Jos, the Plateau State capital, witnessed an unusual event last Sunday as a Catholic church joined 52 men with 52 women in a mass wedding ceremony involving an unprecedented number of couples. St. Moses Parish of the Catholic Church located in Tudunwada, Jos North Local Government Area, Plateau State, facilitated the tying of nuptial knots by the love birds who took turns to take marriage oaths before they were formally joined in holy matrimony.
The mass wedding was the first of its kind not only in Jos but the entire Plateau State. Of course, there had been mass weddings before that day, but none of them involved more than 20 couples at a time. The ring road that passes through Tudunwada community became almost impassable for motorists as the community where St. Moses Catholic Church was located witnessed the biggest crowd in its history. The road witnessed the most hectic traffic congestion ever as both the celebrants and their guests and relations as well as other road users struggled to wriggle their ways out of the snarl. Ironically, many of the new couples were happy that their wedding could account for so much traffic congestion.
Interestingly, all the couples had been married in the traditional way and most of them had lived together in marriage for years. Many of them had even raised children and were looking forward to their grandchildren. But they felt that their lives were not complete because they had all along shut Jesus Christ out of their marriage. Even in the church, there was a limit beyond which they could not rise because as far as the church was concerned, they were not officially married. Even the larger society mocked them, hence their resolve to take their marriage oaths before the congregation.
It was observed that many of them could not arrange for white garment wedding before they began to raise children due to their poor economic conditions. Because they could not afford the cost of church wedding, the husbands and wives agreed to go ahead to raise children while praying for the day they would have enough savings for church marriage.
One of the couples identified simply as Mr and Mrs Samuel, said: “As Christians, for everything we do in life, we ask God to take control of our plan. Ours is to have the plan, it is God that executes it. We also believe that God’s time is the best. We might have had it in mind to confirm our marriage all this while, but that did not come to be until today. So, we believe that this day is the day chosen by God for our church wedding.
“It is all for good because even without coming before God in marriage, God has been with us. God has blessed us with children. God gave us boys and girls, and we consider that as a huge blessing in our lives.”
Another couple, Mr and Mrs David, said: “All fingers created by God are not equal. Organising a church marriage in this modern life is not easy. But you must get married at the ripe age irrespective of your economic situation. So after our traditional marriage, we decided to postpone the church wedding pending when we would have sustainable income to sponsor our wedding.
“But we appreciate God for sparing our lives till today to make our plan real. Some were not lucky to get to this day, so this wedding is a celebration of our married life. It is about celebrating God for the number of children He has blessed us with. It is also a thanksgiving to God for our lives.”
Mr and Mrs Stephen: “It was a burden on our heads that we were not able to have our marriage confirmed by God. We feel so relieved today that we have taken that burden off our heads.”
According to the Parish Priest of St. Moses Catholic Church, “the essence of marriage is for a couple to live happily. These couples have had happiness in abundance in their lives since they have been together. They are happy and contented irrespective of their weak financial positions.
“So, marriage is not about money or expensive marriage ceremony. It is all about the couple being happy and contented with where God has placed them in life. So I see their holy sacrament today as a celebration of happy life, happy couples and happy family.”
Interestingly, some of the couples had to wait for their children to sponsor their weddings. They had struggled to train their children only for the children to grow up and realize that their parents’ marriage rites were not completed. It became a challenge to them. To them, their parents must have sacrificed the money they would have used for marriage to pay their school fees and feed them. So when the children discovered this, they picked up the challenge to pay their parents back by making sure their marriage rites were performed. The church has the record of members who need to complete their marriage rites. So it decided to set a date for such members. The chosen date was October 11, 2015.
Due to the importance the Catholic Church attaches to marriage, the oath is often conducted by the Archbishop himself. So on that fateful day, the Catholic Archbishop of Jos, His Grace, Bishop Ignatius Kaigama, was there in person to officiate. When it came to taking marriage oaths, he asked all the 52 couples to repeat some words after him, and they all did. The couples took the oath in chorus, exchanged the marriage rings at the same time and later signed the marriage certificates under the watch of the Archbishop.
