this place I see so much. So much that should be lost to silence because wisdom
is often couched in the silence than in the confrontations. I am also often
couched in this silence. Yes, the silence of my inner rebellion - the rebellion
of my conscience against the storm that we can all see approaching. That
perhaps we might all still be missing the mark. That I might right now have the
chance to say something, stop this and done nothing yet.
not exactly how my Bible puts it,’ Tunde retorts.
mine says that Abraham was God’s friend.’ Fola insisted, ‘And God is not an
author of confusion.’
we can’t exactly say that given the story of the Tower of Babel,’ Annabel spoke
up. ‘There was so much confusion there if you ask me.’
one is asking,’ I said with as much firmness as I could garner. ‘Let’s just
stick to the business of the day. This time, focusing on the outline…’
is pretty much how things have been going on since I arrived at St. Angelica
Parish. So much so that it strangled my once fervent attachment to communal
Bible Study sessions. I have never seen people get so caught up with trying to
out-study the others or out-memorise the others in Bible verses.
is a contest.
masses here are prolonged due to announcements- which are always read at an
extra-ordinarily slow pace. The church halls are too chilly. Unfortunately
everyone seems to be comfortable. Even the women who clad themselves with veils
like Muslim women, and the men who now wear three piece suits in church only to
be scourged by the ruthless Nigerian sun at the bus stops as they wait for
overcrowded public buses with ‘one chance’ or two.
been generally just a silent routine. Or so it seems. Like an over-rehearsed
dance pattern to an over sang opera. I am part of this too, for three months
again, I have learnt to steal away from the stage every now and then. I sink
into private reflection sessions with myself; locking me in, my ears plugged
with either BoyzIIMen or Styl-Plus. This is not exactly the ideal taste of a
newly ordained priest. But then, no one has said anything about compulsory hymn
listening till death do us part.
also have other not too ideal habits: Remaining in the chapel on Saturday
nights after everyone but the altar girls have left. I love the play on colours
of the ribbons and satin fabric as they pin them here and there decorating the
altar. I like to watch them as they say almost nothing to each other. I have
not memorised their names yet- though I have asked all of them one time too
many. Perhaps my memory has stubbornly chosen not too. I will be here for a little
while more anyway.
the colours and satin are not the only things that strap me to the back row of
the peel, watching. It was Tunde, the only male altar girl who is also an altar
boy -the only boy, in the church, who stays back to blow balloons and pins
satin. The only one whose judgment is most trusted by the girls as regards the
designs. The only one who strings the girls together and makes them laugh. His
presence amongst them makes their interaction and work almost theatrical-
nothing like opera.
was replacing the sheets in my room the day I arrived. He had greeted me
courteously, and I had stretched out my hand for a handshake when he bowed to
be blessed. There was something so strikingly familiar about him, too familiar.
I could not trace the sign of the cross; I just wanted to shake his hands.
feeling grew stronger every time he stuck out his tongue for communion during
mass; every time we locked glances in the course of sermons and every time I
stayed up late on Saturday nights.
did not bother me. Perhaps, I liked this one. Perhaps there was something to
learn here- something to take or give. To this one, I knew I could be more than
just ‘Fada’- more than just a priest. And with time he found his way into my
prayers and my heart. Eventually I reached out for him.
I think of every time, he sat beside me in the vehicle as we went for
evangelism. He was awfully quiet. Well, that was at the earlier stages. He
began warming up to me after I played T.Y. Bello’s Green Land- we sang along
like two teenage lovers. I liked that.
things got sour when people started talking.
you think you are spending too much time with this chap?’ Father Anthony asked
one evening after Block Rosary meeting.
are saying things you know.’ He said.
are bound to say stuff.’ I responded.
know, Father Cornelius, but this not just stuff. As priest we have to be very
careful about the impression we give to our followers.’
