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The above question is one of those mind-boggling questions which have remained unanswered by the Church over the years.  Recently this question has been partially attempted by a Nigerian Vicar General who has attributed the smooth running of any Diocese both in the presence or in the absence of the bishop is largely due to the “collaboration and understanding” of the diocesan organogram. The Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Bauchi in Nigeria has attributed the smooth running of the Diocese to the “collaboration and understanding” he has witnessed among the people of God in the Diocese.

Fr. Hillary Longs has been overseeing the affairs of the Bauchi Diocese since last year, when the Local Ordinary, Bishop Hilary Nanman Dachelem, traveled abroad for specialized medical care.

In an interview with some African media organs, Fr. Longs said, “The hallmark of any administration is collaboration and understanding; and we are having that kind of understanding and collaboration perfectly with the Vicar Admin, with the Chancellor, and the Laity.”

“Now, the absence of the bishop is not really so felt because of that collaboration; we are in a Diocese where there is a kind of understanding,” the Nigerian Vicar General further said, adding that the order in the Diocese has also facilitated the smooth running of the day-to-day activities.

“The rule of law is there, that even with the absence of the bishop, things just go naturally; things are just moving on naturally because he has given us administrative powers of which we are doing the work perfectly,” the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese in Northeastern Nigeria with a predominantly Muslim population told one of the African media outfits.

In an earlier interview, Fr. Longs highlighted what entails effective evangelization ministry of the Clergy, emphasizing the need for Priests to preach by a lifestyle that is consistent with the Word they preach.

In the Monday, May 20 interview, he also emphasized the need for members of the Clergy to reach out to the people of God under their pastoral care in a way that positively touches lives.

Previously, Fr. Longs said, “People used to carry Bibles alone, then they moved to the market squares preaching the word of God. But today things are changing; people want you to preach to them by your way of life.”

“Let your lifestyle be the new way of evangelization; let your life be the Bible that other people read on a daily basis,” the member of the Clergy of Bauchi Diocese told an African media Correspondent.

He continued, “The method of evangelization is shifting from the analogue to digital; and from the conventional to the systematic way of doing it.

“The method of evangelization that is more effective today is the one of reaching out and touching lives,” Fr. Longs said, and explained, “People love to hear and see how you live out what you are preaching; it is no longer only the proclamation. People want to know who you are, not by what you say, but by what you do.”

The Vicar general said, “Nobody is interested in you carrying your Bible, moving around (and saying), my Bible says this or that. Nobody is interested in that anymore, but people are interested in practical Christianity based on actions.”

“What are they seeing in you? Are they actually seeing Christ in you? These are the questions that are very necessary if we want to carry out the work of evangelization especially in Northern Nigeria, which is predominantly a Muslim population,” Fr. Longs said.

He called upon church leaders to be close to the people of God under their pastoral care as a way of encouraging them to remain in the faith amid challenges.

“As a pastor, how do you care for your people? Do they see you caring for them? Do you make time to visit them in their houses? Do you care to know for how many days now this man has not been coming to church? What is the problem? These are small things that they want to see in you, and that is the perfect evangelization,” the Nigerian Catholic Priest said.

He continued, “Systematically, people call it liberation theology; when somebody is hungry and you come, you are preaching to him.”

The Vicar General lauded the initiative of his Local Ordinary, who he said observed a gap in people’s faith and “took it upon himself to go on Catechesis everywhere.”

“It’s quite unfortunate he started it, and along the way, he fell sick,” Fr. Longs recalled, and adding that the catechetical ministry Bishop Nanman inaugurated is being continued by his collaborators “and they are doing it very well.”

Personally, he went on to share, “time to time, especially during May Devotion, October Devotion, I avail myself, prepare some topics, some challenging things in the society, prepare and then catechize them on them.”

The Nigerian Catholic Priest went on to encourage young people in the Bauchi Diocese to take advantage of social media forums to promote their faith to the outside world.

“In social media, people are selling their opinions everywhere; some are preaching; they do everything on social media. And I always encourage my youths that anytime you buy data for your mobile phone or your computer, make sure you say something about your faith before the data gets exhausted,”.

“Use social media as a tool for evangelization; use it to promote the Catholic faith; let those who don’t know about our faith begin to learn and get converted,” the 52-year-old Parish Priest of St. Theresa Tunfure Parish of Bauchi Diocese further said, recalling his advice to youths.

In the May 20 interview with ACI Africa, made available to the Abuja Correspondent of RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, Fr. Longs identified the economic challenges in Nigeria and insecurity as some of the factors affecting the work of evangelization in the country.

“Life is very expensive in Nigeria today; things are not easy. And then what is actually quite challenging to the faith of the people is, today the Church cannot grow without money. When the people have no money and there is a demand on them to bring money for church development, it discourages them,” the Catholic Priest said. He also highlighted insecurity as “another major challenge confronting us as a Diocese.

“We had some of our parishioners killed recently and even the state Governor came for a condolence visit to us and the advice they gave us was to try and set up our own vigilante group,” the Vicar General of Bauchi Diocese told the media.