Jubilees are special anniversaries of significant events and dates back to the times of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, it signified a time of joy, the year of remission or of pardon and also a period of retrospection and introspection. They serve as great testaments of God’s guidance and grace over a period of time.

In this spirit of joy and thanksgiving to God for the graces, benevolence and sustenance granted to two of her illustrious formators, Very Rev. Frs. Ohajuobodo Oko and Damian Udechukwu, the Bigard family rolled out her drums to celebrate their priestly silver jubilee from the 11th to the 12th of November, 2022.

The silver jubilee celebration kick-started with a novelty football match held in honour of the Jubilarians between the Indomitable warriors of Bigard and the St. Bernard’s Seminary Hostel, Nchatancha team on Friday the 11th of November 2022 at the Bigard FIFA field. It was a really entertaining and enthralling match with both teams giving their best on the pitch. The high point of the match was the scintillating performance of one of the Jubilarians, Rev. Fr. Dr. Ohajuobodo Oko, who showed glimpses of the good footballer he still is, which he capped off with a golden goal scored by him in the dying minute of the match. The Bigard team came out victorious with two goals to one.

The second part of the silver jubilee celebration was the thanksgiving Mass celebrated in their honour. The Mass which is the centre of every priest’s life was the highpoint of the celebration. The Mass was presided over by one of the two jubillarians, with many priests including the formators as concelebrants. Rev. Fr. Dr. Damian Udechukwu (the chief celebrant), at the beginning of the Mass thanked God for leading him and his co-jubilarian throughout these 25 years of priestly service, notwithstanding the ups and downs that had come with them. He thanked God for his ever-abounding graces upon them in spite of their unworthiness.

During the homily which was given by Rev. Fr. Dr. Ohajuobodo Oko, he extolled his co-jubilalian for keeping the faith and also maximizing the gifts of God to him for the good of man and for the salvation of souls albeit in all humility and selflessness. He further encouraged him to keep aflame in his priestly service such pastoral zeal. On his own part, he recounted his personal experiences and challenges on his journey to the priesthood, especially the feelings of uncertainity and unworthiness that he felt towards his ordination. He however remains faithful to God for always guiding him.

Reflecting further on the readings of the day, he highlighted that the meeting of Jesus and Simon Peter at the sea of Gennesaret in the gospel, and the unflinching faith demonstrated by Peter, who obeyed the Lord by casting his net into the river. This is not minding the fact that, it might have seemed to Peter a man well versed in the science of fishing as irrational, shows that, God calls his people to such total trust and dependence on him, thus abandoning our fears, worries and problems. He admonished that children of God, should learn to trust and believe in God and instead of relying on the talents and expertise possessed and so lose cognizance of the grace of God at work. If one walks with God who has called one, the Lord will lighten his/her burden. God is faithful; He rekindles His love whenever the burden of a priest seems to weigh him down. This is the reassuring statement of Prophet Isaiah: “Fear not for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). Hence God is totally in charge of His priest. It is a call to unreserved obedience and submissiveness to God who has called him though the priest is not a passive recipient of this gift for it involves some responsibilities. The priest is thus, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen puts it ‘a treasure in clay’.

Towards the end of Mass, the Vice Rector l, Rev. Fr. Dr. Kelvin Udenwagu, congratulated the Jubilarians on the feat they have achieved having served in the Lord’s vineyard for the past twenty-five years and more. He however admonished them not to slacken in their resolve. He also thanked everyone present, the Fr. Rector, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa, the college of formators, other priests in attendance, seminarians, the seminary choir led by Rev. Fr. Dr. Cletus Umezinwa and the entire faithful who had come to celebrate with the Jubilarians.

After the Mass, there was a civic reception of the Jubilarians at the Seminary auditorium. The opening prayer was said by Rev. Fr. Dr. Godwin Orji followed by the rendition of the seminary anthem. During his welcome address, the Fr. Rector welcomed all who were present and once again congratulated and encouraged the Jubilarians to keep on fighting the good fight of faith and remaining true to their calling. He further thanked them for the various sacrifices they have made for the smooth running of the seminary while giving a brief history and list of achievements of the celebrants over the years. The Fr, Rector also on behalf of the entire seminary family presented gifts to the Jubilarians which were received with joy. The Student’s Union Council also presented their own gifts to them as a way of showing their appreciation to them for their sacrifices in ensuring that they become good priests after the mind of Christ. There was the cutting of the jubilee cake by the celebrants flanked by the Rector and other guests. This was followed up by various entertainments such as musical presentation by the Band of Bigard, cultural dance by the Ojinakatogbo of Mgbidi and Seat of Wisdom Block Rosary Ogui, Enugu and the sonorous songs rendered by the students of Queens’ school, Enugu.

Rev. Fr. Dr. Ohajuobodo Oko in his vote of thanks expressed his joy and that of his co-celebrant to the seminary for celebrating them in such a grand manner. This was followed by the closing prayer which was said by Rev. Fr. Christian Agala.