• Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

What if Fr Adolf Poll was a Nigerian


All of you are now canonizing Fr Adolf Poll for his heroic attitude towards material things. I’m not saying that you are wrong. The truth is that it takes a great heart to be detached from material possession as he did.

I have also read those who think that he was able to do that because, in his country, the system is organized to assure he lacks nothing on reaching home.

Do not get this wrong, I’m an iPriest and a photographer. My camera and its lenses alone are already enough to be a carry-on bag. I also am so attached to my computer, and other gadgets that travelling without them is already like being naked. Call my attitude worldliness, but every missionary has his or her tools of evangelization.

However, Fr Poll might not have travelled with those gadgets as he could procure better ones in Italy. Yet, how many of us would have gone home without carrying one Maasai statue, Kikuyu drawing, Samburu ornament, Lou fabric, or even a Meru harvesting sickle? You see, poverty is not a concept. Many poor people are too materialistic than rich people. So, Fr Poll is not poor, but he has a heart that is not attached to material things.

But those are not my preoccupations here. My take is on those who extol his action. They are right to do because his action is heroic. Yet, why are they often the ones that force their “religious” cousins and friends (sisters, brothers and both secular and religious priests) to travel with excess baggage whenever they are returning home?

You see, many of these missionaries would want to come home with only their telephone and few belongings if the expectations of their family members and acquaintances are not too high. If a nephew is not anticipating a computer, a relative is expecting some shoes. When a friend is not hoping on receiving a telephone, a buddy of a friend is awaiting an iPad. How many of you will be disappointed if your cousin priest, sister or brother comes back simply with two bags like Fr Poll?

Four years ago, I decided to ride a motorbike during my vacation. Lucky enough my immediate family and true friends know me enough to understand I do things my way. We had a very nice bike. And do you know what happened? Many people went to my friends to ask if it is normal that I ride a motorcycle instead of a vehicle. As they do not know that being rich is not always about where one dwells, they thought I could not be poor as I work in Canada. Some said that it could have been understandable if I had come back from one small African country.

I could indeed have asked my community or a colleague to lend me a car, but the reality is that I can’t personally afford a car.

The next holiday, I decided to ride a bicycle when I wasn’t using my brother’s car. Heavens got loose when people saw me moving about on a bicycle. Does that make me a better priest? Far from that. It only made me spend my holidays on my terms.

So, as you praise Fr Adolf Poll for his heroic virtue, ask yourself how often you push that your priest friend, sister and brother to travel with uncountable bags.

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