By Fr. Denis Slattery, S.M.A.,
Editor, "Catholic Herald," Lagos
IT is almost as though the fruits of the Queen's visit to Nigeria were being reaped before her arrival. Abandoning internal bitterness political leaders have declared a truce for the Royal tour.
Artisans are working night and day to make their highways worthy of a Queen.
Hundreds of thousands will line the route from lkeja Airport tomorrow — thousands of loyal Catholics, including 10,000 children, among them.
The first educational institute to greet the Queen will be the Training College of Our Lady of Apostles.
There are 1,100,000 Catholics and 500,000 catechumens—awaiting baptism—in a total Nigerian population of 32,000,000.
In Lagos the Queen will meet two Catholic Federal Cabinet Ministers. the Hon. Raymond Njoku and the Hon. Kola Balogun. A former Catholic colleague of theirs, 28-year-old Mr. Matthew Mhu, is now Federal Commissioner in London.
Year of destiny
Major Tronsi, another Catholic, the first Nigerian to be made an Equerry to the Queen, will accompany Her Majesty on her tour.
lit Holy Cross Cathedral. Lagos, on Sunday, Archbishop Leo Taytor, S.M.A., C.B.E., will preach at a High Mass of thanksgiving for the Queen's safe arrival. He will also attend the State dinner and garden party.
At Enugu, capita] of the Eastern Region, the Queen will meet Archbishop. Heerey, C.S.Sp., and Mgr. Anyogu. 0.11E., the first African Vicar General of Onitsha, and in Calabar Bishop Moynagh and the first Nigerian Bishop, Mgr. Dominic Ekandem.
At lhadan. capital of the Western Region, she will meet two Catholic regional Ministers. Chief the Hon. J. Odunjo and Chief the Hon. D. Akra n.
This is Nigeria's year of destiny: the three Regional Governments are to become independent of the Colonial Office. The parties, struggling for regional power, disagree sharply on the relationship of the regional Governments to the Federal Government—which may remain answerable to the Colonial Office.
All Nigerians dream of "One Nigeria." All agree on the need for federalism. But what sort of federalism is the burning issue. Then, 'Mel, Northerners, and the Southern parties of the Action Group and N.C.N.C., are at loggerheads on the question of breaking up the regions into States.
The hope is that the Queen's visit will do much to dispel interparty bitterness and pave the way for the London Constitutional Conference planned for September.
The Society of African Missions went to Lagos in 1862, and the Holy Ghost Fathers went. to ()nitsha in 1884. Both were made archiepiscopal sees by the Holy Father in 1951, when he established the Hierarchy for British West Africa.
Other congregations working in Nigeria include the Mill Hill Fathers, St. Patrick's Society, the White Fathers, the Augustinians, the Dominicans, the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, Sisters of the Holy Rosary, Holy Child nuns, Medical Missionaries of Mary, Franciscan nuns, and the Sisters of St. Louis.
There are, however, only 643 priests in the country and as many nuns and brothers. And only 65 African seminarists. Insufficient for present needs, their ranks desperately need swelling in the light of the present conversion rate.
But the outlook for the Church in Nigeria is bright. The Nigerians are a grateful people and remember that the Catholic missionaries set the pace in the country's education. Now a Catholic university is planned. Nearly all the professional men of the South are products of Christian mission schools.
Even in the predominantly Moslem North, Catholics number 100,000 already, mostly converted from the pagan groupings.