may be hard to tell the similarity between the weather under which the Apostles chose and consecrated the first deacons and that of April 7, 2018 diaconate ordination at the Institut de Théologie de la Compagnie de Jésus (ITCJ), the Jesuit school of theology, Abidjan. Unlike the event recorded in Acts 6:1-7, the faithful and friends present at the ordination, though diverse, were neither Hellenists nor Hebrews. The men called forth to the ministry of deacons, too, were twice as many as the first set of deacons consecrated by the Apostles. And yet when the fourteen ordinandi, the ordaining prelate, Bishop Louis Portella Mbuyu (Bishop of Kinkala, Congo Brazzaville) and other ministers solemnly made their way to the cube-shaped, beautiful chapel of the school, there was a convergence of the fundamental objectives of the past and the present.
The well animated Eucharistic celebration began at 10am (local time), as planned. Of the fourteen deacons there were eleven Jesuits from seven nationalities: Bationo Daniel (Ivory Coast), Houeha Maurice (Bénin), Ikyondo Hiifan (Nigeria), Korassi Carlos (Cameroon), Mbogue Theophane (Cameroon), Mubiala Adolphe (DRC), Ndjulu Eric (DRC), Ranaivomananjara Victorien (Madagascar), Rimasbe Jean-Claude (Tchad), Tolande Gabriel (DRC), and Topia Jacques-Giscard (DRC). The other deacons were members of the Clerics of St Viator: Koua Honorat (Ivory Coast), Ogudo Kingsley (Nigeria), and Ouedraogo Gabriel (Burkina Faso). These men are currently in their final phase of theological studies at ITCJ.
For Jesuits in formation, ordination to the diaconate is the final step in preparation for priestly ordination in the Society of Jesus. Deacons are ordained to a ministry of service, with special concern for the poor. They are also tasked with the proclamation of the Word of God, preaching and presiding at the sacraments of baptism and marriage and at the rite of Christian burial.
Bishop Mbuyu encouraged the deacons to live lives as witnesses of authenticity, to communicate the love of Gospel to others and, in so doing, draw men and women into the friendship of Christ. Linking tradition to the present, he reminded the deacons that the ministry to which they have freely availed themselves ought not to be for service alone but also for the “audacious” proclamation of God’s Word. “Ordination”, he told them, “is not a promotion” but “an adventure of service”. This service, he added, should be engaged daily with the spirit of humility, which is at the heart of the ministry of deacons.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Hiifan, one of the deacons, expressed warm appreciation to Bishop Mbuyu who, despite other important engagements and distance accepted to preside at the ordination. Hiifan also conveyed appreciation to the faculty staff of ITCJ for creating not only an enabling environment for theological reflections but also an environment that facilitate a wholesome human growth. He finished his series of appreciations by thanking friends and faithful present, and the families of the deacons who, according to him, were the “first church” they knew.
The provincial of the Jesuit province of Central Africa, Fr José Minaku, on behalf of the Jesuit Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (JESAM), expressed the Conference’s immense gratitude to Fr Yvon Christian Elenga for his service as rector of ITCJ. Fr Elenga will soon be rounding off his 6-year mission as rector.
After having chosen fourteen from among “us” and consecrated them for service in the Church, the Mass which began at 10am in a joyful mood continued in the same climate, and came to an end a little more than three hours later, followed by reception. The ordination Mass and the event that followed left ITCJ and its environs with an air of joy and hearts more delighted.
Amadi Eziokwubundu, SJ