The inauguration of the academic and formation year is a very special annual event in the seminary for through it the seminary family gives thanks to God for the remarkable successes recorded in the past academic year and also hands over the new academic year into His hands for the grace to make it bear positive fruits. The 2022/2023 inauguration of the academic and formation year began on the 27th of October, 2022 with the welcoming of the inauguration prelate first with a novelty football match and formal reception at night. These were followed by the inauguration of the academic year proper with the Holy Mass and award giving ceremony on the 28th of October 2022.
This year’s inauguration was a special one as the seminary played host to the auxiliary bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha, Most Rev. Denis Isizoh. The novelty football match was between the Bigard Team A and Bigard Team B with the inauguration prelate performing the kickoff. The match ended in favour of the Bigard Team A who beat the Team B by 4 goals to 2. It was really an entertaining and breathtaking match to watch.
Next was the grand reception of the Bishop and inauguration prelate at the Bigard auditorium. During his welcome address, the Rector welcomed him back to his Alma mater and thanked him for the benevolence and love which he has always shown to the seminary family. He thanked the Fr. formators for being good collaborators in the formation of future ministers for the Lord’s vineyard. It was grand indeed as the Seminary said a hearty welcome to him with numerous displays such as musical presentations like dance by the Igba Umu Ogaranya. The bishop in his response expressed his nostalgia at being back to his Alma mater which gave so much to him and where he learnt a lot that prepared him for life. He also encouraged the seminarians to make the best out of their stay in the seminary and be well equipped for life. He confessed that he will never regret the time he spent in the seminary especially the time spent with fellow seminarians and class mates. For him, “our whole lives as priests will be founded on what we are able to make out with our time in the seminary.” He also advised the seminarians to strive to read the Bible cover to cover at least once before leaving the seminary so as to become familiar with the word of God which they are to proclaim. The Vice Rector I, in his vote of thanks, thanked our dear bishop for all he has done especially for making himself available as the inauguration prelate.
The next day began with the inauguration Mass, during which the officiating prelate admonished all the Seminarians never to slacken in their prayer life and to always commend all they do into the hands of God, just as Christ in the gospel commended his choice of apostles into the hands of God. He also noted that just like the apostles had various gifts, so also there is a need for a variety of gifts in the Catholic priesthood. He also advised the seminarians to remain faithful and committed to their formation as the work in the vineyard is plenty. The bishop went forward to advise those who may be dropped along the way to not be discouraged but to move on for there will always be enough room to succeed outside the four walls of the seminary. He however warned against over familiarity with the things done in the seminary that make one lose the awe one should have for them.
In his keynote address at the occasion, the Rector expressed his Joy and that of the Seminary because of the presence of the officiating prelate. He appreciated the bishop for making out time to honor the invitation in spite of his numerous engagements. He also x-rayed some of the major events of the past year including the silver jubilees of some of our formators, funerals of some members of staff, matriculation and convocation ceremonies. The Rector highlighted some of the major infrastructural developments from the past year such as renovation of the main chapel and lay chapel, installation of 10kva solar energy plant at the St Luke’s clinic, production of Hymn books, tremendous progress in the ongoing construction of the Centenary Hostel, the construction of a multimillion Naira standard lawn tennis court among other things. He expressed gratitude to God and to kindhearted individuals whose generous contributions made these achievements possible. He also congratulated the students who distinguished themselves in academics, character and discipline over the last academic year. He then advised others to commit themselves fully to the formation.
The bishop, Most Rev. Denis Isizoh in his own speech gave his own personal recommendations and advice especially as the new academic year is about to be officially opened. Some of these recommendations included; not comparing oneself with another person rather striving to be better than how one performed in the previous academic and formation year, discovering one’s peak moment for maximum improvement and positive result and also to attain discipline. He also appreciated the Seminary formators for the tremendous efforts they are making to see that things are in order. Finally, with a very solemn prayer through the request of the Fr. Rector and the entire seminary family the bishop declared the 2022/2023 academic and formation year formally open.
