Bishop Martin Uzoukwu of Minna Diocese, Nigeria visited the Christchurch Diocese from April 10th to 17th, 2010
From the moment of Bishop Uzoukwu’s arrival, and for all who met him or heard him preach, one could only marvel at his courage, commitment, and zealousness in proclaiming the Gospel and witnessing to the mission and importance of Divine Mercy in the Church and in the world.
His insights were arresting, particularly in his re-telling of well known Scripture passages such as the Prodigal Son, the Woman at the well, Ezekial 47: 1-12, John 19:34 & Revelation 22:1-2. These last three passages in particular show one of the strongest links between the Gospel and the Diary of St Faustina in Diary references No.84 & 187
Bishop Uzoukwu was able to flesh-out these quotations at the Masses at which he preached and celebrated, beginning with the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament at both the 9.00am and 10.30am celebrations of Holy Mass.
Divine Mercy Sunday was first held at Christ the King Parish, Burnside in 1995. This year the annual celebration was attended by over 350 people from throughout the diocese and farther afield. Bishop Uzoukwu’s sermon was well received with many commenting afterwards on ‘his great faith and humility’.
Bishop Uzoukwu offered Mass and preached at Nazareth House (to 70 elderly residents and the sisters), Sacred Heart Timaru (where over 60 attended evening Mass and a talk), Holy Name Ashburton (where around 50 came for Midday Mass), St Patrick’s Greymouth (where 60 of the faithful gathered for Mass) and Carmel in Halswell (where Mother Superior and the sisters enjoyed a wonderful time of prayer, laughter, and guidance with the Bishop).
He was able to impart to the faithful, the religious and priests that Divine Mercy is not just another devotion, but that at its core is the mission and message of the Church, Divine Mercy Incarnate – Jesus Christ. Divine Mercy, he told us, has been present in the Church since the beginning, in reality, present for all eternity as it is the greatest attribute of God.
The Sacrament of Divine Mercy – Reconciliation’ formed an important part of his mission here to promote the ‘forgotten sacrament’, confession, and its need to be practiced regularly by all the faithful.
In fact the Church, Bishop Martin reflected, through its many apostolates which practice the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, has and always will be a vessel of mercy (St Vincent de Paul, Caritas, Catholic Women’s League, Sisters of Mercy etc). It is only in recognising this truth and linking it with the graces of Divine Mercy Sunday, the Chaplet of Mercy, 3pm Hour of Mercy, and Image of Divine Mercy that, “the world can find refuge and the light of hope”. (Pope John Paul II).
The Works of Mercy were a large part of the focus for many of the talks and sermons that Bishop Martin gave and especially those he gave to the priests of the Diocese in Christchurch, Timaru and Greymouth, when presenting the topic of the catechesis entitled ‘The Sacrament of Divine Mercy – Reconciliation’. This title (composed by Bishop Barry Jones), formed an important part of his mission here to promote the ‘forgotten sacrament’, confession, and its need to be practiced regularly by all the faithful.
This was an especially powerful part of his discourse to the priests in helping them to encourage parishioners to come back to confession with renewed vigour and a much greater understanding of the Lord’s Divine Mercy for all sinners. This focus on personal holiness was espoused many times by Bishop Uzoukwu as the only way to achieve authentic Christian growth and to know the Will of the Father. He continually reminded his listeners of the need to pray daily, to reflect on Scripture and the Diary of St Faustina, in an effort to discover both our vocation in life and to effect it in accordance with the Will of God. He suggested that we each give the Lord an hour every day.
These themes resonated throughout the Bishop’s time here including his time with 80 young people . He managed to teach them with candour and ample humour conveying the importance and immediateness of Divine Mercy in both our personal lives and our public witness. He further reminded us of the Encyclical of John Paul II, Dives in Miserecordia (Rich in Mercy), and the relevance of this document in the light of both Scripture and Divine Mercy.
The final part of his time in the diocese was given over to a full day of prayer, reflection, adoration, and teaching on the themes of evangelisation and the works of mercy. All were encouraged to sing and praise the Lord, to reflect on Scripture and the Diary of St Faustina as the vehicle to being merciful to others and evangelising them. Fr John Adams presented a lecture on Caritas in Veritate, the recent Encyclical by Pope Benedict, and masterfully linked this work to the message and mission of Divine Mercy. A brief talk was also given by Pat Barrett on the letter writing campaign to inmates in African jails being coordinated by Divine Mercy Publications in Christchurch.
Bishop Uzoukwu exhorted all to be faithful witnesses to the Gospel and the teachings of the Church, to proclaim mercy and to live mercy. His own personal witness to Divine Mercy was often described as ‘compelling and inspirational’.
“Whoever sincerely says, Jesus I Trust in You’, will find comfort in all his fears……..There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy.” (Pope John Paul II)
“Tell aching mankind to snuggle close to My merciful Heart, and I will fill it with peace."
- Bishop Martin has asked for help financial support for the training of priests in the Diocese of Minna, Nigeria, estimated at NZ$1900.00 per year. If you are interested in this appeal please contact Divine Mercy, Christchurch, email email@example.com
- A DVD of the Divine Mercy Mass is available from the above address also. Please send $12 with your order.
- There is World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Krakow, Poland, October 2011. For more information visit www.worldapostoliccongressonmercy.org