On Sunday the 21st of January 2024, the entire Bigard family gathered in thanksgiving to celebrate the elevation of one of our revered formators to the status of a Papal Chamberlain, in the person of Msgr. Raphael Egwu. The event began with the holy Mass. In his opening remarks at the beginning of the Mass the Chief celebrant and our dear Rector Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Okechukwu Ikpenwa thanked God for the gift of Msgr. Raphael Egwu to the Church and our seminary. He equally thanked the Catholic Bishop of Awgu diocese, Most Rev Dr. John Ifeanyichukwu Okoye for recommending our Monsignor for elevation.
During his homily in the Mass, Rev. Fr. Dr. Ohajuobodo Oko reflecting on the experience of Jonah in the first reading (Jonah 3:1-5,10) pointed out the fact that the prophet Jonah went through difficulties because he tried escaping God, but it is impossible to escape from God, therefore we must strive to embrace God’s call. He equally noted that the People of Nineveh had a change of heart when Jonah preached to them and this made God to squash his plans of destroying them, similarly we too are invited in our sinfulness to have a change of heart and repent. Fr. Ohajuobodo equally likened Msgr. Egwu to Jonah as one who proclaims the divine truth to the people. However, unlike Jonah, Msgr. Egwu does not run away from the call of God. He further recounted the hospitality Msgr. Égwu always offered his fellow Nigerian priests years ago in Germany, thereby qualifying him as one who loves his brothers and intercedes for the people. After the homily the Mass continued as usual.
After the post Communion prayer, the first Vice Rector Rev. Fr. Dr. Kevin Udenwagu appreciated the Monsignor for his usual and kind gentle lifestyle as well as his spirituality. Fr. Udenwagu equally thanked the formators, seminarians, lay staff and family members of Msgr. Égwu for their respective efforts towards the success of the day’s events. At the end, Msgr. Raphael implored God’s blessings on the congregation and the Mass came to an end. After the Mass, the celebrant had a group photograph with the formators, family members, friends and well-wishers.
The holy Mass was followed by a grand reception in honor of Msgr. Raphael Egwu at the seminary auditorium. The reception began with an opening prayer said by one of our spiritual directors Rev. Fr. Dr. JohnBosco Okoye. This was followed by the traditional rite of breaking kolanut performed by the Rector Very Rev Fr. Dr. Ikpenwa, who equally gave the opening remarks immediately. In his remarks, Very Rev Fr. Dr. Albert Okechukwu Ikpenwa thanked God for the life of Msgr. Raphael Egwu, he also thanked all present for coming to honor Msgr. Egwu. The Rector in his speech equally pointed out some remarkable dates and facts about Msgr. Raphael Egwu which included the fact that he was ordained a Catholic priest in the year 1985, his incardination into Awgu diocese in 2005, his historic record as the first Rector of St. Bernard’s Seminary Hostel, Nchatancha and also the fact that Msgr. Raphael Egwu studied Dogmatic Theology. The Rector further presented a gift to Msgr. Raphael Egwu on behalf of the entire seminary family. This was equally followed by a presentation of another gift by the first Dean of Student’s Affairs Rev. Fr. Kelvin Asogwa on behalf of the Students Union Council. Thereafter, various individuals and organizations came forward to present their gifts to Msgr. Egwu. The presentation of gifts was followed by a heartwarming dance performance by the Oji na aka togbo cultural troupe of St. Bernard’s Seminary Hostel Nchatancha. Next was a Saxophone performance by Maxwell Égwu.
A member of Msgr. Raphael Egwu’s family in the person of Sir. Matthew Ude came forward to appreciate the Seminary for her care and support to Msgr. Raphael Egwu, he equally noted that Bigard has always been known to be a great institution reputed for training credible priests who are worthy ambassadors of the gospel. Sir Matthew Ude appreciated the Rector for his good work in the seminary and prayed God to continue to bless and protect Bigard to flourish.
Rev. Fr. Kevin Udenwagu came up next to give the vote of thanks. He thanked all those who worked behind the scene to organize the event. Finally the celebrant Msgr. Raphael Egwu once more thanked all those who helped him answer God’s call and those who had supported him in numerous ways in his journey as a priest. He implored God’s blessings on all and gave the final blessing, with this the event came to an end.