Bishop Kaigama, who is the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, said: “The Catholic Church will not relent in its support of procreation in the country, against the ideology of some societies campaigning against it. The 52 couples joined today is an unprecedented number in the growth of the family of Christ and the diocese. The sacrament of marriage also witnessed alongside the sacrament of confirmation of 217 soldiers of Christ.”
He added: “We, as leaders saddled with the responsibility to shepherd the flocks of God, the church would continue to support procreation in the world because the living God said we should go into the world to multiply and fill the earth.”
Bishop Kaigama expressed deep concern about the negative ideology of some countries in the world championing same-sex union and want to compel other nations in Africa and other parts of the world to legalise the same-sex ideology.
He said: “Let me use this opportunity to warn the rest of the world not to accept the ungodly ideology of same-sex.”
The Parish Priest of St. Moses Catholic Church,Wada, Jos, Rev. Father Joseph Mancha, who used the opportunity to eulogise the Bishop of Jos Catholic Diocess, described Bishop Kaigama as a true Shepherd whose selfless work is not just within the diocese but the world at large.
Father Mancha described Kaigama is an ambassador of peace, following his recent award by an Italian based reputable international organisation, Archvio Disarmo or Richerche International Institute as the recipient of their Golden Dove for Peace.
Mancha said: “This is the fruit of your local and international tireless and selfless efforts in building bridges and the consensus of ecumenism on the interfaith dialogue, peaceful co-existence and inter-religious harmony in the world.
“By this, we are proud to note that you have joined the illustrious company of great statesmen like Nelson Mandela, Perez De Cuellar, Jesse Jackson, Mohammed Elbardei and Jane Goodall in building a peaceful society in the world.”
Mancha stressed that the parish and the parishioners were blessed with the presence of the Kaigama, adding that the bishop had strengthen the spiritual growth of his people.
The newly confirmed couples marched out of the church to have their photographs at the end of the service. Most of them later took their guests to their family homes for reception as there were no enough parks or gardens in the city to accommodate them and their guests. Besides, it was obvious that most of them could not muster the funds to rent a park.
Included among the new couples were: Mr. Chrisantus and his wife Lucy; Mr. Jonathan and his wife Catherine; Mr. Thomas and his wife Christiana; Mr. Kenneth and his wife Evelyn; Mr. Augustine and wife Mary; Mr. Bitrus and wife Josephine; Mr. Francis and wife Catherine; Mr. Ishaya & wife Patricia: and Mr. Bitrus and wife Angela.
Others were: Mr. Joseph and wife Margaret; Mr. Samson and wife Pekes; Mr. Raymond and wife Justina; Mr. Joefrey and wife Cecilia; Mr. Peter and wife Mary; Mr. James and wife Grace; Mr. Haruna and wife Charity; Mr. Emmanuel and wife Roseline; Mr. Williams and wife Esther; Mr. Bitrus and wife Margaret; Mr. Victor and wife Tabitha; Mr. Anthony wife Grace; Mr. Francis and wife Regina; Mr. Sunday and wife Rose; Mr. Peter and wife Sarah; Mr. Luka and wife Mary; Mr. Thomas and wife Esther; and Mr. Ernest wife Esther.
Also on the roll were: Mr. Godwin and wife Ruth; Mr. Isaac and wife Magdaline; Mr. John Paul and wife Hanatu; Mr. Thomas and wife Victoria; Mr. Daniel and wife Josephine; Mr. Lawrence and wife Grace; Mr. David and wife Charity; Mr. Samson and wife Mary; Mr. Theophilus and wife Antonia; Mr. Boniface and wife Tabitha; Mr. Yohana and wife Deborah; Mr. Cletus and wife Longret; Mr. Peter and wife Grace; Mr. Joseph and wife Abigail; Mr. Kefas and wife Charity; Mr. Moses and wife Ruth; Mr. Moses and wife Mary; Mr. Peter and wife Angelia; Mr. Raphael and wife Margaret; and Mr. Stephen and wife Gloria.