Tuesday, May 20, 2014 2:58 pm
Reverend Sister Josephine Odorwike, Director of Communications, Catholic Diocese, Ilorin, Kwara State and Editor-in-Chief of EHJ FOUNT magazine, Lagos, in this interview with STEPHEN ONI, bares her mind on her calling and some national issues
What about your education and upbringing?
I went to school like every normal human being, primary, secondary and university etc. I grew up in a staunch Catholic home in Lagos. My strong Catholic background and strict Christian upbringing influenced my choice of vocation. Ultimately, this lifestyle is a call from God and cannot be taken lightly. In a nutshell, as a little girl, I had this strong desire to serve God and humanity. Later on in life, I met a group of Catholic nuns who came on a vacation rally and I got drawn to their way of life – service to God and humanity. I prayed and asked God to make me like one of these nuns. So when I became of age, I went through their various formations and educational programmes and the rest is now history. I studied Mass Communication at a university in Lagos. I loved reading as a child. My life was simply triangular; by this I mean that my life was simply church, school, and home.
At what age did you become a nun?
I joined at a very early age, in my teens. I was about 19 years old when I joined to begin my formation.
Can one resign or stop being a nun?
Yes. You are not coerced to become a nun; it is a free choice you have made and can be terminated with due process. There are different stages of formation you go through as a nun. The first stage is being under temporary vows, during which you study the institution and the environment and they in turn study your suitability to joining them permanently. During this period, if you decide not to continue, you will simply put your intention in writing and after due counseling, if you still feel like going, you will be allowed to leave. The fact is, we are all called to serve God and humanity, whether we are nuns or lay people. So wherever you are, simply impact on humanity.
Have you at any point regretted being a nun and wanting to quit?
I have no regrets being a nun. I have never thought of leaving either. Having said that, let me make this clear, life comes with its ups and downs, with some happy moments and some dull moments too. So as a nun, I may have my good days and bad days too. We all have challenges as human beings but my strength comes from God and I am happy being a nun and I enjoy it tremendously.
Can you share some of the challenges?
They are normal Nigerian challenges: financial stress, traffic stress, work stress etc. I mean, all the things every average Nigerian experiences are the same things we experience as nuns too. The difference, however, is the grace of God. But the other stress we constantly encounter as nuns is that people constantly keep asking us why we have chosen to become nuns. Why not quit and get married, etc? However, I think I am handling this well by telling people that it was God who called me and chose me to be a nun. I truly can handle myself well, I think, no matter the questions people pose to me constantly. Some people listen to my explanation and are convinced, but others simply shrug their shoulders in bewilderment and I simply leave it in God’s hand.
What was the reaction of your parents when you told them you wanted to become a nun?
I am from a staunch Catholic home; my parents were very supportive of my decision and they gave me all necessary encouragements to fulfil God’s calling. Honestly, they were and are still very happy with me. They are praying for me constantly and are pleased with my life style. They want me to succeed as a Nun and I am grateful for their support. I am indeed very lucky to have the kind of immediate and extended families that I have.
Do you think the Church is doing enough to curb corruption because Churches accept tithes from members without querying the source? Don’t you think there should be an intelligence unit in the church to delve into the sources of members’ income?
Nope, this will be a very slippery slope that no church should go into. You mean an intelligence unit – like the CIA – to spy and investigate people’s source of income? The church is not some kind of moral police chasing people around and spying on them. The church has constantly been preaching the fear of God, hard work, justice etc. to its members. One only hopes that members would listen to the voice of reason by obeying the word of God they hear constantly. Recently, Pope Francis condemned the ostentatious display of wealth within the church hierarchy. The Pope did not hold back, for this he deposed an archbishop to send a strong warning across the globe. If it is glaring that a church member’s source of income is from a dubious means like armed robbery, kidnapping, embezzlement etc. the church has a right to reject such member’s donation. However, setting up an intelligent unit like you are suggesting to investigate people’s sources of income is simply going too far in my humble opinion.
Is the government doing enough to fight corruption?
The fight against corruption is not the responsibility of government alone. It is a battle for us all; meaning that whichever position we find ourselves, we should endeavour to exhibit virtues that will portray us, our families, the nation and God in good light. Be that as it may, the three tiers of government have to do more to fight corruption which has become so endemic in the society. Insecurity, unemployment and poverty, to me, are bye products of corruption. So I want to see the government solving these problems by providing basic amenities for the citizenry. Government should establish more industries, encourage local manufacturers, support skill acquisition, revive technical colleges and upgrade schools of vocational studies.
Three weeks ago, over 200 school girls were abducted from a government secondary school at Chibok, Borno State. What is your reaction to this?
To be candid, this is simply a nightmare. Just imagine what a woman had to go through raising a child, from pregnancy to labour, delivery and nurturing to adulthood. These mothers simply did what every mother will want for their daughters – getting a good education. They believed their daughters would be save in school and all of a sudden to be confronted with this bizarre news of abduction. What’s even annoying is the callous reaction of our government. If not for the mass global protests around the world, our government would have remained perhaps nonchalant. These girls are the future of our nation and if our government is not willing to go after this terrorist group now, who will this group kidnap next? This is really scary to say the least. I join others in praying that the missing students would be found and returned safely to their respective families.
There is the notion out there that the insecurity in our nation currently is orchestrated by politicians. What do you think?
First of all, I am not a politician to know what politicians think. However, my humble opinion as a nun is, judging from what is happening, this could be a means to distract the government by the opposition party to make them ineffective. Sadly, security of life and property is a thing that should never be toyed with by any political group. If they do, there will be chaos eventually. How can any political group govern chaotic people? Nigerians are very resilient and they are not asking for too much, all they want are adequate security, stable power supply, jobs and good infrastructure etc. They are simply asking for the basics which any serious government should provide. But the government needs the support and cooperation of the entire citizenry to succeed in this regard.
Are you afraid that you might be a target? Do you feel insecure?
(Laughter) I do not see myself as a target. However, I am concerned that if harmless girls who cannot defend themselves are kidnapped, then who is safe? Honestly, we all have to be conscious of our surroundings now more than ever before. While driving, you must be conscious of who is beside you and what they are doing etc. This situation calls for more prayers because our help comes from the Lord and it is in God we all trust.
What is your opinion about women being in leadership positions or aspiring to become President?
I believe in competent leadership. We need people who are patriotic, leaders who have the genuine interest of the people at heart, leaders who will seek political office not for personal aggrandisement but to serve the people selflessly. So I have no problem with women seeking political office as long as they are competent and willing to serve. I will support any woman who is competent any day any time.