A BRIEF HISTORY OF BIGARD CHAPEL
Records show that the seminary made use of the Chapel in St. Paul’s Block in the early days as it was able to contain the number of seminarians then. However, with the daily increase in vocations it was a matter of time before they grew too big for the Chapel. Thus, by 1954 the then Archbishop of Onitsha Most Rev. Charles Heery applied for subsidies from Rome to erect a bigger Chapel in Bigard. The application was granted and in 1955 the foundation stone was laid. Records also show that Archbishop Heery continued to give up-to-date report on the progress of the project till 1960 when finishing touches were done on the Chapel. Thus on Oct 7, I961 the Chapel was officially dedicated.
It has remained an outstanding accomplishment in architectural design, holding more than 600 people, though the official estimate was put at 500. Having used the Chapel for about 50 years, it was observed that the ground on which it was built began to settle unevenly with resultant cracks on the floor and walls. Despite all effort to patch the cracks and fill them out, they continued to widen and deepen. At this point, it was obvious that allowing the building to remain in this condition was very dangerous as there was the danger of its complete collapse. It therefore became very imperative and a matter of urgency that the Chapel be renovated. In 2003, the Chapel was rehabilitated and given modern surroundings in its environment by Very Rev. Fr. John Okoye, the then rector, and the present Bishop of Awgu who also rededicated the Chapel on March 5, 2005. This enormous work was carried out with the financial and moral supports from the Pontifical Works of St. Peter the Apostle, Bishops of the Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, Bishops outside the province, the Nuciature and his Eminence, Francis Cardinal Arinze, the then Governor of Rivers State, Sir (Dr.) Peter Odili, Dr. Chike and Dr. (Mrs.) Doral Akunyili, Chief Charles Ezeudogu and hosts of other philanthropists were also instrumental for the achievement to this success.
Seminarians in the Bigard Chapel