By Francis Ewherido

As parents gathered in the chapel of St. Gregory’s College, Ikoyi, Lagos, for the Holy Mass to commence the graduation ceremonies of their children last Saturday, one feeling was mutual: joy. Beyond that, there were divergent feelings.

For some parents, St. Gregory’s was a refuge for their children while away from home. Now they are moving to the university with cultism and other social vices and they are worried about how their children would cope. Some are worried about how their children will manage the new found freedom when they get to the university.

Those who will send their children to private universities or foreign universities were probably dealing with the arithmetic of the increased expenses. But while parents were struggling with their mixed emotions, the graduating students were chatting away in low tones, hugging and back-slapping themselves before the Mass started. They were certainly cherishing their impending “freedom,” away from the regimented life at St. Gregory’s: low hair cut, waking up at a specific hour, food timetable, etc.

The homilist and St. Gregory’s Assistant Administrator, the very cerebral Rev. Fr. John Njorteah, correctly gauged the feelings of the students. Seizing the opportunity of talking to them together for probably the last time, he told them some home truths about life out there. Parents kept nodding as Fr. John spoke. Please find below excerpts of the homily, a reference for every teenager and young adult.

My dear little ones, as you step out of this college today to go into the world, I humbly implore you to listen attentively to me as I share with you the word of God on this auspicious occasion. First, I would like you all (the graduands) to look around and see yourselves again. Today marks the end of your gathering together as a group.

Never shall you all be complete as a class. You have journeyed together as a group and today you are beginning another journey on your own. Yes, your individuality will be key in determining the extent you will go in life.

My dear friends, for some years now the college has taught and protected you, and now you are being unleashed into the world. This is the world that is full of evils and times have really changed. Insecurity is at its peak, kidnapping has become commonplace, economic hardship is killing our people, suicides and suicidal attempts are becoming rife among our people. Our cultural values are being eroded in the wake of imitating western trends and fashions, and there is less of everything in the world today.

Our phones have become wireless; cars, keyless; our dresses have become sleeveless, our youths, jobless; our leaders, shameless; our relationships, meaningless; our attitudes, careless; our feelings, heartless; our education, valueless and our children “manner-less” (ill-mannered).

Do not, therefore, fail to make recourse to the good training you had in the college. Indeed friends, you have been given the flesh of moral discipline and uprightness. Remain firm and sturdy in this path. Lies fill the length and breadth of the social media and move faster than the speed of light; thanks to the power of the internet.

Your academic foundation is one that is the envy of many who are not privileged and who might have desired to be beneficiaries. Let it not amount to naught. Your desire for freedom is realised. Know your freedom comes with responsibility. The era of pushing the blame to someone else gives way to the era of “I did it.” Put your future in good hands—your own.

Remember that we led you to God, allow Him to accompany you through your life. You were always instructed that there is a God who seeks the response of your love and wants you never to forget Him. Today, there is a neo-atheism.

Denial of spiritual realities and replacing God with money. We see the extent to which money has driven people to do the unimaginable in the country. Do not live above your means. Do not impress anyone. Practice your faith, live your faith and be glad to share it. Do not be ashamed to live for God.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it

living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinion drown your own inner voice. Be focused and firm on whatever path you want to tow in the university and with God’s help you will succeed. Remember that bad company corrupts good manners. Choose your friends and do not let your friends choose you, and ensure that you do not make friends with people of questionable character.

Today, you have a new mother in this institution, please do not put her to shame by your conduct and ways of life. Just as Jesus Christ enjoined his disciples in Mt. 28:19 to ‘Go therefore make disciples of all nations,’ in the same way you are being charged to become ambassadors of this college, and see to it that you contribute your own quota to the growth and development of this institution.

Continue to rely on the promise of Christ to you in the gospel reading when he says, ‘In the world you will suffer, take courage for I have overcome the world.’ You are being charged then to heal and not to contaminate the world, to build and not to destroy, to uplift and not to bring down, to support and not to oppose, to renew and not to ruin.

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