am not aware that I did anything to give a wrong impression.’ I said. I did not
want to defend myself, but I was left with no choice. The evening was cold and
windy. Our cassocks fluttered in the air behind as we got closer and closer to
understand you,’ I finally said after Father Anthony’s sermon, ‘But I feel
strongly in the spirit that God had predestined my meeting Tunde. That boy has
a great assignment on earth and I’m led to play my part in it. I appreciate
your concern but I believe that God is in charge of everything.’
if you say so. I hope things don’t escalate as they did the last time.’
it’s written, who am I to hope otherwise?’
had been told that the priest I replaced was sent away because he was accused
of indulging in immoral acts with the female members of the congregation. The
chaplain here did not like things to escalate. He has a reputation for solving
issues before they bloomed into problems.
am I to hope otherwise? I started receiving very disturbing text messages on my
private line from individuals who seemed to be anonymous members of the
of them were quite derogatory, accusing me of having a sacrilegious
relationship with Tunde. Some of them read that the only thing I was good at
was driving about with young boys in my car. A few of them were quite polite,
asking me to distance myself from Tunde before he corrupts me with his
one read: ‘Father Cornelius, I found you first. I can give you whatever Tunde
gives double. Though, you have refused to notice me, I will not stop trying.’
a priest can only take so much.
was distressed. But then, I wanted Tunde’s friendship even more. Everything
seemed most distorted when he was not around. Everyone seemed to be looking at
me, strangely. It seemed as though I could read their minds judging me.
Whenever, I celebrated mass, I noticed that individuals and families walked out
once the sermon began.
prayed. I cried. The Bishop of our diocese had sent for me and I was advised to
pack up before I went to see him that I may not be returning.
saw Tunde at a bus stop just before he got into a bus en route the Bishop’s
parish. He did not see me. I wondered what was on his mind. The previous day, he
treated me to lunch of shawarma and coke at an eatery in town. It was his
birthday. While we ate, he told me that He had been asked to stop decorating
the altar with the altar girls. I had not told him of the Bishop’s invitation.
But no secrets are kept at Saint Angelica.
understand that he is a mass servant.’ The Bishop said.
is it about him that makes you want to throw your calling away?’ He asked.
don’t want to throw my calling away.’
know that people think that you are sleeping with this young man, right?’ he
do you think about these statements?’
I haven’t asked whether they are true or not. I asked of your thoughts about them.’
had not articulated my thoughts yet. I had never encountered situations like
this. I had never been accused of homosexuality. I have never been a
homosexual. But I had also never taken time out to figure out what I felt about
these statements or what I had with Tunde.
waiting to hear you, Father Cornelius.’ He bishop said snatching me from my
came hours too soon. I was back in my room on my bed. For the first it occurred
to me that things had actually escalated.
my heart had chosen to love share God’s love with Tunde, and the church
later, I am in another parish.
I need to leave the parish.’ Father Cecil.
now, no one handles those kids like you do.’ I said.
I’m weak and I need to clear my head.’ He said.
will not stand in the way of decision’ I said, ‘But you will always be stronger
than you know.’
need to seek the face of God.’ He said.
face doesn’t spare you your assignment, it fortifies you for it.’ I said.
are saying things: that I harass the kids, that I’m girly. Some kids even call
me woman wrapper when I’m not looking…’
have come this far. He said it would be possible not easy.’ I said.
then some teenage girls and boys walked up to us.
evening’ we said, one of the boys, Bayo, embracing Father Cecil.
Cecil, the auditorium is ready now,’ Adanma said.
the class is still thirty away. It’s only 3:30pm.’
Cee, you know that last time you did not finish answering our questions. We
were hoping we would start earlier today. Plea…………………………se’
does okay dear, please give us three minutes and he’ll be with you.
the peace of the afternoon, my hands traced the sign of the cross in the air.
kids need you. I need you.’
don’t know how much more I can take,’ Father Cecil said.
is here with us.’
patted ways, my fingers tapping my phone screen.
replied, ‘If there was ever an angel. It is you.’
without you frightens me,’ I texted back, ‘be strong, Tunde. I am proud of
you.’ I thought.