I think that it is good to make an affirmation that the whole idea of being a priest and religious today has been distorted and it has lost its identity. So, there are different kinds of priests and religious. When I mention priests, I include both religious and diocesan priests. It is quiet often to hear the lay faithful making statements such as ‘Fr. X was not doing things like this’ or ‘Fr. X was not demanding money from us’ or ‘Fr. X used to visit us’ or ‘Fr. X was not preaching well but he was there for us’. I, personally, have been told such statements and of course they suggest that something is not right somewhere. There may be many justifications of these statements from the side of the priests and religious but those would be mere justifications, the truth is that there is something which is not right somewhere. I do believe that some white missionaries are/were not good preachers because of the language barriers and the lay faithful were/are able to observe and appreciate that. However, the white missionaries defeat the black priests and religious simply because much as they may not preach well, they are there for people. People appreciate our presence even if we have nothing to offer them; the missionaries have been doing that very well.The white missionaries respected the lay faithful and we, the local religious and priests, have failed to respect our own people. This lack of respect is in regards in our failure to fulfill our responsibility towards the lay faithful of the Church. It is often heard that a priest has stopped going to distribute the Holy Communion to the sick and the aged at various homes because he does not get enough money from those Christians. Some priests and religious stop going to celebrate Masses to the remote outstations of their parishes with the claim that those places are far and they do not get enough money from there. Some good religious and priests have courage of standing in front of the congregation demanding money to the extent of insulting the people of God. I was told a story by a certain nun whom I met here in Nairobi, she is from one of the dioceses in South Africa; she told me that her parish priest tell the lay faithful that he will not give them sacraments (especially the anointment of the sick and the Holy Communion for those who no longer able to come to Church because of age or sickness) and he will not even bury them if they do not pay ‘isethembiso’. According to this nun, he does not only say this as a threat to people but he does it. What do such things suggest? They simply suggest that the whole idea of religious life and priesthood now rotates around money. I do not suggest that religious and priests should not ask support from the local Churches but the approach matters a lot. Again, what is a use of asking people to pay their money yet one is not accountable for that money? It is undeniable truth that it is the responsibility or a duty of a priest to give people the sacraments and it is the right of the lay faithful to receive the sacraments all the times either they pay or not. Therefore, it is very absurd for priests to refuse people sacraments because they have not paid whatever money is required.
I now pose the following questions: what is this vocation of being a religious and priests? Is it really about money? Does it make any sense if we abandon our responsibility simply because people do not give us money? Did we really become religious or priests for the sake of money? I have always believed that the primary responsibility of a religious and priest is to give life to the people of God. Remember the words of Jesus “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10b). That is what we are called to do as religious and priests, and once we have ignored that aspect of giving life, our apostolate has failed. If we believe that our vocation is to give life, we will give less importance to money. We may all know that it is impossible to concentrate on two things at the same time, and Jesus stated very well that one cannot have two masters; he will either hate one and love the other (Luke. 16:13). We, religious and priests, are destined to fail in our vocations if we intend to focus more on money at the expense of our responsibilities. It is high time that we wake up as local people of this African land and we try to learn how to do proper apostolate, that is, apostolate which is not so much controlled by money but by charity. It is high time that we begin respecting the people we serve keeping in mind that our vocation is not at all a profession but simply a vocation. Therefore, we need to dedicate our time to it and we do it with love.