The seminarians and Staff of Bigard, Enugu, today, Monday, October 7, 2019 held a Colloquium for 2019/2020 academic/formation year which focused on the theme: The Virtue of Sincerity: A Sine Qua Non for Authentic Priestly Ministry.
It is customary in Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu that before the beginning of lectures in a new academic/formation year, the staff and seminarians of the seminary meet together to discuss a paper on an important theme on formation in what is traditionally known as the Seminary Colloquium. The theme chosen is unique to each year and becomes the major focus in the formation program for that academic and formation year.
Seminarians are shared in groups along class divide. Classes with large numbers of seminarians are further split up to ease participation of seminarians. Every group is assigned a group of Priest-Lecturers that moderate the discussions. The rector himself usually moderates the fourth year theology students. It is significant to note that it is the rector that not only chooses the theme, but writes the paper to be discussed during to the Colloquium, based on his personal interaction with the students during the past academic year. The task of seminarians is to deliberate and make a critique of the document especially on how it relates to their personal experience in the seminary formation. Every group is required to appoint two secretaries that would articulate the proceedings of the group discussion.
The Colloquium is usually conducted in two sessions – the group discussions and presentations. The group discussions begin at 08:00 hours and conclude before Mid-day Prayers. The presentations come later in the day by 16:00 hours. In this second and last part of the exercise, the students and Staff are required to converge at the Seminary Auditorium for presentations. Here at the auditorium, the different groups’ secretaries are expected to make presentations of the proceedings of their discussions beginning with first year students of philosophy up to the final year students of theology. At the end of the group presentations, the floor is thrown open for reactions, free speeches, questions and answers from both the Staff and students.
This year’s Colloquium Paper with the Theme: THE VIRTUE OF SINCERITY: A SINE QUA NON FOR AUTHENTIC PRIESTLY MINISTRY draws inspiration from past colloquium papers especially, REFLECTIONS ON THE PRIESTLY MINISTRY drawn from Cardinal Arinze’s Discussion Points with Staff and Seminarians of Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, Monday 9th October, 2017. It addresses the importance of virtue in general and the virtue of sincerity in particular in seminary formation. From this particular considerations, the documents focused on the meaning of sincerity, the vocation to sincerity, sincerity as human value, sincerity as a Christian virtue, sincerity as a priestly ideal, priestly formation and the vice of insincerity, causes of insincerity in the seminaries, the roles of seminary formation in eradicating insincerity and promoting sincerity, various forms of insincerity, and on building a sincere personality.
The presentations of the different class secretaries in the second session following the group discussions further opened up more insights and perspectives into the question of sincerity and its place in formation. The students identified other numerous causes and situations that often put seminarians in conditions of insincerity. They submitted that insincerity must be jettisoned in all its forms from the seminary and the formators are to help the students realize this objective by creating situations and environment that promote sincerity for those in formation. It was also noted that insincere seminarians would most likely turn out to be insincere priests, if ordained.
Some critical ethical questions bordering on sincerity, for instance, the claim that some may be forced to lie due to fear were also thrown up at the end of the presentations. These questions were exhaustively tackled by the rector and other experts in moral theology and ethics in attendance emphasizing that one should never lie out of fear of expulsion.
In his concluding remarks, the rector, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert O. Ikpenwa reminded the students that the priesthood is not a do-or-die affair but a vocation freely given to man by God. So, one should never contemplate using insincere means to reach the priesthood. He further explained that the virtue of sincerity would help seminarian and priest preach the Gospel of Christ through their actions. Thus echoing the words of Pope Paul VI that “modern man listens to witness more than teachers…”, the rector stressed that every priest ought to be a witness. We can only be witness, he added, through sincerity of hearts and firmness of purpose. The exercise was brought to a close with vote of thanks by the Vice Rector, Very Rev. Fr. Dr Francis Igboanugo and a closing prayer by Rev Fr. Johnbosco Okoye by 17:55 hours.