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Mother mary Claude declares Diamond Jubilee Week Open on 25th September, 2012

Opening Address Presented at the Flag-Off of the Climax
Week of the Diamond Jub
ilee Celebration of the Immaculate


Heart of Mary, Mother of Christ Congregation

by the Superior General, Rev. Mother Mary Claude Oguh IHM On September 25, 2012


Very Rev. Msgr., Frs., Superiors General, My Sisters in the Immaculate
Heart of Mary Family, our beloved Children, Ladies and Gentle Men.

Missionary activities have their origin in the eternal gratuitous and mysterious loving wisdom of God, who chose the human person to share in His own divine life (Cf LG 2). After the dramatic fall of man that we read about in Gen. 3, God continued to draw man to Himself with the people of Israel as the point of contact. Then in the fullness of time as the ultimate expression of His intention to save the humankind, He gathered men together in Christ in the Church. With the out pouring of the Holy Spirit, after the resurrection of Jesus the men who were with him got the courage to publicly launch the Church and begin to spread the Gospel by preaching to the people everywhere. As we can see, it is the nature of the Church to be missionary and this endeavour she has sustained down through the ages (cf CCC 758 - 768). By the time Charles Heerey was born in 1890 these missionaries had already evangelized his native Ireland.

So Charles Heerey caught the missionary flame at the dawn of his life and did not waste much time before joining the band-wagon of those who were taking the flame to Africa. He arrived Nigeria in 1922 in the prime of his youth ready even to die so that the gospel message may be proclaimed. From Calabar, the point of entry he moved into the hinterland as the Lord directed through his superiors. As a religious he was totally committed to his life and unreservedly applied himself to the mission for which he came. The different assignments entrusted to him brought him face to face with the many challenges that constituted hindrances to
the firm rooting of the gospel message among the people of the Vicariate: sickness, ignorance, superstition, marginalization of the poor and the weak, lack of depth in those who had already embraced the Christian faith, etc. This state of affairs made a deep impression on his compassionate and humble personality such that he was determined to change things around, and by the' grace of God to better the life of the people in order to win the whole territory and beyond for Christ.

When he became bishop, his responsibility for the work of evangelization and deepening of the faith increased, and his scope for the appreciation of the challenges involved widened. Archbishop Charles Heerey, in the footsteps of his divine Master was well aware that the task of bringing people to God through spreading the Good News was at the same time enormous and personnel intensive. Therefore he needed extensions of himself in human resources. He embarked on serious appeal for more missionaries to come from abroad without much success. It also became clear to him that it would not be
possible to get all the missionaries needed to gather in the rich harvest of souls from abroad. He must as a matter of urgency look inward. And of course to be better able to penetrate the culture, the natives must be involved. This inspiration/desire to found indigenous religious congregation was boosted by the call from the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples on missionaries to develop the indigenous priestly and consecrated life wherever they found themselves in the world. To these ends he founded two indigenous religious congregations: Brothers of St. Peter Claver and the Sisters of Most Pure Heart of Mary.

The specific apostolic aims of Archbishop Charles Heerey in founding this indigenous congregation of women include: "the training of women and girls for marriage and other Sacraments, the education of children, the special care of the sick in hospitals, dispensaries and maternities, the care of orphans, and any other work of charity in keeping with the Spirit of our foundation" (cf. Art 3 of Our Way of Life). Yes, it is true Archbishop Heerey was thinking of more hands for tending souls in his diocese but true to his altruistic nature he could not stop thinking of the needs of the universal Church. He therefore prescribed for the new religious institute; "They are also to be missionaries" (Letter of our founder, s" October, 1937). And since for Archbishop Heerey there are no half measures, he insisted that they must be good missionaries when he wrote: "They will be good missionaries if they are good religious". For him the quality of life of the missionary is of primary importance. His joy knew no bounds as he saw the congregation spreading to other dioceses in Nigeria. In his simplicity he must have prayed his "Nunc Dimitis" when eventually he saw them go beyond the shores of Nigeria as missionaries to work in Sierra Leone in 1966. To pray for success and to confirm their missionary endeavour he personally visited them in Sierra Leone before his death in 1967. May God reward his generous soul, Amen.

Today the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is 75years with a population of over 900 members working in twelve (12) countries around the world. As we celebrate 75 years of our existence we thank God for His bountiful and gracious goodness to our Congregation. We thank Him for our cherished Father Founder, and for our gallant pioneers, for all we have encountered everywhere in the world, for all our Sisters wherever they are. In a very special way we thank Him for all that has been and say "Yes" to all that will be. As a sign of our appreciation of all the people we have met on this journey and of all our experiences, we have on display souvenirs from the different countries where we work. Also on exhibition are some of the products of the work of our hands. Inviting you all to a happy and memorable viewing of our exhibition in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in honour of our venerable Father Founder, of our courageous pioneers and of all of us, I flag-off this Climax Week of our Diamond Jubilee Celebration.


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