Bigard Memorial Seminary in Enugu, Nigeria recently inaugurated her Lonergan Center, which is dedicated to advancing the work of Bernard Lonergan, a Canadian philosopher, and theologian. Lonergan’s contributions spanned across various fields, including economics, education, philosophy, and theology. The center aims to promote the study of Lonergan’s work and provide resources for researchers and scholars interested in his ideas. This includes access to Lonergan’s writings, archives, and other related materials, as well as hosting conferences, seminars, and workshops on his ideas.

The Headquarters of Lonergan Research Center is located at Regis College, a Jesuit graduate school of theology in Toronto, Canada. The Bigard Memorial Seminary is now among the few places where a research center has been opened, and it is the first of its kind in Nigeria and the whole of Africa, and the fourth in the world. The inauguration activities of the Bigard Lonergan Center spanned from April 28th to 30th, 2023, which included its first international conference on the theme “History and Hope: The Relevance of Lonergan’s Legacy in Africa”.

During the event on Friday, the Rector, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa, welcomed the guests and gave a brief history of how the Bigard Lonergan Center came into existence through the combined efforts of himself, Rev. Fr. Dr. Humphrey Ani, Rev. Fr. Prof. Joseph Ogbonnaya, and the team of Bigard Formators. It was then approved by the Seminary board led by Most Rev. C. V. C. Onaga, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese. Other activities for the Friday included a paper presentation by Rev. James Ogbuigbo on Lonergan’s biography and legacies, entertainment, and the induction of new members of the Bigard Lonergan group by its director, Rev. Fr. Dr. Humphrey Ani. The closing remark was given by Rev. Fr. Clement Obasi who thanked everyone who contributed to the success and institution of the Lonergan Center in Bigard.

During the morning session on Saturday, the Rector represented by the Vice Rector I, Rev. Fr. Dr. Kevin Udenwagu presented his inaugural address, and thanked those who made the Bigard Lonergan Center possible, especially Rev. Fr. Dr. Humphrey Ani. He highlighted the benefits of the center to Bigard, such as promoting academic excellence and aiding research work for both students and lecturers. Three paper presentations were given, beginning with Rev. Fr. Prof. Joseph Ogbonnaya on the theme “Method in Theology and its Implication in Contemporary Society”, where he emphasized Lonergan’s recognition of cultural plurality and the importance of building his theology on this empirical notion of culture, which recognizes the plurality in human beings, human thinking, human civilization, ways of being Christian, and ways of making sense of reality. He also asserted that Lonergan’s method does not encourage moral relativism.

The second paper, presented by Rev. Fr. Dr. Chrysanthus Ogbozo, focused on the theme: “Appraising Lonergan’s Human Knowing, Objectivity and Action in Society”. He evaluated some aspects of Lonergan’s epistemology, questioned the usefulness of the knowledge we have in Africa, and called for a change to ensure that knowledge translates into reality.

The last paper of the day, by Rev. Fr. Dr. Humphrey Ani, the Director, Bigard Lonergan center, was on the theme, “Role of Research Center in Learning and the Establishment of Bigard Lonergan Center”. During his presentation, he discussed the meaning of research centers, their relevance, a brief history of research centers in the world of scholarship, and the origin and mission of the Bigard Lonergan Centre.

The Saturday morning session ended with the Blessing and Grand Opening of the Bigard Lonergan Center by the Auxiliary Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Rev. Ernest Obodo, represented by Rev. Fr. Dr. Geoffrey Aguigwo, Vicar General, Catholic Diocese of Enugu.

The event continued later in the afternoon with a Zoom Virtual Conference with paper presentations from scholars from various countries. These included international Lonergan Scholars such as Prof. Jeremy Wilkins, Prof. Cyril Orji and Prof. Gerard Whelan.

On Sunday, there was a Holy Mass in thanksgiving for the successful inauguration of the Bigard Lonergan Centre presided over by Rev. Fr. Prof. Joseph Ogbonnaya. In his homily, he emphasized the importance of becoming good shepherds. One could become a good shepherd by understanding the importance of self-appropriation which is being authentically oneself and not giving in to external pressures from society and other people. Making use of Lonergan’s teachings, he advised that there can be no theology without the conversion of the theologian, no priesthood without the conversion of the priest and no Christianity without the conversion  of the Christian. Thus, conversion is very important. He highlighted four things which one should be converted from. They include: self-interest, individual egoism which he calls dramatic bias, tension between nation and tribe (group bias) and finally the general bias of the common sense which is thinking that we know it all. He also emphasized the importance of prayer in the life of a Christian.

The inauguration of the Bigard Lonergan Center finally came to an end with excursion to National Museum, Enugu and the Center for Memories, Enugu. The inaugural ceremony of the Bigard Lonergan Center was a landmark event that marked the beginning of a new era in research and scholarship in the seminary.