On Friday 22nd September 2023 Bishop Philip Moger ordained Longinus Anhanjo, Saleem Gurdas and Chigbo Ugwoke, as Permanent Deacons for the Archdiocese of Southwark. Their ordination follows a number of years of training and formation and they will go on to serve in various parishes within Southwark. Bishop Moger has kindly offered his Ordination Homily below.
DIACONATE ORDINATION OF
LONGINUS ANYANJO, SALEEM GURDAS & CHIGBO UGWUOKE
Southwark Cathedral 22nd September 2023
I’m always slightly amused when I hear those words from the prophecy of Jeremiah read at an Ordination:
I said, ‘Ah, Lord; look, I do not know how to speak: I am a child!’
because the one/those being ordained certainly aren’t children! Neither are our beloved brothers Longinus, Saleem & Chigbo who are being Ordained this evening!
And yet, Jeremiah has a proper reticence before the task God has given him. He was a young man and lived in troubled times in the 7th Century BC; his prophecy didn’t find favour with the authorities, though he wasn’t always announcing doom and gloom. But, as we heard, it was the Lord himself who called him, and put his words into his mouth.
Longinus, Saleem & Chigbo, you, like me, and all those in the Ordained ministry, might rightly feel that, faced with so great a task, we are, like Jeremiah, but children in the school of God’s service. We are utterly reliant on God’s grace. But we can be confident in receiving it. God doesn’t give a task, a Ministry without the means to accomplish it. As St Paul said, in our second reading,
Each one of us…… has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it.
A grace received not, in order to Lord it over God’s people, but for their service, their sanctification, to enable them to
Attain to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
You are very much men of your time and generation. Like everyone else, your formation – as well as your family life, no doubt - has been complicated by the ups and downs of Covid. But you’ve coped with that and God can cope with it, too!
In a few moments, Longinus, Saleem & Chigbo, you will be ordained Deacons. Awesome, yes; scary, no. The word that the Lord Jesus address to Simon Peter by the Sea of Galilee, and incidentally, is found in the Bible, 365 times (!), is addressed to you, too: Do not be afraid, In the Prayer of Consecration, before God is asked to send the Holy Spirit upon you, he is reminded (as if he needed it!),
You enrich (the Church) with every kind of grace, and perfect it with a diversity of members to serve the whole body in a wonderful pattern of unity.
So you are being ordained to take your place of service in Christ’s body, not as lone rangers or super-heroes but
helpers of the Bishop and his body of priests as ministers of the word, of the altar and of charity. (Homily in Roman Pontifical)
To this ministry, each of you brings rich experience, both in your professional life and the pastoral work in which you’ve already engaged in your parishes and communities. Each of you has made a journey, yes, from the place of your birth to South London, but, like each of us, a spiritual journey, following the promptings of the Holy Spirit to bring you here, now, this evening, to this moment.
Your diaconate will be exercised in the context of your vocation to marriage, so Veronica, Maria and Bernadette, have supported you in your training and preparation and will no doubt do so in your ministry.
Your sons and daughters, too, form part of the rich heritage which makes up your life.
Your family life is very important, it underpins your life, but although there has to be some demarcation about how you order your lives, God isn’t absent from any part of your living; there’s no such thing as ‘God-time’ isolated from everything else. All time is God’s and he watches over us - not like a CCTV camera in a city street or building, waiting to pounce, but he does watch over us. Longinus, Saleem & Chigbo, God will watch over you in your life and ministry, rejoicing in your joys, being compassionate at your mistakes, standing beside you as you show his face to those in need, strengthening you so that you
never turn away from the hope which the Gospel offers (ibid)
and giving you the grace to
express in action what you proclaim by word of mouth (ibid)