Ehusani: When priesthood meets psychology
Some days ago, I posted a crisp and pithy admonition on my Facebook page. I had been disgusted by the way some social media users derive joy in posting tragic news and events on their page. So I said: “There are 365 days in a year, and many good things happen on those days. Don’t wait to be announcing only tragedy on your Facebook page. Also consider sharing good news.” Indeed, there are many good things happening around us. We only need to open our eyes and be a bit more sensitive to our environment to see them. And so, I have decided to share another good news in this piece. On November 7, 2017, at the well attended public ceremony of its 2017 Annual National Congress and Scientific Conference in Abuja, my friend and mentor, the Kogi-born Reverend Father George Ehusani was inducted as an Honorary Fellow of the Nigerian Psychological Association, becoming the first Catholic priest in Nigeria that I know to be so welcomed into this prestigious hall of fame.
Such recognition for a Catholic priest points to something deeper than the mere acceptance and appendage of a new title or the reception of an honorary diploma. It is about the quality of service that we render in critical areas of life where human beings are direly in need of love, compassion, forgiveness, care, healing and wholeness. In this light, you might wonder what Father Ehusani has got to do with psychology as an academic field of inquiry, knowing that his education spans from social ethics and cultural anthropology to divinity.
Well, for your information, in the last couple of years, Father Ehusani has been pioneering breathtaking initiatives in the professional turf of psychology. Having developed interest in the vital interplay between psychology, sociology, and Christian spirituality, he undertook intense and extensive personal study on the phenomenal impact of socio-cultural and psychic variables on human spirituality and religious wholeness. He saw a deep void, a need, a critical lack staring at the African human being in the struggle to reconcile life’s indeterminate choices with individual wholeness. Many of the challenges he identified affected a critical group of people who were understood by society to be “healers,” namely spiritual leaders. Father Ehusani did not sit back and lament profusely about the problem. He did not turn his eyes away from the challenge. He saw a problem, he judged its dimensions and possibilities, and he acted on it.
Going further, Father Ehusani single-handedly, with the assistance of close friends and funding partners, set up The Psycho-Spiritual Institute (PSI), the first of its kind, in Nairobi-Kenya, which is now affiliated to the Catholic University of East Africa (CUEA), for the award of Masters degree in the double majors of psycho-spiritual studies. The revolutionary insight in this academic field is the deliberate effort to bring two separate disciplines – psychology and spirituality – together in understanding the human person in his multifaceted dimensions. Already, a number of priests and religious from Nigeria and other African countries are studying this course in Nairobi, including two young priests of Abuja Archdiocese. Last year, PSI turned out its first set of graduands, who are already offering vital services in diverse fields of human endeavour. Plans are underway in the nearest future to expand the reach of PSI to the other regions of the African continent.
Moreover, Father Ehusani has also made significant national contributions, though quiet and ‘un-trumpeted,’ to the process of rehabilitation and reconciliation of IDPs and community leaders, largely drawn from the north east region of Nigeria, where Boko Haram has over the years instituted a horror culture of mayhem, mass murder and social dislocation. It was on the strength of this breathtaking contribution that Father Ehusani won the 2017 Konrad Adenauer Foundation’s International Prize for Human Solidarity, which was awarded to him at the Foundation’s Academy in Berlin, Germany in April 2017. When I published my piece, “Ehusani, IDPs and trauma healing” in The Guardian of April 14, 2016, it was in celebration of this singular achievement.
In that article, amongst other things, I said: “For Father Ehusani, reconciliation is not a choice but a necessity, if we are to transcend the hurts and mistakes of the past, and to avoid being susceptible to the danger of a new infection of hate and violence. The primary goal is to see that society is healed and the process that brings about this healing is reconciliation. Although reconciliation is a very painful process, it is necessary because it is the only process that will bring about healing. It is with this understanding that the South African Anglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace Laureate, Desmond Mpilo Tutu made ‘No Future Without Forgiveness’ the title of his 1999 book.” Till today, Father Ehusani has continued to carry out this great work through his leadership development institute, Lux Terra Foundation.
To those who know him, Father Ehusani is a highly cerebral yet disciplined fellow. His pungent analyses of social, political, religious, and cultural issues within the Nigerian and global contexts are always loaded with literary and linguistic explosives, as are his lectures, televised homilies, and numerous other media engagements, in which he has developed intense passion. From music, poetry, and leadership, to social criticism, media management, theology, and literature, Father Ehusani comes across as a really gifted and multi-talented man, full of life and effervescence, and putting his many endowments to the service of God and humankind.
I can personally attest to the fact that Father Ehusani is a firm believer in the innate goodness of human beings. Over the last eight years, he has conducted a regular mentoring and human development seminar for his young seminarian-friends drawn from all over the country and interested youth in Abuja. This is what leadership as positive influence means. You don’t have to be a governor or a minister or a senator or a managing director of a bank to lead. Leadership is not about office or position; it’s about the influence you wield and exercise in the lives of people. And so, no matter what you’d like to think about the man, you must concede in the end that such are the men who make the Catholic Church in Nigeria proud with their public engagements on behalf of the Social Gospel. Not very many people are so blessed by God with such a huge amount of humanistic, spiritual, literary, intellectual, and social gifts like Father George Ehusani. I don’t know how this song got into my mouth but it seems to best summarise my feeling about the man and his unshakeable faith in the work of God:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
Congratulations Father George. May Christ remain the solid rock on which you stand. Amen.
Ojeifo is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Abuja and one of Fr. Ehusani’s mentees.
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