenstatt Fathers in Nigeria had anticipated for months, and one for which we had conscientiously prepared for: physically, mentally and spiritually. We were aware of the ‘great weight’ of the initiative and life-stream of the Sion Tunic; for we had made a comprehensive study and analysis of the document presenting this idea. We were acutely conscious of Fr Kentenich’s vision of Sion; for we had applied ourselves to a deep and careful study of the Founder and his spirituality; of Sion and its mission. Therefore, as the 17th of January, the day of the investiture, drew closer and closer, the more Sion drummed in our hearts and minds day and night.
The feast arrived
And so, the 17th arrived, like a distinguished guest, to greet hearts and minds that had waited in joyful hope. It was an open air celebration, and the grounds were clad in colourful attires, of people from different backgrounds and culture; from different ends of Nigeria, far and near. It was truly the incarnation of all loveliness. Though the sun blazed like a raging fire, the penetrating sight and visible support assailed the memory of the Novices, as well as Fr Javier Arteaga, as something unforgettable. Fr Javier Arteaga, our Regional Superior, together with Fr Pablo Pol, the Assistant for Nigeria in the Council of the Father Region, had flown in from Argentina, to be first-hand witnesses to this auspicious event. This is the first time Fr Javier is visiting the African continent.
Then came the ‘rite of investiture’. As the novices were called by name, one by one we ascended to the Altar of God, facing the Shrine of Our Mother Thrice Admirable. And at that moment, we stood firmly at the intersection between an irrevocable past and an uncertain future, whilst holding firmly to the believe: “Providence has brought us here, and providence will lead us on”. Thus, we were vested with the Sion Tunic in the presence of our parents and relatives who had travelled far and near to be present for this history-making event. Most of our relatives already arrived on Saturday, the day before the celebration. It was truly a day heavily sprinkled with joy and happiness, singing and dancing.
Birthday of the Regional Superior Fr Javier Arteaga (Argentina)
After the Eucharistic celebration, we celebrated with our family and friends, who had come around to celebrate with us. The festivities continued, and found formal expression in the evening; the novitiate community played host to our families and the Fathers who came around, to a dinner in the Novitiate, to commemorate the investiture. The soiree had an added frosting: it was also the birthday of Fr Javier Arteaga. We were very happy to celebrate his birthday with him, within the context of the Investiture. It was a day glowing with abounding happiness prolonged into a night drowned in joyfulness, delight and a confident cry of exultation due, only, to Sons of Mount Sion.
“We do not belong anywhere else than on Mount Sion”
As a final note, it is evident to most, that there are moments in life’s journey we wish we could go back to; not to change things, but to experience it twice. This defines our feelings, reminiscing on our vesting with the Sion Tunic. At the same time, we feel very much assured of the spiritual character this vesture has imbued in us. And we give this expression, as we testified, in the words of Fr Kentenich, “We do not belong anywhere else than on Mount Sion”.
This write-up, however, will be incomplete if gratitude and considerable accolade is not awarded to Fr Kingsley Okereke, the Novice Master; who had, through the stream of providence, led the novices to this landmark. But, there are still more to be conquered. Therefore, and above every other, pray for the Novices and for the Schoenstatt Fathers, Nigeria.
Nos cum prole pia – benedicat Virgo Maria.
Henry E. Anumudu