Sr. Mary Balogun RSC is a pastoral ministry worker in Christ the King Parish, Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Her ministry involves visitation of parishioners in their homes, market and work places. This has enabled her to know the kind of environment and surroundings in which the parishioners live.
It has also helped her to have personal contact with some individual families, thus creating the forum to know their Sacramental status and their level of participation in the church. In the cause of her visitation, some pastoral needs of the parishioners have been addressed. Parishioners who have not received the Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation were from time to time encouraged to commence catechism classes. Couples who are living together without the Sacrament of Matrimony are advised and supported spiritually and otherwise to have their marriage blessed through “Mass Wedding”. The sick parishioners at home and in hospitals are being care for as well, and Holy Communion is brought to them on regular basis once every week. However, after the reception of these Sacraments, there is always a follow-up visit by Sr. Mary to encourage the parishioners on their faith journey until mission is accomplished. Nevertheless, home visitation has not only brought about some positive changes in the lives of the parishioners, it has also promoted the care and concern of one another in the neighborhood. Parishioners feel identified with, especially in the moment of ill-health, bereavement and other joyful celebrations.
In the meantime, due to increase in the population of the parish, there is also a concern on how to meet with the spiritual and temporal needs. Therefore, the Parish Priest, Rev Fr. Michael Akere, thought it wise to introduce Small Christian Communities at Parish level. In view of this, he organized a four-day seminar/workshop to create enlightenment awareness on Small Christian Communities. Since then, the training of the Small Christian Community facilitators has commenced, and eight Small Christian Communities have been established in the parish with twelve qualified trained facilitators. Other facilitators are participating in the on-going training/formation programme. The aim of the Small Christian Community is basically to help form the lives of the parishioners according to God’s Word; living in the spirit of togetherness within the neighborhood; caring for the sick and the needy; helping to spread the Good News to all. It is quite obvious that this has taken a giant stride in achieving its goals within the past few months, hence building a stronger and closely-knit Community. For Sr. Mary, the church has welcomed the Small Christian Communities, and much still has to be done in the area of membership strength. Many more Communities have to be created. She looks forward to further progress in the parishioners’ faith journey, and she prays God to inspire all parishioners to embrace the germinating seed of Small Christian Communities, so that Christ the King members will experience a life of oneness and love as practiced by the early Christian.