In continuation of the Bigard Centenary activities, a delegate of 100 seminarians and the entire formation team of Bigard Memorial seminary Enugu on Thursday the 25th day of January, 2024 embarked on a journey to Igbariam where Bigard originally took off as St. Paul’s Seminary in 1924 for a stop-over celebration. The event of the day began with a solemn Eucharistic celebration with Most. Rev. Callistus Onaga, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese as the chief celebrant, in concelebration with four other Bishops (Bishop Denis Isizoh of Aguleri Diocese, Bishop Godfrey Onah of Nsukka Diocese, Bishop Donatus Ogun OCD, of Uromi Diocese and Bishop Ernest Obodo, the Auxiliary Bishop of Enugu Diocese) formators and numerous priests. In his welcome speech just at the beginning of the Mass the host Bishop Most Rev. Dr. Denis Isizoh welcomed all present and gave a brief historical narration of the history of St. Paul’s Seminary and the sojourn of the white missionaries to Igbariam land in the 1920’s. After this beautiful historical narration the Mass continued.
In his homily, Most Rev. Dr. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah, the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese pointed out the coincidental nature of the day given that the celebration fell on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul whose name Bigard originally bore when it began in 1924. He went on to point out the exemplary lives of the earliest Bigardians who were trained in Igbariam, the likes of Francis Cardinal Arinze, Bishop Okobo, Bishop Eneja and many others whom he said were men of profound spirituality and strict adherents of the principles of priestly life. In citing these noble fathers of our faith Bishop Onah admonished priests and seminarians to shun mediocre spirituality and scandalous lifestyles and strive to live a life worthy of their vocation, because it is the lack of authentic witnessing and deceptive commercialization of the gospel by ministers that had created the new neo-pagan order in our society today.
Bishop Onah recounting the experience of St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles 9:8 who was led by the hand on account of his blindness explained that like St. Paul seminarians are to be led by the hand by their formators and teachers towards discerning their vocations, and realizing their individual missions. Hence, the seminary should not be seen as a place of selection but rather a place where men who nurture the desire to serve God are led by the hand by those whom God has sent to lead them, in this case, the Bishops and Formators towards the direction that leads to God whom they desire to serve. Bishop Onah reiterated the feast of St. Paul’s Conversion stating that Paul was indeed converted from being a fanatical adherent of the Law of Moses to being an ardent apostle of Jesus Christ who is the new Law.
After the post communion prayers, the Aguleri Diocesan Chancellor Very Rev. Fr. Innocent Egbunike on behalf of the diocese thanked all present especially those who organized and planned tirelessly for the success of the day’s events. Towards the end of the Mass, the host Bishop Most Rev Dr. Denis Isizoh thanked all present and gave further directives on the follow up activities which were the planting of the Centenary tree and foundation laying of the Diocesan minor seminary.
After the Mass, the Bishops and priests had a group photograph. Then all moved to the new site for the Diocesan Minor seminary. At the new site, the Centenary tree planting exercise was done by Most Rev Dr. Callistus Onaga, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese. Next was the foundation laying ceremony of St Paul’s Minor Seminary Igbariam for the Catholic Diocese of Aguleri. The rites for the foundation laying was performed by the Diocesan Bishop of Aguleri, Most Rev. Dr. Denis Isizoh. After these historic events, all went to the parish rectory for lunch. After lunch the event came to an end, and all dispersed to their various destinations.