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Expanding the Frontiers of Pastoral Leadership in a Changing Society

Festschrift for Peter Damian Akpunonu on the Occasion of His Priestly Golden Jubilee

Hyacinth E. Ichoku and Martin Joe U. Ibeh

Providing effective leadership in Church and society is one of the most difficult human endeavors. It influences the dynamics and quality of social and spiritual life. The Church in the developing countries needs more than ever charismatic and prophetic leaders. Peter Damian Akpunonu – ordained a Catholic priest in 1966 at the young age of 23 – is one of the most outstanding seminary formators and influential Biblical scholars in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. His priestly golden jubilee provides occasion to reflect on his sterling qualities as a leader, an administrator and a pastor. This Festschrift also examines a wide spectrum of leadership models from biblical, historical and cultural perspectives. Seminary formation today needs urgent reform. Contemporary social challenges, including the potential retirement welfare crises for priests in Africa, are also crucial issues the Church has to address.
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Strengthening the Faint-Hearted: The Prophetic Mission in Isaiah 40–55


1.  Introduction

The search for a better life is a daily human quest. The biblical story is an account of God’s constant efforts to better the lives of his people. The prophets, who were the special agents of the divine word, were called to participate in this mission. The prophetic mission of Deutero-Isaiah is presented as that of announcing divine comfort or consolation to God’s people who found themselves in a life-threatening situation. God decides to bring them out of that situation and lead them as a shepherd to a place of greener pastures. This prophetic mission in this context involves the encouragement of the people to leave Babylon and return to Zion-Jerusalem to begin a better life in a divinely blessed environment. A very important aspect of this task is the liberation of the people from fear, which had crippled their resolve to receive the divine offer of freedom. The mission is better described as that of strengthening the faint-hearted and encouraging the weary of heart to embrace a better life of freedom and self-worth. This present essay focuses on how Deutero-Isaiah carries out the difficult task of strengthening the resolve of his frightened and frustrated people to accept the offer of divine love and salvation. This prophetic mission was not an easy one, and it is difficult to say to what extent he actually succeeded or failed in realising the goals of the mission. The prophet had to reckon with people who were victims...

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