As part of its extra-curricular activities that form part and parcel of the formation and academic year, Bigard Memorial Seminary, had its 2022 annual Convention of National Association of Catholic Theology Students (NACATHS) Weekend with the theme; ““Towards a more African Theology and a more African Church” that lasted from Friday, 25th November to Sunday, 27th November, 2022.
The opening prayer of the evening session was said by Rev. Fr. Dr. Johnbosco Okoye at exactly 8: 85pm. The Opening remark was then given by the HOD of Theology, Rev. Fr. Dr. Clement Obasi who welcomed all, and also expressed delight at the participants for agreeing to be part of the discussion on the best way to make theology more African. He further tasked the audience to pay adequate attention to the discussants in order to drink from their deep reservoir of intellectual wisdom.
The roundtable discussion was moderated by Rev. Mr. Oguh Modestus on the general theme: “Towards a more African Theology and a more African Church”. He identified that the topic of discussion was very important for it is not something abstract or built in the air but something that has an existential reality amongst us as we are Africans as well as Christians. He also stated that Christianity is not new to the African cultural milieu for the evangelization in Africa started from the apostolic times, following the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch and Mark who founded the Church in Alexandria. The African church has also given many prominent thinkers to the Church, such as Augustine, Origen, Tertullian and many more. The discussants responding to the topic all stressed on the fact that Christianity in a way has contributed in the denigration of African culture in many ways such as; making all things African to appear as being intrinsically bad, alienating Africans from their culture, unhealthy competition or rivalry that exists as a result of the various denominations seeking for supremacy existing in Christianity leading to societal, political and cultural unrest. They also proffered some solutions on how to make Christian theology and Christianity in itself more African. Some of these solutions include; introduction of African theology as a course in the seminaries and catholic institutions, the adoption of liberation theology as developed on South America as a way of liberating Africans from the shackles of Colonial effects of Christian theology, inculturation so as to introduce such things that will include African culture and not annihilate them, thus finding a nexus between the ideals of Christianity and the African cultural values, the spirit of ecumenism, and to stop blaming the colonial masters for our problems but accept that most times we’re the architects of our own problem.
After the roundtable discussion there was opportunity for the audience consisting of formators and seminarians to contribute their own opinions on the topic. Rev. Fr Dr. Igboanugo insisted that there was a relationship between the Bible and African culture like marriage and child dedication etc. The vote of thanks and closing remarks was done by Rev. Fr. Dr. Alfred Nwoye who thanked the moderator for eruditely overseeing the discussions as well as the participants for their wonderful presentation, saying that the church in Africa has a hope in all of them. Finally the closing prayer was said by Rev. Fr. Dr. Eugene Odo.
The event continued on the next day with the opening prayer which was said by Rev. Fr. Dr. Johnbosco Okoye at 9:00 am. The Kola nut was then presented and blessed by the Fr. Rector. The opening remark was then given by the HOD of Theology, and moderator of NACATHS Rev. Fr. Dr. Clement Obasi. Dwelling on the theme “Towards a more African Theology and a more African church”, he observed that there is something unique about African theology which should be developed for what it is. He opined that the Africanness of the African should be considered in the development of a theology that is African or of our notion of God.
Next was the induction of the theology one students into the department of theology and members of NACATH by the moderator, where they promised to abide by the rules and regulations of the association, and to be diligent to its activities as well as helping the organization to achieve its goals and objectives and to be punished if they go astray. The moderator subsequently welcomed them into the association.
Fr Rector in his welcome address thanked and welcomed all present especially our guests, those representing our sister seminaries and the paper presenters. He said that the event was a wonderful opportunity to rub minds together for the progress of the church, especially in Africa. This conference, according to him is in line with what Pope St. John Paul II meant when he said “that Catholic universities and institutions have a role to play in the church in Africa by asking critical and important questions and promoting inculturation.” He therefore enjoined all to pay adequate attention to all the deliberations and presentations of the day in order to better reap its fruit towards the better propagation of the Christian faith in Africa.
The Keynote address was given by Rev. Fr. Dr. Kingsley Anagolu. According to him, the call for an African theology in the 60s took a new turn following the exhortations made by the Holy farther and in line with the provisions made in the Ad Gentes pertaining to the adaptability of missions according to the circumstances of the people. Mission is one and the same everywhere. Thus, there is need for an indigenous type of an African church or theology. The doctrines and gospel message should be made incarnate in the African values. The perception of our socio cultural values should be fine tuned, thus, recognition should be given to this call for a more Christian theology.
The Lecture was then given by Rev. Fr. Prof. Kekong Bisong on the theme: “Towards a More African Church and a More African Theology”. For him, the African soul before Christianity was grounded in a sense of true values, solidarity, love for one another, sense of duty, dignity of labor and many more. Thus, there existed and still exist indigenous African values. We must first study our custom before condemning it. Africans should from their theological reflections know these values and imbibe them instead of borrowing from them (the West). He thus proceeded to highlight some of the characteristics of an African theology as follows;
- It should be rational and from African culture
- It should be critical thinking from Africans and people of African descent
- It should be a reflection concerning itself with the way Africans, both past and present, made sense of their faith
- It should be done by Africans
- It should include writings of theologians of African descent such as Augustine etc.
- It should include analysis of other aspects of African Traditional Religion related to Christian belief.
He further made an attempt at providing some probable methods at achieving the above. He asserts that the bible does no longer belong to the West but to those who read it, albeit we have to read it correctly. An African theology should be able to achieve its aim through adopting liberation theology, inculturation and ecumenical movements are also very helpful as workable methods. He thus believes that an African theology, should be able to analyze the core African adage, “Conatus Ego Sum (I am because we are)”, and incorporate it into an African Christian theology towards achieving a more African theology.
Responding to the paper, Rev Fr. Dr. George Adimike thanked the paper presenter for his wonderful presentation. He however, insisted that there is no need for an entirely new theology that is African, but however we need to contribute our own quota to the overall development of Christian theology. According to him, “even in our pursuit of a theology that is African, we have to bear in mind that we all belong to the same theology. The church should thus not have an ethnic or location based theology although it should recognize the diverse cultural differences that exist within.”
After his response, there was an avenue for questions, contribution and answers. This was followed by performances of various sorts. Next was the unveiling of the NACATHS journal and also the award won by the seminary for the best article in the journal by the Fr. Rector and moderator. The article was written by two former students, Rev. Frs. Cosmas Emengini and Constatine Okoli. After the launching, awards were presented to the paper presenter, the respondent and to our beloved Fr. Rector. The vote of thanks was rendered by Rev. Fr. Dr. Alfred Nwoye. He thanked all who participated and wished our visitors safe journey back to their various destinations. Finally, the closing prayer was said by Rev. Fr. Godwin Orji.
The event continued later in the evening with a football match at the Bigard FIFA field between the Bigard school team and the new inductees (theology one seminarians). The match ended 5 goals to nil in favour of the school team. The event was brought to an end with the Holy Mass of Sunday, 27th November, 2022, presided over by the HOD ofTheology, Rev. Fr. Dr. Clement Obasi.