Playing host to a visitor could be interesting. But playing host to a grand dad is not only interesting but goes with nostalgic feelings and could have some rituals and strings of religiosity attached. Such were the feelings sparked off by the reception organized by the Bigard family, in honor of her one time Rector, Very Rev. Fr. Prof. Peter-Damian Akpunonu; a catholic priest of Onitsha Archdiocese.
The reception which was held on Sunday 2nd day of March, 2014, started with the preliminary ushering in of the guest and other fathers on the staff into the seminary auditorium, in the company of ‘Igba Umuogaranya’ cultural dance of Awka diocese. The opening prayer and breaking of kola nut followed immediately after they had been ushered in.
The Rector full of gratitude to God for the gift of Fr. Prof. Akpunonu, in his address of welcome said “we are grateful to God Almighty for His innumerable gifts to us and especially for the gift of our own dear Rector, formator, and teacher, Rev. Fr. Prof. Peter-Demian Akpunonu, whose profound presence we enjoy here tonight.” The Rector went further to indicate to our guest that we are celebrating not just for the fact of his committed service in the Lord’s vineyard, but also because; through him Bigard has attained greatness.
The Rector in summary unraveled the intimidating profiles and personalities of Fr. Prof Peter-Demian, hidden underneath his simplicity and humility. Fr. Prof. Akpunonu, the Rector indicated, was a seminarian of Bigard from 1960 to 1962, and was ordained at the age of twenty-three (23), with special indult by Pope Paul VI in the year 1966. He was the Rector of Bigard from 1979-1989. The Rector then referring to our guest remarked: “All of us gathered here tonight can rightly claim to be your students directly or indirectly. This is because you taught some of us directly, who are now teaching others.”
Furthermore, the Rector pointed out that FR. Prof. Akpunonu, after his function as a Rector at the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) between 1989 and 1997, proceeded to teach Biblical exegesis at the University of St. Mary of Lake – Mundelein Seminary, in the Archdiocese of Chicago. He was also a papal delegate to the Twelfth Ordinary Synod of Bishops, held between 5th and 28th October, 2008, on The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.
Our guest, Fr. Prof. Peter-Demian Akpunonu, was then bestowed the title: ‘Nnazuruoha 1 of Bigard’ (the father who trained all) by the Bigard family. Afterwards, Ume Jude (organist) and Ume Alphonsus (soloist), entertained all with the rendition of the song, “How Beautiful are the feet of they that preach the gospel of peace (Rom. 10:15)” composed by George Fredrick Handel. Also Onitsha Archdiocesan cultural dance performed to the delight of all present.
Rev. Fr. Prof. P. Akpunonu, registered his sublime heartfelt gratitude to Bigard family for the warm reception given to him, during his response. According to the excerpts gotten from a transcribed version of his speech he said: “here is a place where things are well done. So, I only wish and pray that this external decorum becomes only an index of the authentic and holistic formation that you are receiving.”
He insisted further: “only the best was good enough for Bigard“. He then admonished saying “Tell me what God could have done for you than making you a priest. That is why you should take your formation very seriously. You should be able to incarnate Jesus Christ in time and space. And therefore, my dear seminarians please, do not allow worldly things to distract you. Anything that you will not be proud of on your death-bed doesn’t belong to you. Anything, for which you could be embarrassed if anybody found out, doesn’t belong to you. The only joy in being a priest is to conscientiously every day, try to be a very good and a very holy priest. When you begin to compromise, when you begin to cut corners that is when there is a problem.”
The closing remark and prayer by the Vice Rector I, Rev. Fr. Dr. Cletus Umezinwa and Rev. FR. Dr. Anthony Eze (Spiritual Director) respectively, brought the occasion to a close.
Rev. Fr. Prof. Peter-Demian Akpunonu was president of mass of Monday 3rd March 2014. In his homily, his being a Professor in biblical exegesis was made manifest as he soaked the minds of all present into the readings of the day, downloading it down to the concrete circumstance of one’s daily life.
According to him; “One of the major reasons why we do not fulfill our ministerial duties, which we are called to is that all of us have some sort of attachment“.
Rev. Fr. Dr. Blaze Emebo gave vote of thanks after which the mass was brought to an end.