By Mia Brounstein
A bishop said devotion to Mary has been central to the growth of the Nigerian church during his talk on Sept. 15 in the Gentile Gallery.
Nigerian Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme, who presides over a diocese in northeast Nigeria, began his talk by describing the political situation his country is facing.
“Nigeria has been experiencing serious upheavals, especially in the area of persecution,” Doeme said.
Doeme said that, due to terrorist activity, hundreds of church properties have been destroyed, thousands of Catholics have been killed and countless more have been forced to flee the country.
Doeme added, “In the midst of severe persecution from the terrorist group called Boko Haram, the Church flourishes.”
Doeme went on to say that he received a vision early on in his time as bishop of Jesus the Good Shepherd holding a sword that became a rosary when it was handed to Doeme. The bishop said this prompted him to encourage greater Marian devotion within his diocese.
“As it is at the moment, our mother Mary has started working miracles in the diocese … because of our closeness to her,” the bishop said.
He went on to tell several stories of families and individuals who prayed the rosary and survived encounters with Boko Haram.
“We encourage families to form groups, to come together and pray the rosary,” Doeme said.
According to Doeme, the population of Catholics in his diocese has increased to over 10,000 more than it was before the Boko Haram persecutions.
“The increase in faith is manifesting itself different ways,” Doeme said. “Our people are now embracing the sacraments.”
The bishop encouraged his audience to pray to Mary for help in overcoming the difficulties faced by the Church in America.
Doeme closed by leading the audience in the song “Immaculate Mary.”
Doeme’s talk was attended by students, faculty members, religious and guests from outside the University. The speech received a standing ovation from the audience.
“It’s really beautiful to see the joy coming from the Nigerian church,” senior theology major Jordyn Manuel said of Doeme’s talk.
The bishop’s talk was a session of the International Marian Symposium, a two-day event held at Franciscan University centered on Marian theology.