In her rich exhortations on the formation of the candidates to the priesthood PASTORES DABO VOBIS divided the formation of the priest into two: The initial formation (formation before ordination) and ongoing formation (formation after ordination). In an honest obedience to this papal call of St. John-Paul II, the Bigard family organised her 2013/2014 formation weekend in which both the students (as part of the initial formation) and the staff (as part of the ongoing formation) participated actively.
The encyclical outlined four areas of formation for the candidates for the priesthood: 1. Human. 2. Spiritual. 3. Intellectual and 4. Pastoral. The formation weekend this year though centred properly on the human formation extended to the other areas, such that, we were not only humanly, but also spiritually, intellectually, and pastorally formed.
“Feelings (emotions) add colour to our lives and in time of stress they can disrupt our lives or save it. We seem to be the most emotional of all species. We express fear, anger, sadness, joy, love, etc. Where do these emotions come from? Why do we have them? What are they made of? We shall consider Psychology’s understanding of our emotion-related feelings, thoughts and actions. We shall explore its management and emotional intelligence.” With the above words our able facilitator Sr. Dr. Mary Gloria C. Njoku, of Daughters of Divine Love congregation, a Clinical Psychologist/Psychopharmacologist, disposed all for the formation weekend with the theme: Emotions/Feelings.
The sessions of the weekend program were set rolling by the evening conference on 15th May, 2014. Rev. Fr. Dr. Anthony Eze said the opening prayer. He also on behalf of the entire Bigard family introduced the facilitator of the formation weekend; Sr Dr. Gloria Njoku, a seasoned Psychologist/Psychopharmacologist and a versatile scholar.
The facilitator introduced the general theme of the formation weekend as “Emotional Maintenance”. In order to explain the meaning of emotion, she asked how we were feeling, what part of the body controls emotion? Opinions were sampled. She asserted conclusively; “Emotion originates from the brain and every emotion is good including anger, sexual drive, joy, love etc.” To substantiate this claim she differentiated between emotions and actions admonishing; “All should learn to differentiate emotions from actions.”
The concluding prayer by Rev. Fr. Dr. Theophilus Anyanwu brought the session to a close.
The formation program continued on Friday 16th May, with the morning session opening prayer said by Rev. Fr. Dr. Francis Igboanugo. The facilitator continued with the topical issue EMOTIONS/FEELINGS. Sr. Dr. Gloria Njoku reiterated the role emotions play in man’s life by emphasizing once more: “Emotions add colour to our lives and in time of stress they can disrupt our lives or save it.” She went further to consider in details the psychology behind the understanding of emotions- related feelings, thought and actions.
She masterly discussed the controversy over the interplay of our psychology, expressions and experience in emotions. To demonstrate this point she used the chicken and egg debate. This concerns which one is older; the chicken or the egg? Hence, do feelings come before the body reactions or vice versa? She went a long way to analyse the theories of James Langa and Cannon Bard. The former holds that the feelings follow the body’s reaction, while the latter asserts that the two happen simultaneously. The debate is clear in her lecture note which is attached to this report in soft copy.
Furthermore, she singled out ‘anger’ as a case study of emotions, albeit not overlooking other emotions such as: joy, happiness, love, sadness etc. She asked the questions: “Who makes you angry? What makes you angry?” There were varied answers, at the end of which she encouraged all thus: “Don’t allow yourself to be controlled by another person.” She then proficiently educated us on the different ways of evaluating arousal, cognition and behaviour/responses to anger in 5 dimensions: 1. Frequency. 2. Intensity. 3. Duration. 4. Impulsiveness. 5. Consequences.
Questions were asked and clearly clarified. This was followed by the closing prayer said Rev. Fr. Kenneth Ugwu.
At the evening session of the same day, Sr. Njoku continued with the emotion management theme. Thus, she spoke about ‘checking the trigger of one’s anger, using the most recent moments’, ‘identification of irrational beliefs’, where she viewed; “What one believes in can affect one’s behaviour.” She admonished that one should practice controlling one’s emotions by first knowing oneself, constant disposition to improvement and constant practice.
Questions and closing prayer brought the session to an end.
Saturday’s morning session started with an opening prayer said by Rev. Fr. Anthony Attah. The facilitator, Sr. Dr. Mary Gloria Njoku, after a fiew dispositional entry behaviour settled down for business.
The morning session presentation started with the topic on “Self-Talk”. She categorized self-talk under two parts: Anger increasing self talk, example: ‘I can’t stand this’; and Anger reducing self talk; example: ‘Stay calm, just relax’. The following were suggested as possible practical aids for stress and depression management: Belly-breathing, Muscle Relaxing, Listening to Music, Dancing, Watching TV (Comedies), Bike riding, etc. She outlined five steps to problem solving: “What is the problem? What can I do? What is the best solution? Try out selected solution, did the solution work?”
Other ways of solving problems and stress management are: Assertiveness: “It requires you to talk about your problem with at least one other individual. This is different from aggressiveness and passivity.” Humor: “This triggers pleasure in your brain and as a result enhances relaxation.” She also suggested Prayer/Meditation as way of solving problems. In conclusion she passionately instructed: “I encourage you to be patient with yourself. Avoid despairing and thinking that you are not supposed to feel angry. Remember that anger is a normal feeling.”
After the question section, the session closed with an opening prayer said by Rev. Fr. Dr. Cajetan Iyidobi.
The last session of the formation weekend for the 2013/2014 academic session began on the evening of Saturday 17th May, 2014, with an opening prayer led by Rev. Fr Cyprian Ezeakunne. The topic for the evening session was on building self-esteem. Sr. Dr. Gloria Njoku, using Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of motive’s pyramid, illustrated the importance of self-actualisation. Besides the physiological needs of food, clothing and shelter, human beings need self actualisation. Sr. Pointed out that self-actualisation can be possible through a fair and moderate opinion about one-self. Self-esteem entails knowing oneself; one’s abilities, weaknesses etc.
She further pointed out the importance of personal reflection as one sure way of coming to self-awareness. This she encouraged against immature attitudes of ‘basking in others glory’, ‘self-handicapping actions’ and ‘self-serving cognition’. She identified fear as being basic to most cases of low self-esteem. She encouraged all to view mistake as natural, as a form of learning and an evil that can be overcome with adequate practice.
The interactive and practical session came to its last phase with the question and answer section, which was immediately succeeded by a vote of thanks properly articulated on behalf of the seminary community by the second Auxiliary, Mr Anthony Okon. A closing prayer with the Regina Caeli led by Rev. Fr Dr. Theophilus Anyanwu brought the session to an end.
The thanks giving Mass on Sunday 18th May, 2014, brought the program of the formation weekend to an end.