The 52nd Convocation ceremony of our esteemed seminary was an event that will be remembered for years to come, marking a significant milestone in the history of our institution. The ceremony began with a novelty football match, held in honor of the Convocation Prelate, Most Rev. Prof. Augustine Echema, and the homecoming of the 2022 graduands. The Bigard school team played against the 2022 graduand’s team, with the kick-off performed by the Convocation prelate at exactly 4.15 pm. The match was well-contested and ended with a score of 1:0 in favor of the Bigard Team.
Following the football match, the evening Mass was held with the Alumni at exactly 6:30 pm. During the Mass, the homilist, Rev. Fr. James Odo, centered on the theme, “What must we do to perform the work of God”. He drew spiritual insights from the gospel of the day, emphasizing that we are united by a common interest, which is to do the work of God. He highlighted that this is a post-resurrection mandate, as seen in the today’s gospel, “go out into the whole world proclaiming the good news…” Mk 16:15-17. Rev. Fr. James Odo stressed that the gospel message is not meant to disintegrate or sectionalize people into different warring zones but to be inclusive, particularly in our country, where nepotism, ethnicity, tribalism, and racism are prevalent. He emphasized the importance of total self-emptying, going out of ourselves for the benefit of others. This self-emptying is not reserved for any particular group of people, rather it should be open to all. As Christians, we have a gospel with content already designed by God, and we must strive not to proclaim our own gospel or draw people to ourselves instead of to God. He also emphasized the need for us to live in brotherly love and harmony, recognizing that we cannot succeed as individuals but as a group. He encouraged us to eschew all forms of unhealthy competitions and rivalry among priests, seminarians, politicians, and others because they pose a threat to the growth of the work of God. Before the end of the Mass, the Vice Rector 1, Rev. Fr. Dr. Kevin Udenwagu thanked and welcomed all the graduands to their Alma Mater and encouraged everyone to feel at home.
Later that night, the reception of the Convocation Prelate and the Alumni was held at the Bigard auditorium, starting at 9:00 pm. The program began with the ushering in of the Prelate, Formators, and other Special Guests into the auditorium by the Igba Umuogaranya Cultural dance group, followed by the invitation of individuals to the high table and opening prayer by Rev. Fr. Dr. Godwin Orji. In his address, the Rector, Very Rev. Fr. Albert Ikpenwa, welcomed all present and commended the prelate for the numerous good works that God is doing through him in his diocese, a testament to the integrity of his person and the rich disposition with which he carries out his pastoral ministry. The Rector also acknowledged and welcomed the Bigard 2022 Philosophy and Theology graduands, encouraging them not to see this ceremony as the end but as the beginning of a new phase. This is the time to transmit all they have learnt while in the seminary into the different fields they found themselves in for the good of the Church and Humanity. There were also other cultural displays by Egwu ekpili of Bigard and Ikoro Enyimba of Aba Diocese.
The Bishop in his speech expressed his delight and nostalgia for being back to his Alma Mater and encouraged the seminarians to be docile to formation and make effective use of all the avenues offered by the seminary to develop themselves for the future. He also encouraged them to remain calm and focused in their formation and avoid making unnecessary mistakes that could cost them a fortune.
The following day, the convocation ceremony continued. There was Holy Mass by the officiating prelate, Most Rev. Prof. Augustine Echema, at the Bigard main chapel. In his homily, he encouraged the seminarians to anticipate persecution always for being followers of Christ, because their courage in the face of persecution will mark them out as true disciples of Christ. He cited the example of St. Stephen, who was courageous during the persecution of the early Christians and paid dearly with his life. Consequently, his death brought about the scattering of the disciples, which further spread the gospel. He challenged the seminarians to be ready to face persecution for the sake of Christ and their neighbor, just as Christ offered his life for their own sake.
After the Mass, the convocation ceremony proper continued at the Bigard auditorium. The ceremony began with the arrival of guests and students, followed by the procession of the graduands, members of the staff, HODs Philosophy and Theology, the Rector, and the officiating prelate into the auditorium, led by the members of MOD and Bigard fan club. The National, Papal, and Bigard anthems were rendered, followed by the opening prayer by the Prelate. The Bigard main choir sang a song, and the rector gave his welcome address. He welcomed everyone to the 52nd convocation ceremony of Bigard Seminary and advised the graduands to carry on what they had learned and implement them to face the fast-growing world and continue the process of evangelization.
The officiating prelate in his convocation address, entitled “Human Formation, the basis of all Priestly Formation”, maintained that over the years, the basis of formation had been on spiritual and intellectual, and the human aspect has been neglected or not given the adequate attention it deserved. Consequently, a priest or candidate to the priesthood should make himself to be a bridge and not a barrier to the people in their relation with God. The human natural virtues, character, and temperament must be tamed to draw people to God and never to scare them away, for grace builds on nature. He emphasized that our personalities are the raw Materials that we bring to God to work on, and that human formation is necessary for the Lord to work with what we make available to him. He encouraged the seminarians to imbibe some virtues that will help them in their human formation, such as zeal for the apostolic life, looking out for others, enthusiasm for days of retreat and recollection, growing in virtues, and dying to sin and rising with Christ. One may be highly spiritual or be skilled in all theological discourses, but if he has no human formation he would be a disaster in the priesthood.
The convocation lecture was delivered by Rev. Fr. Dr. Alfred Nwoye, with the topic “Lay Co-responsibility in the Governance of Ecclesiastical Goods in Nigeria. From Clericalism to Synodality”. He stressed the fact that gone are the days when the church and its governance and affairs were seen as something that concerned the clergy alone, whereas the people are seen as only mere spectators. He called for the urgent inclusion of the laity in the churches’ affairs, which will foster collaboration between the clergy and the laity, calling each to play an active and important role in the emergence of a fully constituted and self-reliant church.
The ceremony was followed by an address and presentation of Philosophy graduands by the Head of Department of Philosophy, Rev. Fr. Dr. Humphrey Ani. The Philosophy Degree was then conferred on the graduands by the officiating prelate, Most Rev. Prof. Augustine Echema.
Out of the 101 candidates that sat for the B. Phil. examination, Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu in no surprising manner recorded a 100 percent pass. Here is a rundown of the grades: One (1) Pass, Forty Seven (47) Second Class Lower Division, and Fifty-three (53) Second Class Upper Division. The best graduating student in the Philosophy department was Nwafor Abraham Chikwado.
Next was the address and presentation of Theology graduands by the Head of Department of Theology, Rev. Fr. Dr. Clement Obasi. The Theology Degree was then conferred on the 84 graduands by the officiating prelate. It was also 100 percent pass for the 84 persons who took the B. Th. examination. One (1) Pass, Five (5) Third class, Forty one (41) Second Class Lower Division, and Thirty six (36) Second Class Upper Division and One (1) First class. Rev. Fr. Cosmas Emengini was the best graduating student. In his Valedictory speech with the theme “If you want to be Important, Solve a Problem”, Rev. Fr. Cosmas Emengini thanked God Almighty and all those who supported them throughout their period of formation and studies. He also encouraged everyone to be solution providers and not part of the problem, in solving the myriads of problems facing our society.
Rev. Fr. Dr. Kevin Udenwagu gave the vote of thanks and closing remarks, and the event ended with a closing prayer and episcopal blessing by the officiating prelate at about 2.30 pm. The Academic procession then moved out of the auditorium in reverse order.