My name is Charles, Charles Nwoko. I am a writer, an academia (Climate Change) and an entrepreneur, engaged in designing, developing and manufacturing children’s educational products and learning toys. I was born in Eastern Nigeria about sixty years ago. We were born six in number, but one of us has died, just like our parents. I am married with four children and we live here in Finland. I was baptized and married in the Catholic Church, just like my parents. I initially came to Finland to further my studies and over time, I have obtained the following degrees; Masters in mechanical engineering (1986) Technical Licentiate (1999), LL.M (2007) and Doctor of Science (D.Sc 2014). I have studied with no financial assistance from anyone; I have worked part-time and studied fulltime. I have lived in Finland more than I have lived in Nigeria, yet I am not bored, because, no single country can offer everything.
My Catholic Life:
If I were to be born again and asked what faith I would belong to, my ready-awaiting-answer would be Christianity. And if I am further asked which denomination in Christianity would I fellowship with, I would quickly say, the Catholic faith.
I did neither choose to be a Christian nor a Catholic; I was just born into them some sixty years ago. And since then, like my late parents, I have never regretted my Catholic background and faith.
I am sorry to say that I have two Catholic lives; a Sunday Mass-going Catholic in Finland and Everyday Mass-going Catholic in Nigeria. I have often queried myself why this divergence in my Catholic life, but my nearest answer had similarly created arrays of questions than answers. Though, I have tried to understand why my Catholic practices in Nigeria differ significantly from that of Finland, and yet I cannot explain why the disparity in its fullest sense of it. I often blame it on the Finnish weather that holds me hostage in bed in mornings, and sometimes I blame it on non-active Catholic population in Finland, but in truth, these are mere excuses. And this significant area that I am talking about is ability to snap awake and attend morning masses in Finland. Here in Finland, it has been an uphill task waking up in the mornings to attend the morning masses as I used to attend in Nigeria. And another engagement which I miss is the Legion of Mary which I belonged to in Nigeria, and was an active member, and which I do not belong to here in Finland. These two aspects are things at the uppermost part of my mind.
Overcoming the Challenges:
It is not a hearsay but an undisputed truth that many Africans in Finland were Catholics before they left the shores of their home countries for Finland, but many of them have derailed and had become either unreligious at worst or anti-Catholics on arrival to Finland. Some would manufacture excuses that the Catholic masses and other activities were boring them. Some would even tell a tale that they have left the Catholic Church because they have discovered another religion, or perhaps another miracle god that answers prayers by fire. No matter under what cocoons these runner away brothers and sisters would hide under, it isn’t enough reason to leave the Catholic faith.
Please, my dearest fellow Catholics, could you allow me the grace to use my humble life in Finland to explain what I mean. I have studied well here in Finland, ranging from engineering to business economics to law, and have been engaged in several jobs, ranging from a humble cleaner to a factory worker, to an engineering designer in an oil refinery, to a consultant, to a university lecturer/visiting professor, and to owning a manufacturing company. And I can tell you that without my Christian background and my unshakable love for the mother of God, Our Blessed Virgin Mary, whom I ask for her prayers on daily bases, I do not think I could have achieved the little I have achieved here in Finland amid difficulties and social challenges, considering that I arrived to Finland with very little money, which my widowed mother had saved from her little business because my father died before he aged forty years when I was just eleven years old. Therefore, on the bases of my humble life; I am not saying that my life is perfect – far from that, or saying that you should mirror your life from my silhouette, but that we as humans do at times copy and paste certain things we admire as to enrich what we already have.
Harbinger to Go Forward:
African Catholicism in Finland has changed. Worshipping God in diversity has now taken the center stage. This is as the result of our lordship, + Bishop Teemu Sippo SCJ, in his wisdom, has established the African Chaplaincy on June 4th 2017; and what a day to launch the African Chaplaincy – on the Pentecost Day; the day and event of the beginning. African Chaplaincy had just become a come-back to my long-ago way of practicing the Catholic faith; not only me, but to others, too. And not only throwing me head on to my active Catholicism, it has further enabled me fellowship with other Africans in their respective traditional ways, thus blending a truly Catholicism in diversity. To this, I am very grateful to our bishop for his wisdom and spirit of innovation. As we collectively and singly thank our lordship, + Teemu Sippo SCJ for granting us the permission to fellowship together and worship God in our diversity, we should also appreciate our able Chaplain, Reverend Father Leonard Bello, including our parish priests of Saint Mary’s and Saint Henrys, for carrying along the spirit of the African Chaplaincy in Finland.