Bigard holds her 47th Convocation Ceremony

It was a glamorous event as Bigard celebrated the 47th Convocation with her 2016/2017 graduands from both Philosophy and Theology Departments. The annual occasion which was held from Sunday 18th March to Monday 19th March, 2018 had in attendance: The Metropolitan Archbishop of Onitsha, His Grace Most Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke (Convocation Prelate), the Speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Rita Maduagwu (Special Guest of Honour), and virtually all 2016/2017 Bigard graduands. The event began on Sunday evening with a football match between Bigard football team and the Caritas University football team at about 4:00pm. With the kick-off taken by the Archbishop and the podium of the Bigard FIFA field filled to the brims with the formators, students and Bigard alumni, the captivating football match ended in a goalless draw at 6:00pm.
The reception Mass followed up in the evening at 6:30pm. The Bigard Chapel was filled with all the formators and seminarians of Bigard in attendance. The Mass was presided over by Rev. Fr. Collins Ideh, while the Homilist was Rev. Fr. Augustine Anwuchie, both 2017 graduands. In the homily, Fr. Anwuchie emphasized the need for commitment in whatever dealings one has with God. God’s covenant with us is one of love and that love needs to be reciprocated with commitment, says Fr. Anwuchie. Tracing the covenant with the Israelites of old and how they failed in total commitment to God, he encouraged that our commitment to the new covenant which is written in our hearts should be characterized by selflessness and sacrifice. Towards the end of the Mass, Rev. Fr. Dr. Blaise Emebo, one of Bigard’s Formators welcomed and thanked the graduands on behalf of the entire seminary. The mass ended at about 7:30pm.
The reception ceremony on the convocation eve followed in the seminary auditorium at 9:00pm. With the venue filled and the social night graced with the presence of the Archbishop, His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. V. Okeke as well as the Honourable Speaker, Anambra State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mrs. Rita Maduagwu, the events started with an opening prayer said by Rev. Fr Dr. Raphael Egwu, one of Bigard’s Spiritual Directors. A welcome address was presented by the Rector, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa, in which he warmly welcomed all, especially the special Guest of honour and the Archbishop. He mentioned some of the ongoing projects of the seminary as well enumerated the legacy left by his predecessors.
The evening activities were characterized by some choral, dramatic and cultural displays by the Seminary Main Choir, the Ikorodu cultural dance of the Nsukka Diocesan seminarians, and stand-up comedy by Obio and Convoco. These activities later formed the basis for the remarks of the Archbishop who analyzed the drama as portraying the challenges faced in the ministry, the love and desire people have for the word of God and its ministers, and the preferential care the people of God show the ministers of God. He concluded in an appealing manner by encouraging that ‘in the bid to convert, the ministers should take care not to be converted’ by those he strives to convert. Finally, he thanked the seminarians for the performances and encouraged all to continue developing and manifesting their God given talents.
The graduands responded by thanking all, especially the formators who all played important roles in bringing them to the stage they were. The night’s social event ended with the closing prayers said by Rev. Fr. Nnabugwu Chidiebere.
On Monday, 19th March, 2018, the actual convocation celebration was inaugurated by the Mass in honour of St. Joseph presided over by the officiating prelate, His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. V. Okeke at 7:30am. The Bigard Chapel was filled to capacity with the formators and the seminarians as well as friends of the Seminary and families and friends of the graduands. The Archbishop in his homily singled out the special virtue of being just, as exhibited by Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus towards Mary. This virtue, according to him,portrayedJoseph as a man of faith. The Metropolitan Archbishop, pointing out some biblical figures like Abraham, David and Paul as being men of faith, emphasized that life of Christians, especially as priests and seminarians, should be a journey of faith. He encouraged total dependence on God just like Joseph and Mary, since it is even in such dependence that hope is sustained.
Towards the end of the Mass, Rev. Fr. Dr. Clement Obasi, the HOD Theology Department in Bigard gave a brief vote of thanks especially to the Archbishop and the Speaker, after which the Archbishop gave the final blessings as all proceeded to the auditorium for the convocation ceremony.
The event of the Convocation Day began at 9:20am with Rev. Fr. Asogwa Osita as the Moderator. The procession into the auditorium was immediately followed by an opening prayer said by Rev. Fr. Dr. Raphael Egwu. The Papal and Bigard Anthems were sung and were immediately followed by the Rector’s welcome address.
The Rectoral Address featured special exhortation to excellence which is a mark with which the seminary is known, and which all have gathered to celebrate. He also appreciated the efforts of the Heads of the Departments, and made a clarion call for the practice of knowledge acquired from studies in the improvement of the Church and the society, especially in the face of the rising unrest apparent in the modern world.
At this juncture, the solemn declaration to kick off the events was made by the officiating prelate, His Grace, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, at the request of the Rector. This was followed by the Archbishop’s keynote Address. In his address, the Archbishop emphasized the need for emotional intelligence which he explains as sensitivity to human feelings especially among priests. This, according to him is a special feature of the virtue of integrity. He encouraged all to imbibe this virtue since, for him, the relegation of this virtue was the reason for the value decline in the society. Hence, as leaders, integrity should remain a watchword.
The Archbishop’s Address was followed by the Speaker’s Paper which centered on the Role of Priests/Seminarians in the Contemporary Nigerian Society. These roles she listed out as leading the public especially with regard to their spiritual and prayer life as well as their relationship with God. This for her remains a principal role God entrusted to his priests. This function for her is manifested in leading in prayers and exercising the ministry of penance in reconciling people to God. Hon. Rita Maduagwu encouraged good relationship between priests and their bishops, since no priest works in isolation. The first female Speaker of Anambra State House of Assembly also encouraged total obedience of priests to their bishops.
The Convocation Lecture was delivered by Rev. Fr. Dr. Mellitus Ossai, one of Bigard’s formators. The Lecture was on the topic; Language and Knowledge: How they Concern Us. He emphasized the nature of dialogue implied in language whereby it was aimed at communicating meaning. His conclusion was that language could at most communicate theoretical knowledge but not factual knowledge which involves both ideas and factual grounds for ideas. The Epistemology and Anthropology Scholar emphasized that since language cannot offer ideas and its factual grounds, then it cannot give knowledge. Finally, explaining that beside capacity of language to communicate theoretical knowledge, Fr. Ossai proposed that language as a communication tool can also communicate belief which can be true or false.
The Deans of both Theology and Philosophy Departments presented their speeches in which they highlighted the progress made in their respective departments, and presented the First Class honour granduads of their Departments for vesting and handshake with the Archbishop. The HOD of Theology Department, Rev. Fr. Dr. Clement Obasi presented Rev. Fr. Chidiebere Nnabugwu of Awka Diocese as the best graduating student of the 2016/2017 set in the department, while the HOD of Philosophy Department, Rev. Fr. Vitalis Ukwuaba presented Mr. Paschal Ogbu of Abakaliki Diocese as the best graduating student of the 2016/2017 set in the department.
The Archbishop recognized the efforts made by the Rector on the on-going projects in the seminary and enjoined on him to keep on with the good work. Bringing the event to an official close, the Convocation Prelate gave the final blessings. In the spirit of the celebration of excellence; the atmosphere of the seminary wore a festive look all through the rest of the day.

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