NIGERIA, Fr. Jude Eze, ISch. •
October 29, 2023, the closing day of the World Synod on Synodality, was a historic day at the Victory Shrine of Our Lady of Schoenstatt, Ibadan, Nigeria, as the first group of couples from the Lagos Schoenstatt Family sealed their Covenant of Love. This group of families came together from different parishes in Lagos through the instrumentality of Fr. Jude Eze, ISch, a Schoenstatt Father who works in a parish in the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, who accompanies the group. The Covenant of Love was received by Father Alexandre Awi Mello, General Superior of the Schoenstatt Fathers, who is visiting Nigeria these days. —
This family group is made up of nine families from different states in Nigeria, but all residing in Lagos. These families are: Roland and Josephine Ogwuni, Francis and Jacinta Akabueze, Pascal and Chisom Odinde, Anthony and Anita Ezembamalu, Frankline and Chinelo Ozofor, Okechukwu and Chinonye Nwabufo, Ifeanyi and Ijeoma Ugwu, Chuks and Chinonso, and Ambrose and Victoria. They were drawn to the Schoenstatt Movement which emphasizes the importance of bringing the love of Christ into their daily lives and families through the guidance and education of the Blessed Mother in the Shrine.
Of the nine couples, only six sealed their Covenant of Love in the Victory Shrine in Ibadan; the remaining couples have recently moved to the United Kingdom, but are also preparing to seal their Covenant of Love in the Shrine in Kearsley, Bolton, United Kingdom. Although separated by distance, these couples remain united in ideal and mission with their group back home.
A growing desire for the Covenant of Love
For the past two years, this group of families had been meeting regularly, both physically and virtually, to study Schoenstatt, to reflect and share their spiritual journeys, and for retreats and prayer.
They felt a strong sense of camaraderie and unity, and their desire to deepen their relationship with Mary and Jesus grew stronger each day.
As they immersed themselves in the Schoenstatt teachings, they learned about the profound meaning of the Covenant of Love, a special bond between themselves and the Virgin Mary.
The idea of sealing their Covenant of Love with the Blessed Mother captivated their hearts and minds. They wanted to consecrate themselves and their families to her and to ask for her guidance, protection, and motherly love throughout their lives.
Pilgrimage to the Shrine
Full of anticipation and excitement, the group decided to make a pilgrimage to the Victory Shrine in Ibadan, the only Schoenstatt Shrine in Nigeria, where they wanted to seal the Covenant of Love; with their families in tow, they embarked on their journey, traveling about three hours from Lagos to Ibadan with hearts full of devotion and gratitude.
Arriving at the Victory Shrine on a rainy Saturday evening, the group was overwhelmed by its beauty and serenity; surrounded by lush greenery and a sense of tranquility, they felt an immediate connection to the holy place. As they entered the Shrine, the group was greeted by the gaze of the Blessed Mother, radiating grace and love, and by the smile of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, who was already exposed and smiling at each one. Immediately, everyone went into silent admiration and adoration of the love and grace flowing from Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Mother Thrice Admirable. After a moment of silent adoration and encounter with the Blessed Mother, they received a special blessing from Fr. Alexandre Awi, the General Superior of the Schoenstatt Fathers, who had met with the group in the hall.
The birth of the first Schoenstatt Family Group in Lagos
The following day, October 29, 2023, was a day they would remember as the birth of the first Schoenstatt Family Group in Lagos, a day they would all gather at the Victory Shrine in Ibadan to seal their Covenant of Love with the Blessed Mother. Full of anticipation, eager to begin this new chapter of their spiritual journey, the group gathered for Holy Mass with the community of the Schoenstatt Fathers Scholasticate in Ibadan.
Since the Covenant of Love strengthens our Baptismal and Marriage Covenants, during the Mass, in the presence of other members of the Schoenstatt Movement, they renewed their Baptismal promises and Marriage Covenant, reaffirming their total commitment to live for Jesus Christ and for one another, united in love. The Holy Mass continued.
Mary is taking possession of their hearts and their homes
After the post-communion prayer, there was a procession to the Shrine led by two of the couples carrying the MTA Auxiliary. Then came the life changing moment for the couples, they sealed their Covenant of Love with the Mother Thrice Admirable. As they finished their Covenant prayer, a feeling of deep peace and overwhelming joy enveloped their hearts; Mary is taking possession of their hearts and their homes. It was an incredible moment of fulfillment for the couple.
One of the couples said, “For us (Mr. Paschal and Mrs. Chisom Odinde), making the Covenant of Love in the Schoenstatt Shrine was a profound spiritual experience. We were fascinated by the simplicity and beauty of the Schoenstatt Shrine, and our prayers and reflections there brought us a sense of peace and serenity. Consecrating ourselves to the Mother Thrice Admirable symbolized our desire to live our faith individually and as a family guided by her example, and it was also a way to deepen our relationship with our Mother Mary and with God. The Covenant of Love has been a source of grace and inner strength to face the many challenges of life. One aspect that we greatly appreciate is the sense of community that we have while making the Covenant of Love with other members of the Schoenstatt Family.”
Having taken the first step, the group, which considers itself a founding generation, is determined to remain firm and fruitful in the Covenant of Love that they have sealed with the MTA. They are determined and committed as a group to share the message of the Covenant of Love with other families, to remind them of the transforming power of Mary’s love and education, and to serve as a testimony of the beauty of the Covenant of Love in family life. Their group ideal is: “Conquered by the love of the Shrine, we go to change our world”. They left the Shrine around 3:00 p.m., after praying the Divine Mercy and a prayer of thanksgiving to the MTA, with hearts full of hope, knowing that they had begun a journey of faith that will shape their lives and their community for years to come.
May the Thrice Admirable Queen of Schoenstatt continue to educate them and form them into useful instruments for her mission in Nigeria and beyond!
Congratulations to them!