SUNDAY July 15, 2018 was a day that would linger in the minds of Catholic faithfuls in the Federal Capital Territory for a long time as priests all over the country took turns to showcase their entertainment sides before worshippers who trooped out en masse to be thrilled at the Chida Events Centre, Abuja.
Center: L-R: Very Rev. Mosignor Sylvester Osigweh, Parish Priest, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Ifo;Bishop Kayode Odetoyinbo, Bishop, Abeokuta Catholic Diocese; Rev Fr. Chris Usifo, Asst priest, St. Mary’s Church, flanked by newly confirmed Catholic faithul by the Bishop on Sunday February 14 in Ifo, Ogun State.
It was not a solemn mass that was being celebrated but a novel talents show organised by the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja for priests to connect deeper with the young at heart through entertainment and arts.
The show tagged: ‘Priests Got Talent’ featured members of the clergy competing for various cash prizes through a display of their special talents in music, dance, drama, poetry etc all of which are graded by a jury based on certain laid down criteria.
Though winners emerged but they all agreed to donate their prize money direct to various charities of their choice to drive home the point that the show had a noble agenda.
On the sidelines of the show, priests, reverend sisters, and seminarians were seen, without the usual religious attires and garments they are known for, taken selfies, sharing jokes, chatting and socialising with faithfuls.
In a chat with His Grace, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Archbishop of Abuja, Sunday Vanguard learnt that the show was staged to provide platform for deepening the fraternity between clergy and laity and to encourage the youths to express their gifts talents and abilities to the fullest extents.
“Talent show is one way to make the youths feel at home with the priests. You really move with people who understand your language and the way you feel. I have been telling my priests who are young, don’t forget you are part of the youth
“All these priests already have jobs. They are not going to make a living from singing or dancing or acting. It is not a way of making money or overcoming unemployment.
“What the people around can learn is that if you have a talent, express it to the best of your abilities without thinking in terms of what you will get from it.
“Personally, from my own point of view, I am glad that my young priests are coming out and wanting to express their talents beyond the perception people have of them as good preachers or weak social workers. They can also be good musicians. It is good that they have been able to merge it and coordinate it with their normal practice as priests. So that when people see Rev. Fathers, they will not think they are people brought down from heaven,” Onaiyekan said.
.Asked if he was not worried that permitting priests to dance to secular music and the likes in the name of talent show, the Cardinal said: “When the plan for this kind of show was presented to me, I received it with my usual attitude of letting the spirit move even if I am not sonsure where it is going.
“I asked that my priests go ahead and plan it. Some people were sending me messages, saying that what they are hearing that priests want to do is unbecoming of the Catholic faith and that, as it were, bringing down the dignity of the Catholic church.
“I thanked them for their observation but I did not see them as sufficient for me to clampdown on this project. In whatever you do, you cannot please everybody.
“But there is one other aspect to this. There are many artistes out there. Some of them think that what they are doing has nothing to do with their faith. But when they see a Rev. Fr. being an artiste and performing, they are encouraged to know that they can be artistes, singers, musicians, actors and actresses, and still be very good Christians and indeed express their Christian faith through art. You can only witness to God through who you are and what you have. That is why I decided by all means to be present at this occasion. So as to encourage them in what they are doing.
As you know, priests here are coming from all over Nigeria. There a only only one or two from my diocese.”
Similarly, the Auxiliary Bishop of Abuja, Most Revd Anselm Umoren argued that the show was not immoral, saying that the purpose of the talents show was to allow priests show the faithful their other sides “not usually associated with them”.
He further disclosed that the church would establish a creative studio to enable young people to develop their talents.
When Sunday Vanguard sought to know of there would be be another edition of the Priests Got Talent show, Bishop Umoren responded:
“Certainly there would be. Maybe, then, a lot more people around the country would get involved. It is something we are proud of and wish to sustain, because it will help the priests a lot more in their work with young people.”
One of the participating clergyman, Fr. Manzani said he threw his hat in the ring to participate in the talent show because he had realised that the gospel could be ministered with positive effects not just through the pulpit but also through arts and entertainment.
“More so, the cash prize would be donated to support a charity cause which is a laudable gesture I desire to support,” he added.