It was really a thing of Joy for Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu as She convoked her class of 2021 in both Philosophy and Theology departments for the 51st convocation ceremony of the Seminary from 18th to 19th March, 2022.

The convocation ceremony which was presided over by the bishop of the Catholic diocese of Ekwulobia, Most Rev. Peter Okpaleke kicked-off on the 18th of March 2022, with a novelty match between the indomitable Lions of Bigard and the team of the graduands. Surprisingly, it was an evenly contested encounter as the experienced Bigard team found it difficult to break down the well-organized defensive line-up of the team of the graduands. In the end, the spoils were shared by the two teams as the entertaining match ended in a stalemate.

The ceremony continued with a Mass in the Bigard Chapel, presided over by a priest of the graduating class in conjunction with the priests and deacons of the graduating class and the formators of Bigard. During the homily, the homilist, Rev. Fr. Lawrence Ezugwu preached on “Learning from Mistakes”, where he emphasized the need for seminarians to make adequate use of the time they have in the seminary in order to be able to shoulder the vicissitudes of life when out in the field. Using the imagery from the first reading taken from Genesis 37, he advised the seminarians to learn a lot like Joseph did in Jacob’s house while still in the seminary in order to avoid the temptations that will arise when in the field like Joseph did in Potiphar’s house. He also advised the seminarians to eschew favoritism so as not to cause division and never to misunderstand the good intentions of others towards us as sabotage just as Joseph’s brothers did.

At night, the officiating prelate and the graduands were treated to a grand reception at the auditorium where the Vice Rector I welcomed all especially the Bishop and the graduands to their alma mater reminding them that Bigard is their home. The Bishop, expressed his delight to having been given the opportunity to return to the seminary after almost 28 years of his departure. He also assured the formators and seminarians of the continued supports of the Bishops of the province. The guests were also entertained by various presentations such as: Egwu Ekpili, Egedege by the One voice choral group and the Igba Mmanwu cultural dance.

The Grand Finale of the convocation took place on Saturday, 19th March 2022. It began with a Holy Mass presided over by the Officiating Prelate, Most Rev. Peter Okpaleke. In his homily, the bishop reiterated the fact that the life of St. Joseph and the year of St. Joseph just recently celebrated are invitations to imbibe the life of St. Joseph. Thus, he encouraged all to learn from St. Joseph, ways of handling sentiments and emotions. For him, it was as a result of the obedience of St. Joseph to the commands of God that we are able to celebrate the incarnation and the salvation of man. St. Joseph is a man disposed to do the will of God. He accepted the Challenges of his fatherly responsibility unconditionally and never looked for shortcut. St. Joseph teaches seminarians and priests the dignity of labor. Again, he stressed that the treasure prepared for seminarians is hidden in the seminary. Therefore, seminarians must dig deeply to find those treasures by obeying the rules of the seminary. With obedience, a seminarian will reach till the end.

The ceremony continued at the seminary auditorium after the Mass with an academic procession. This was then followed up by the anthems and the Solemn Opening Declaration by the officiating prelate. The Rector, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa during his opening remarks welcomed the Officiating Prelate, distinguished guests, graduands and indeed all to the ceremony. He advised all especially the graduands to make sure that there is a balance between the lives they live and the education they have received.

Next was the convocation address by the officiating prelate which he entitled “2035”. Here, he exposed the fate of Catholicism in Nigeria and the Igbo nation in particular, in the decades to come. For him, danger lies ahead for present and future priests as they are bound to minister to the world vitiated by undue attachment to ICT. This danger he identified as the misplacement of values and also laziness of both the mind and body in the people of God. He reminded both the formators and seminarians to retrace their steps and equip themselves to face these challenges for according to the Lumen Gentium, a vibrant Church is measured not by the level of assets or political achievements or even by the number of those in attendance: but by the capacity and zeal geared towards the salvation of souls.

He also advised the formators to become good role models to the seminarians and ensure that both the human, spiritual, pastoral and intellectual formations of the seminarians are unified. He appreciated the formators for their sacrifices geared towards making the world a better place occupied by well-formed ministers.

The Convocation Lecture was presented by Rev. Fr. Dr. Aloysius Ezeoba on the topic: “Substance and Relation in African personalism: A Critical Reconstruction.” In this discourse he attributed the persistent problems in Africa to the suppression of the individual person to embracing the substance. He said that this assumption has been promoted by many African philosophers such as J. S. Mbiti who was of the view that in Africa, “I am because we are.” The above statement is for him an emphasis on the notion of community or the relational mode of the human existence. Though such emphasis might be necessary in order to checkmate individualism, the notion of individual or substance is, in most cases, under-emphasized or left latent in African personalism. The emphasis on the relational mode in African Personalism makes one to incline towards collectivism that most often seems to repress the individual (substance) worth and dignity.

The distinguished special guests of honour were also given opportunity to speak to all present. The first person, Chief Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu represented by Bar. Mrs. Helen Ugwu spoke on imitating Jesus in his work of evangelization and avoiding projecting oneself more that God while evangelizing. For her, evangelization should focus more on feeding the hungry clothing the naked and such gestures. The second person, Prince Nnaemeka Ugwu represented by Pharm. Nwabuogu Aruike Mbaneme spoke on the correct usage of drugs and their abuses in a world where the youths are being lost to different abuses. For her, drug abuse is turning into a menace in the society as many youth are being swept away daily by drug abuses. Thus, he encouraged correct usage of drugs and avoidance of prohibited drugs.

This was followed up by the core of the convocation which is the award of degrees to the graduands in both the philosophy and theology departments. It was indeed a flawless result as Bigard recorded a 100% result once again. In the philosophy department, there was 0 Probatus, 8 Bene Probatus or 3rd Class, 48 Cum Laude Probatus or 2nd Class Lower, 56 Magna Cum Laude Probatus or 2nd Class Upper and then 4 Summa Cum Laude Probatus or First Class with Oraefo Johnpaul as the Best Graduating student.

For the Theology department it was even a better result as there was no candidate for Probatus and Bene Probatus or 3rd Class. 45 made Cum Laude Probatus or 2nd Class Lower, 54 made Magna Cum Laude Probatus or 2nd Class Upper while 10 made Summa Cum Laude Probatus or First Class honour degree with Rev. Atuegeu Thaddeus and Mbamelu Gabriel as the Best Graduating students and Rev. Atuegwu Thaddeus as the Valedictorian.

The Valedictorian, Rev. Atuegeu Thaddeus, while giving his valedictory speech expressed his gratitude to all who helped the class of 2021 attain such high heights. He also highlighted how their lived-experiences in Bigard helped to fashion them to the men they have become. In all, he stressed that what makes us all important as human beings is God and nothing else

Finally, Udubunch cultural dance of Awgu and Enugu dioceses provided entertainment for the guests, while the ceremony came to an end with a closing prayer and blessings by the officiating prelate.