Giving and receiving stewardship with the Nigerian community

On Sunday, March 8, Nigerian parishioners at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help shared their joyful faith with all of us through a special Mass and meal. The parish welcomed Fr. Bede Okolie who serves St. Luke Church in Kubwa, Abuja, Nigeria, as the celebrant. In his homily,

Father Bede thanked the cathedral parishioners and the larger Rapid City community for the warm welcome they have extended to the growing number of Nigerian members of the community. Oluwabusayo Tijani-Laton is a registered nurse and a parishioner at the cathedral along with her husband and two boys. She shares, “The community is a friendly one. Everyone greets you with a smile and expresses their happiness when they hear about how we got here. … the church and our colleagues at work have made Rapid City a home away from home for us. The support has been amazing, and this is evident in the massive turnout at the Nigerian Mass and reception at the cathedral.” The warm welcome she and her family have received and the inculturated Mass celebrated recently are both inspiring signs of Generous Hospitality being practiced in our diocese. 

While we have extended Generous Hospitality to these new members of our community, they have also taught us about Stewardship. As Tijani-Latona said, “We believe so much in gratitude: there is a saying in Nigeria that, ‘He who is thankful for the blessings he receives today, will definitely get another one.’” This gratitude was so evident at the Nigerian Mass,

particularly at the presentation of the gifts. Along with the bread and wine, the community processed up with many gifts for those who are in need — diapers, food, and other basic necessities. As they did, they sang a song of thanksgiving which acknowledged that all good things in their lives are gifts of God and so in gratitude they were giving it all back to him. This song captured beautifully the truth upon which Stewardship is built. And the generosity shown by the offerings to the poor and the beautiful meal after Mass also highlight a true Stewardship mindset of generosity. 

Lastly, the Nigerians celebrated the Mass with great joy. As one participant shared, “Our praise and worship is one of the ways to show our gratitude to God. Therefore we do not joke with this. Nigerians are full of life and love to dance, and as such we use various musical instruments during our Mass in Nigeria to make the Mass celebration full of life in the Nigerian cultural style.” 

When I witnessed the praise and worship of the Nigerian community, it filled my own heart with joy. There is a deep goodness in praising God. As Mary Healy says, “To praise God is to become who we

really are, since  we were created to live for the praise of God’s glory” (Eph. 1:12). When we praise God, we begin to see how awesome God is, how magnificent his plan is, how miniscule our problems are compared with his mighty power: how nothing is impossible for him.” What a gift that we have been reminded of this truth in the midst of the disruptions and difficulties of the current Coronavirus pandemic.

As the bishop’s document on Stewardship reminds us, “As Christian stewards, we receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.” This same document also reminds us, “Christian stewards are always joyful bearers of the Good News of salvation.” I would like to extend my deep gratitude to our Nigerian brothers and sisters for so clearly living and proclaiming joy, gratitude and generosity and the importance of praising God with our whole hearts. Together, let’s continue to live Generous Hospitality, Lively Faith and Dedicated Discipleship.