Moving tribute from a new bishop to his father

Bishop-elect Gerald Mamman Musa, the first Hausa-speaking Nigerian to be appointed bishop in Nigeria, thanks his late catechist-father for instilling in him a passion for the Catholic faith.

A new bishop for a new diocese: Pope Francis on October 16 created the new Diocese of Katsina from territory taken from Sokoto Diocese in northern Nigeria, and appointed Father Gerald Mamman Musa, son of a local catechist and currently a communications professor, as its first bishop. 

Detailing how the example of his father motivated him, Bishop-elect Musa told La Croix International in an exclusive interview that “as a catechist, he made me realize the importance of the Eucharist and as a translator he has made me develop interests in translating sacred texts, spiritual books or some official books of the Church into the Hausa language.”

Hausa is a Chadic language spoken by the Hausa people in the northern parts of Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Cameroon, Benin and Togo. The Hausa are a native ethnic group in West Africa and most Hausa speakers are Muslims.

The newly appointed bishop’s late father, Emmanuel Musa, a Hausa speaking native, spent over 30 years as a teacher at Sokoto Diocese’s Catechetical Training Centre in Katsina State, translating Christian literature from English to Hausa.

This included the Hausa Bible; “Africa Our Way” series by Father Michael McGrath SMA and Sister Nicole Gregoire SA that deals with issues as catechetics, counselling, marriage, homiletics; and the book about the Billings Method of natural family planning “Love and Life” by Sr. Dr. Leonie McSweeney MMM who worked in Nigeria for almost 60 years.

Mentored by his catechist-father: Recalling his days as a youth, Bishop-elect Musa, 52, stated that, “as a child, I never knew that someday I’m going to be involved in translation. Providentially, today, I am involved in revising some Hausa texts from the English language to the Hausa language. I watched my father train catechists at the Catechetical Training Centre and I have witnessed how passionate he was in teaching children catechism in the parish.” 

He recounted how his dad “was not only involved in teaching catechism at the parish level, but at home,” stressing that “he taught us the fundamentals of the faith and always led the family in morning and night prayers.”

According to Bishop-elect Musa, there were primarily two values he learned from his father. “The first is that of perseverance. He remained steadfast in his Christian faith from the moment he embraced Christianity and was baptised. When the missionaries came to his village in Argungu in the 1930s he was among those who were converted as a child. Despite persecution and discrimination, he held on to his faith. His perseverance inspires and motivates me in the face of challenges,” he said.

 “The second value that I learned from him is that of commitment to our mother, the entire family and to his work. He worked for over 30 years as a formator of catechists, translator of Christian literature,” Bishop-elect Musa said.

A lay Catholic who knew “Catechist Musa” told La Croix International that, “he will be fondly remembered by Catholics” across northern Nigeria “for being an astute teacher responsible for the training of catechists and religious teachers who are beneficiaries of his translated works.”

Pastoral priorities, plans for the new diocese: Bishop-elect Musa in his first interview since his appointment, laid out his pastoral priorities and plans for the new diocese. “For now, I wish to align the pastoral plans of the diocese very closely with the vision of [John Paul II’s 1995 post-synodal apostolic exhortation] Ecclesia in Africa, which describes Church as a family. The principal themes of Ecclesia in Africa derived from the African Synod will serve as guiding principles,” said Bishop-elect Musa, the first Hausa speaking Nigerian to be appointed a bishop in Nigeria.  

In terms of grassroots evangelisation and inculturating the faith, Bishop-elect Musa, who is the Head of Department of the Centre of African Culture and Communication pointed out that “In Africa, we have common challenges, and those pillars of the synod are relevant almost in all nooks and crannies of the continent. In line with the vision of the African Synod, I shall concentrate on primary and renewed evangelization in the Diocese of Katsina.”

“Another area to focus on is that of inculturation in a Church that is relatively young in Nigeria. Inculturation will help us to reflect on the intersection where culture and faith meet. Since the people of Katsina have been Christianised, it is important to consider how Christianity can be ‘Hausanised’.” 

He said his episcopacy would also stress integral development and interreligious dialogue. “A key pillar of my pastoral plan is to work on the integral development of the people while addressing the root cause of injustice, poverty, and insecurity, especially for the minorities in the rural areas who have been marginalized. Besides, I plan to see how we can engage our Muslim brothers and sisters in interreligious dialogue. Very importantly, I shall work with the youth, the future of the church to see how we can collectively work as a team,” Bishop-elect Musa said. 

Education, teaching, pastoral duties, demographics of Katsina: At the time of his appointment, Bishop-elect Musa was a professor and director of the Center for the Study of African Culture and Communication at the Catholic Institute of West Africa in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, a position he has held from 2013. 

Bishop-elect Musa, ordained a priest in 1996, has a Doctorate in Communication Studies from the School of Journalism and Communication of University of Queensland in Saint Lucia, Brisbane, Australia, a Master’s in Dogmatic Theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), and a Licentiate in Social Sciences, with specialization in Communication, from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. 

He served as Vicar of the Administrator of the Holy Family Cathedral, Sokoto, and Diocesan Secretary at the Diocesan Chancery of Sokoto (1996-2000), secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Sokoto State (1998-2000) and executive committee member of the Nigeria Interreligious Council. Bishop-elect Musa has also had parish work experience in Sokoto Diocese as well as the Australian Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Katisina Diocese was created as the seventh suffragan of the Metropolitan See of Kaduna alongside Kafanchan, Kano, Kontagora, Minna, Sokoto, and Zaria dioceses. Before Katisina Diocese was carved out from Sokoto Diocese, it had the largest territory in Nigeria — covering the four states of Sokoto, Katsina, and Zamfara and some parts of Kebbi. 

The new Katisina Diocese has a territory size of 29,000 square kilometres, a population of 9.66 million out of which only 19,000 are Catholics in 10 parishes and 72 mission stations served by 11 diocesan priests, three fidei donum priests, a religious priest, five nuns and 48 catechists. The diocese runs 16 primary and secondary schools, and a clinic. It will have St. Martin de Porres Church as its cathedral.

By Justine John Dyikuk | Nigeria                               October 24, 2023

Reprinted with permission from La Croix

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