Following the Diaconate Ordination of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu presided over by the Archbishop, His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Enrico dal Covolo, the Rector of Pontifical Lateran University, Rome on 29th June 2016, the Archbishop deemed it necessary to pay a momentous visit to the Seminary on the evening of the same day.
It was a joyful moment for the Formators, Seminarians and indeed the entire Bigard family, as the Archbishop graced the vespers of the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul with his grandiose presence.
After the vespers, The Rector of Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa led to the Sanctuary and warmly welcomed the Archbishop, accompanied by Most Rev Dr. Calistus Onaga, the Bishop of Enugu Diocese, and some priests who came with them In his speech, Most Rev. Calistus Onaga thanked the Rector and other Formators for the very many good works they are doing towards the formation of seminarians in Bigard, and also introduced properly the august visitor as one of the representatives of the Pope, as the rector of the only Papal University, and as an important personality in the areas of formation and academics.
He hence invited the archbishop to speak to the entire Bigard Family. In his address given in Italian language, and translated directly into English language by one of Bigard’s Formators, Rev. Fr. Dr. Francis Igboanugo, the archbishop spoke thus in a fatherly manner;
I wish to thank God that we have celebrated the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. May all those who go by the name raise up their hands (He sang a song of good wishes for all who bear the names). There is one important thought that should guide you in this vocation. Those who study philosophy and theology, philosophy is the most important science to man, and theology is the science of God, they are two different disciplines, but they have something that unites.
I have met students who had studied one year of philosophy, but have not integrated themselves in what they have studied. At this point, the study that you do must lead you to have a personal commitment with what you studied. It is not enough to study a lot of things, but there is need to be men who have the head that can think, and the heart that can love.
Who is the model of this synthesis that we are talking about? It is Jesus Christ who is truly man and as form of man being God, because he is not just man. The point of this synthesis that we are talking about is Jesus Christ. Men must love while they study. You must imitate him (Jesus Christ) with your life; you must trust and hope fully and deeply.
When you study your philosophy and your theology, you must be men who are deeply engrossed in the pastoral ministry like Jesus Christ exemplifies, that is what I wish each and every one of you. Be honest and always follow as God directs. Like this I address also all those I ordained deacons today. Every day when I pray, I remember all the people I have confirmed and deacons that I have ordained, tomorrow it might be your own turn (To the seminarians).
Are you happy and satisfied (Yes!!! Seminarians echoed). My first meeting with the Holy Father, Pope Francis was in a place filled with seminarians like you. Those that also come to see me, you can as well come to see me. I will now bless you in the name of the Holy Father. And the Pope also requests that those who receive this blessing also should pray for him.
I want you to say the prayer for the Pope, which will also be for the receiving of the indulgence. May you stand; Hail Mary……. (Followed by the Papal blessing). You have to also take this prayer to your homes, and to your fathers and to your mothers, and I wish you all Good Night.
After the Archbishop’s speech, Rev. Fr. Romanus Ejim, a priest of Enugu Diocese who also works in the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome revealed that the idea of visiting the seminary was the initiative of the Pope, who requested that the visit be made.
Some other priests who were present included Rev. Fr. Dr. Ambrose Agu, the Enugu Diocesan Chancellor, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Ukoro T. Igwe, the immediate former Rector of Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu, and all the members of the formation Team of Bigard.
The Rector expressed his sentiments of joy and fulfilment to the Archbishop for his visit, who showed his deepest satisfaction through his gestures. Hence, the rector invited all the priests present to the sanctuary for a snap shot with the Bishops, after which they all matched out for a dinner amidst ovation and songs.