It was a scintillating weekend as Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, hosted members of the National Federation of Catholic Students from various Universities and other institutions of higher learning within the Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province. The biennial convention which lasted from 2nd to 4th of March, 2018, anchored on the theme “Youths within a Diversified Society: Prospects and Challenges”.
Following the arrival of the delegates who participated in the weekend’s program on the evening of Friday, 2nd March, the convention was officially begun with the Stations of the Cross and Vespers. As part of reception, the night was occupied and coloured with social events which took place in the seminary auditorium. The social night featured standup comedy by Bigard Theatre and Art Club, Hip hop dance by the Enugu State University students, amidst other performances. The students retired to their various hostels after the brief but interesting social activities
On Saturday, 3rd March, the day’s event was begun with the celebration of the Holy Mass, presided over by Rev Fr. Gabriel Chukwu, the Bigard’s Financial Administrator II. In his homily, Fr. Chukwu welcomed the delegates to the 2018 NFCS program in Bigard, as he exhorted them to participate actively in order to reap the benefits of the weekend. In the spirit of the Lenten season, the homilist admonished all to always seek the face of God and not to lose heart even as life becomes unbearable and meaningless, as in the case of the prodigal son.
The next program for the day started at 9:30am in the Seminary auditorium. With the opening prayer said by Rev Fr Remigius Ibudialo, the Dean of Students’ Affairs and Moderator of NFCS in Bigard, and the NFCS anthem duly rendered, the academically enriched event began, as the master of ceremony ushered in the guest speakers, namely, Prof Mrs Kate Omenugha, Very Rev Fr. Emem Umoren, and Mr Nathaniel Anike.
In his welcome address, the Rector of Bigard, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa warmly and delightfully welcomed the visitors and humbly invited them to feel very much at home in Bigard. He bemoaned the pathetic situation of catholic students in the secular institutions. In his words, “a child grows up in a religious and pious catholic family; attending Block Rosary and other pious societies, but as he/she gets into higher institution, the story changes. They abandon the catholic core values for Pentecostal fellowships and ministrations” Finally, he encouraged the participants to give rapt attention to the speakers as their presentations will provide answers and solutions to the regrettable attitude of indifference to our catholic faith.
Prof. Kate Omenugha, giving a keynote addressed, spoke of the necessity of upholding the Catholic identity amidst the diversified society. However, she maintained that the diversified society has more to offer to the youths in their psychological and spiritual development. This, she buttressed, with an Igbo proverb, “onodu otu onye na-aka mma n’ime afo” that is, an individual is comfortable alone only in the womb, and nowhere else. That is to say no person is an island; everyone must live in a community, and this diversified environment aid in building up the uniqueness of an individual in the society.
Furthermore, she urged the students to draw strength from the diversified society, allowing these diverse cultural backgrounds to bring out the creativity, self-awareness and development of tolerance in them towards other peoples. Prof. Omenugha also maintained that diversity should aid one to harness and develop one’s Catholic values which will as a result enable one to face the challenges of the diversified society. Finally, she prayerfully encouraged the students to resort always to prayer, regardless of how challenging life may appear.
Rev. Fr. Emem Umoren on his part discussed extensively on the theme“Cost of Discipleship Amongst Youth in the Contemporary Era”. He began his discussion with the explanation of the term discipleship as “learning from a master.” He gave the Old and New Testament application of the term in the subsequent passages Matthew 28:16-20, John 8:31-32, Luke 6:6-40.
Dwelling on the theme of this paper, Cost of Discipleship, he maintained that every faithful and worthy disciple must ‘count his cost’, deny him/herself, reject family and friends, take up his cross and follow Christ. But in a fast growing anti-religious society like ours, youths are called to be disciples with the following recommendations to aid them live a committed life of true discipleship:
- Quitting because of challenges should never be an option
- Discipleship must be a fruit of conviction and not coercion
- Discipleship must be appreciated as action and not words
- More and proper catechesis for the youth
- The advantages of youth support group is important in discipleship
- The Eucharist must be appreciated as the workshop of discipleship
- There is need to intensify personal prayer life
He borrowed the exact words of Prof. Omenugha to conclude his presentation, “turn every challenge you face as a Christian to prayer”.
The Band of Bigard gave a beautiful interlude that lighted the auditorium and left smiles on the faces of the audience as the second speaker mounted the rostrum.
The final paper presentation by Mr. Nathaniel Anike addressed the theme, “The Fate of the Youths within a seemingly Democratic Society.”
He gave the Merriam Webster meaning of youth as a young person between adolescence and maturity, and Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy as government of the people by the people and for the people.
According to the paper presenter, the benefits of youths in a democratic system cannot be compared to other system of government. They have 100 percent possibilities to rule and be ruled; they enjoy a favorable environment to harness their talents and widen their academic tentacles. On the contrary, the youths in the Nigerian democratic system are challenged with incessant strikes in the universities, lack of learning infrastructure, lack of employment opportunities after graduation, internet frauds, taking up of arms by militants such as the Nigeria Delta Militants, the Boko Haram.
Finally,Mr. Anike admonished the students to realize their destiny through hard work and, with a resilient spirit, to work to move the nation higher and better. He ended his speech with three I’s: Iche na I na-eme m, I naghi eme m, I na-eme onwe gi.
After the presentations, some students responded to the paper presentations and asked a few questions which the paper presenters clarified immediately.
On a note of appreciation, the president of the NFCS Bigard chapter, Mr. Nechi Dominic, presented an award of excellence to some the invited dignitaries and paper presenters namely: Prof Kate Omenugha, Mr Nathaniel Anike, Rev. Fr. Emem Umoren, and Hon Paul Aniekwe
The awardees responded and expressed their heartfelt gratitude for the awards presented to them.
The event at the auditorium came to a stop with the concluding prayer by Rev Fr John Nwafor.
The students were allowed the opportunity of reconciling with God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation on the night of Saturday. It began with a penitential rite at 9:00pm led Rev Fr Hyginus Mba and ended with confessions.
The 2018 NFCS weekend was wrapped up with a Thanksgiving Mass on Sunday 4th March, 2018 presided over by Rev. Fr Chika Okoye, the Bigard’s Financial Administrator I. In his homily, Fr. Okoye admonished the Christ’s faithful to purge their bodies of any form of immorality and defilement just as Christ drove away from the temple, those who defiled it. Hence, he exhorted all to be conscious of the sacredness of the body.
With the Mass, the 2018 NFCS CONVENTION was brought to a successful end.