The inaugural lecture was given by Rev. Fr. Dr. Benjamin Ezulike. The theme of the lecture was “Disconnect between Seminary Formation and the Priestly Life and Ministry: The Missing Link.” According to him the term “disconnect” suggests a divide or gap between two entities, events or situations. In the context of the preparation for the priesthood, it refers to a situation where the many years spent in formation seem not to translate into an effective priestly life and ministry. One can identify a disconnect when the actions and overall comportment of the priest do not seem to reflect the principles, values and noble qualities that were supposed to have been imbibed during his formation in the seminary. In exploring the reasons for the disconnect, he stated that there are multiple factors that could account for the possibility of gap between the formation received in the seminary and the priestly life and ministry. However, chose to focus on the seminary as an institution and the candidate under formation. The need to ensure the realization of an effective formation that will lead to positive results in the ministry makes crucial demands both from the seminary and the seminarians. On the part of the seminary, it is a call to constant updating, reassessment of the long-term effectiveness of formation strategies, attentiveness to the signs of the times and a more creative approach to human formation that aims at enabling the candidate for the priesthood to become a mature and balanced person and not a submissive conformist. On the part of the seminarian, having the right motive, willful collaboration with and personalization of the formation process are some of the necessary conditions that facilitate the seamless internalization of the principles and values of formation. Making reference to the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis and other relevant official documents on priestly formation, Fr. Ezulike emphasized the need for renewed approach to human formation, given that the latter constitutes the indispensable foundation upon which every other aspect of seminary formation is built. For the seminarian under formation, the importance of having a stable character, the ability to define his goal and remain focused cannot be overemphasized. No matter how constantly revised and updated the seminary program is, authentic Formation can never be realized if the individual being formed does not have the right disposition and firm resolve to take advantage of the opportunities provided in the seminary program for growth and self-improvement.
This was followed up by the award giving ceremony. After congratulating those who were to receive awards and prizes and encouraging the seminarians to strive harder for better results, the Head of Departments of both philosophy and theology presented the result of the 2021/2022 academic year. They however highlighted the various challenges that faced academic exercises in the Seminary not minding the successes recorded some being the Monday Sit at home and the effect of the ASUU strike. The following got respective positions and prizes:
Nwabueze Cyprian 1st Position
Mmadudiri Evaristus 2nd Position
Ezeokafor Christian 3rd Position
Omaga Paschal 1st Position
Ochiagha Henry 2nd Position
Chigozie Paschal 3rd Position
Ejike Valentine 1st Position
Okonkwo Evaristus 2nd Position
Mbaogu Paschal 3rd Position
Best three (3) in Scriptures
Ejike Valentine 1st Position
Izueke Jude 2nd Position
Mbaogu Paschal 3rd Position
THE GIANT LEAP PRIZE
THE BEST STUDENT IN ACADEMICS IN THEOLOGY DEPARTMENT NOW KNOWN AS ARCHBISHOP FORTUNATUS NWACHUKWU AWARD
Nwafor Emmanuel 1st Position
Ozioko Martin 2nd Position
Achu Johnbosco 2nd Position
Aso Kingsley 1st Position
Uzougwu Uchechukwu 2nd Position
Duru Chidobelu 3rd Position
Eze Virgilius 1st Position
Aniekwe Vitalis 2nd Position
Okigbo Christopher 3rd Position
GIANT LEAP AWARD
Nwose Godwin Ifeanyi
BEST IN SYMBOLIC LOGIC
OVERALL BEST IN ACADEMICS
BEST BEHAVED STUDENTS
For the section of the best-behaved students, the Dean of Student affairs, Rev. Fr. Kelvin C. Asogwa, following from the assertion that life is a laboratory where not only the intellect is formed but also the heart, recognized the following as the best-behaved seminarians in their respective classes.
Ezenwaka Christian Philosophy 1
Martin Claret Philosophy 2
Oli Daniel Philosophy 3
Eluagu Paschal Theology 1
Felix Solomon Theology 2
Ajiero Kizito Theology 3
OVERALL BEST-BEHAVED SEMINARIAN
The Vice Rector I gave the vote of thanks. This was followed by the final prayers and Episcopal blessings by the inaugurating prelate.