Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, on Wednesday, 11th of October 2017, organized her Annual Colloquium, to mark the beginning of the 2017/2018 Academic and Formation Year. Following the inauguration of the academic year on Monday, 9th October 2017, by Francis Cardinal Arinze, the Seminary organized this traditional annual event. The Colloquium at the beginning of the academic year serves as a forum to present, discuss and internalize the theme that will serves as keyword and guideline for the work of academic, spiritual, human, and pastoral formation in the seminary. These four fundamental dimensions of a holistic seminary formation are contained and indeed prescribed in the Pastores Dabo Vobis issued by Pope Saint John Paul II (March 25 1992). Based on “The New Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacertotalis”, the theme for the 2017/2018 Colloquium is Discipleship, a Stage in the Journey of Formation, as well as Commitment for the Whole of Life Click to read the colloquium paper. Thus, the academic and formation year 2017/2018 is an invitation to follow Christ more closely.
The Colloquium started at exactly 9:00am, with students gathering in various classrooms to deliberate on the Colloquium paper prepared by the Rector, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa. Each group was moderated by at least two priests from the Team of Bigard Formators. For proper documentation and to facilitate presentation at the plenary session, each group appointed a secretary who took note and synthesized the points discussed. At the end of the first session, which lasted till 12:30pm, the secretaries put together the proceedings, proposals and suggestions of their group discussions in readiness for presentation at the general forum later in the day.
The second session of the year’s Colloquium, which started at 4:00pm, took place in the Seminary Auditorium. The auditorium was filled to the brim, with all Bigard Seminarians, the Rector, and virtually all the formation facilitators in attendance. The event started with an opening prayer said by Rev. Fr. Dr. Raphael Egwu, one of Bigard’s spiritual directors. After the opening prayer, the MC of the day, Mr. Emmanuel Ehioma invited the secretaries of all the classes to present the results the deliberations held earlier. The following are the secretaries of the groups.
Eneh Roy – Philosophy One
Ezeorah Ifeanyi – Philosophy Two
Jeremiah Egbosimba – Philosophy Three (Group One)
Cornelius Uchegbu – Philosophy Three (Group Two)
Leo Peter Udondata – Philosophy Four
Philip Uguru – Theology One (Group One)
Sarowiwa Cosmas – Theology One (Group Two)
Edem Joseph – Theology Two
Casmir Nkamuke – Theology Three
Desmond Ogbonna – Theology Four
From the reports presented by the secretaries, it became clear that the primary aim of the year’s colloquium was to acquaint the team of formators and seminarians with the content of the new Ratio, designated to be applied in its entirety as guideline for the formation process. The reports also show the unanimous agreement that the new Ratio issued by the Congregation for Clergy, on 8 December, 2016 and which updates the previous Ratio issued in 1970 and its updated version of 19th March 1985, as well as other documents on priestly formation, especially Pastores Dabo Vobis and Ministrorum Institutio, is ad rem and timely. Hence, it addresses the challenges and existential realities of the present time.
In their presentations the secretaries, in line with the Ratio, reechoed the words of Pope Francis that seminarians are like “uncut diamonds” and therefore there is need patience and carefulness in dealing with them in such a way that the “conscience of the individual” is duly respected. Formators, as already “refined diamonds”, should apply diligence and love in the formation of seminarians, for only a diamond can cut another diamond.
The secretaries also noted the four basic stages of the seminary formation as established in the Ratio, they are thus:
1. Propaedeutic Stage – Period before the seminary formation
2. Discipleship Stage – Period of philosophical studies
3. Configuration Stage – Period of theological studies
4. Pastoral Stage – Period of practicing the fruit of the formation in the pastoral field (Priesthood)
The presentations show that in spite of these differentiated stages, seminary formation remains a continuum the goal of which discipleship as a call to learn from Christ at all stages of formation. That means that formation involves staying with Christ, listening to him, and becoming a missionary of the Gospel of the master. Following Christ – sequela Christi – should be the watch-word for seminarians. From the presentations, it becomes clear that seminarians must be rooted in Christ and become more devoted and committed in listening to his words, keeping it in their hearts and putting it into practice. Following Christ, of course, involves self-denial, detachment and living a life in accordance with the evangelical counsels. That is part of the cost of discipleship.
Following the Ratio, it was held that care should be taken to ensure that seminary formation is not to be distracted or distorted by undue attachments and untamed inclinations to earthly goods. It was further highlighted that seminarians should remain focused and be prudent and more careful in their dealings with the opposite sex. Even though sound relationship with the opposite sex is encouraged for balance in personality, yet over-familiarity should be avoided.
On the relationship between philosophy and theology, the reports show that philosophy complements theology, and does not contradict it. Whereas philosophy as the search for wisdom using human reason enquires into the ultimate truth of the universe, of human beings and of God, theology deals with the ultimate truth itself, which is God, in the light of faith (“faith seeking understanding”). Thus the relationship is complementary.
At the end the presentations by the secretaries, there was opportunity for questions, observations and clarifications which some students availed themselves of. In his closing remarks, the Rector, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa expressed his heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the students and to the members of the Team of Formators for participating actively in the Colloquium. The closing prayer was said at 5:58pm one of Bigard’s formation facilitators, Rev. Fr. Dr. Ohajuobodo Oko.