The Bigard Seminary Community on Saturday, March 16, 2019, celebrated the 25th Priestly Ordination Anniversary of one of her Formators, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Aloysius Chukwuma Obiwulu. Granted that the celebration had already been marked at the beginning of the year in the home of town of the celebrant, the Bigard Seminary Community considered it fitting to organize a special celebration for him, as Fr Obiwulu has graciously spent a large chunk of his pastoral life here in Bigard Seminary, Enugu. The occasion which was marked in a grand style drew people from all walks of life.
The Eucharistic celebration which started at 10.00 hours was presided over by the celebrant, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Aloysius Obiwulu. In attendance were the Rector of Bigard, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert O. Ikpenwa, the Vice Rectors, other members of the Formation Team, and a host of other priests and lay faithful who came to be part of the celebration. Of special mention is Very Rev. Fr. Hyginus Agbaulo, who is currently the Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi and a fellow Silver Jubilarian and classmate of Fr. Obiwulu. Just before the Mass started, the Vice Rector II, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Mellitus Ossai, in a brief remark announced the intention of the celebration. “We are gathered”, he said, “to thank God for and with the celebrant, first of all, for the gift of the priesthood, and secondly, for what God has accomplished with and through him.” Welcoming all who had gathered for the celebration, he invited everybody to pray for the good intentions of the celebrant.
Introducing the Mass, the Celebrant invited all to join him in praying for the souls of his classmates who have died, that God may through the Holy Eucharistic Celebration grant them eternal repose in His kingdom. Speaking about his pastoral life, he disclosed that of the 25 years already spent in the priesthood, he has spent 18 of them here in Bigard. It has not been an easy journey, he admitted, but God’s grace has been sufficient. He, therefore, invited all to continue to pray for him.
The homilist of the Eucharistic Celebration, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Francis Igboanugo, took time to explain what it means to be a priest. He explained that priesthood is victimhood. Christ, he said, is the ultimate victim. Priesthood is, therefore, a participation in the victimhood of Christ. In the priesthood, a mere mortal becomes configured to Christ and he can acts in persona Christi so that in a Mass he can validly say: “This is my body/blood which will be given up/poured out for you…” This he described as the mystery of the priesthood. Fr. Obiwulu, he explained, has become “another Christ” by virtue of his ordination. The homilist charged the celebrant to appropriate the ministerial ‘manifesto’ which our Lord professed in the gospel of the day as a guide to his pastoral ministry. The passage reads: “the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that the captives will be released, that the blind will see, and that the oppressed will be set free” (Luke 4:18).
Before the Eucharistic Celebration was brought to an end, one of the formators, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Blaise Emebo, on behalf of the staff and students of Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, articulated the Seminary’s deepest sentiments of gratitude to all who made out time to join the Bigard Family in the celebration. He thanked as well those who performed various functions in the liturgy beginning with the homilist to the minor liturgical ministers. After his remarks and appreciations, the Choir intoned an anniversary song which was masterfully presented in honor of the celebrant.
With the Mass ended and group photographs taken in front of the Bigard Main Chapel, a switch was made to the Seminary Auditorium for the social aspect of the celebration. The Celebrant, the Formation Team, and the Guests were ushered into the Seminary Auditorium by IgbaUmuogaranya of Nnewi and Onitsha Archdiocese.
Coming after the invitation of dignitaries to the High Table, Opening Prayer by Fr. Dr. Raphael Egwu, the Presentation and Ritual of the Kolanut, was an Address of Welcome by the Rector, Very Rev. Fr. Albert Ikpenwa. In his address, the Rector noted that Fr Obiwulu was ordained a priest on the 3rd day of July 1993 at the then Holy Trinity Cathedral, now the Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha, by Most Rev. Dr. Stephen Ezeanya of blessed memory. He disclosed that Fr Obiwulu joined the Bigard Family in 1994 as a Dean of Students’ Affairs and in 1996 became the Seminary’s Financial Administrator.
He was afterwards, sent to the Universite Catholique de Louvain, Belgium for further studies. On coming back after 7 years of study, Fr. Obiwulu was again sent back to Bigard as a formator. And since then, he has continued to distinguish himself in various capacities: as a Head of Philosophy Department, he proved himself an administrator; as a lecturer, he has demonstrated himself an erudite scholar; and as a formator, he has shown himself a concerned shepherd of souls. It is for these selfless services and more, the Rector said, that the Bigard Family wishes to say a hearty “thank you.” The Rector extended his gratitude to other lecturers in the Formation Team and the external lecturers, and the students for their contributions towards the growth of the seminary.
The rest of the program featured presentations by the Bigard Main Choir, Cultural Dance by IgbaUmuogaranya of Nnewi and Onitsha Diocese, Address by the President of the Students’ Council, Ogini song by Ezih Christopher, Stand-Up Comedy by Ilechukwu Augustine, Presentations of gifts to the celebrants by various Dioceses, Groups, and Individuals, Response by the Celebrant, Closing Remarks by Fr. Dr. Francis Igboanugo, and finally, the Closing Prayer by Fr. Hyginus Mba.