Bishop Ernest Obodo, Inaugurates 2019/2020 Academic/ Formation Year in Bigard Seminary, Enugu; Rewards Moral and Academic Excellence

The events of the inauguration ceremony began with a football match between Bigard Seminary Football Team and the National Youth Service Corps, Uwani Branch, Enugu State, on Sunday, October 27, 2019. The match started by 16:15hours after an official kick-off by His Excellency, Most Rev. Ernest Anezichukwu Obodo, officiating prelate, and Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu. The football match ended at 17: 45 hours by 3 goals to 1 in favour of the Seminary Team. Later that evening, there were the usual Evening Prayers and Vespers in the Seminary main chapel.

The official reception of the officiating prelate took place by 20:30 hours in the seminary auditorium. The reception, as the Rector later remarked, was in two-fold capacity, namely, in honour of the appointment of the bishop as the auxiliary bishop of Enugu diocese; and secondly, in honour of bishop as the officiating prelate of the inauguration of the 2019/2020 academic year. The rector in his address, thanked all present especially the inauguration prelate for making it out time in spite of his busy schedules.  Going forward, he gave a brief biography of Bishop Ernest Obodo. He also presented him with gifts on behalf of the seminary. Other programs that took place included: presentation by a 300-level philosophy student stage-named Stuntgant, Cultural Dance by Ikorodo of Nsukka diocese and Mbem presentation by another student of philosophy, Bartholomew Nzeh.

The bishop addressed the students and staff before the program was brought to an end. In his address, he remarked that any biography of his without the mention of Bigard Seminary was incomplete. It was here in Bigard, he said, that his journey into the clerical order began. He disclosed that he was one of those ordained a deacon when Bigard Seminary celebrated her 75th anniversary. He noted that it was also in Bigard that he received the news of his episcopal appointment. He addressed a number of issues bordering on vocation and formation. Finally, he thanked the formators for their selfless service for Bigard and the universal Church at large. After his speech, one of the formators, Fr. Miletus Ossai gave a vote of thanks. Fr. Hyginus Mbah led in the closing prayers. At the end, the bishop gave his blessings. The reception program was eventually brought to an end by 22:02 hours.

The Holy Mass of the Inauguration Ceremony began the next day by 9:10 hours, and was presided over by the inaugural prelate, Most Rev. Ernest A. Obodo. In attendance were staff and all students of Bigard – resident and non-resident –, and others who came to be part of the event. Before the Mass started, the Vice Rector I, Very Rev. Fr. Francis Igboanugo requested the bishop to celebrate the Votive Mass, first of all, in thanksgiving to God for the blessings of the past academic years, and secondly, for the spiritual and temporal needs of the seminary.    

The theme of the bishop’s homily -“The Choice of Disciples” – was drawn from the gospel of Mark 3:14. Reflecting on Mark’s account of the call of the Apostles, he stressed that God chooses those whom He wants. And so, God does not necessarily call the so-called qualified, rather, he calls those whom he wants and qualifies them. Over time, he said, God had continued to choose his collaborators from among men through different means as we read from the Letter to the Hebrews. In our own day, God still does so, but now, through the bishops and formators. He enjoined the seminarians not to be afraid of anything; for those to be chosen at the end of their seminary formation belong to God’s will. To the formators, he advised: “remain with God in prayers that you may be guided in your decisions”.

After the Post-Communion Prayers, one of the formators, Fr Osita Asogwa, on behalf of the staff and students, thanked the bishop for his fatherly words. At the end of the Mass, there were group photographs in front of seminary main chapel.

The inauguration social/academic events began in the seminary auditorium. After the officiating prelate, the Rector, and other priests on staff were officially ushered into the auditorium. All remained standing as the National, Papal, and Bigard Anthems were rendered. The Band of Bigard provided a musical accompaniment. Following the sequence of anthems was an opening prayer by Rev. Fr Raphael Ugwu by 11:20 hours.  

The rest of the programs featured included: official declaration of the new academic/ formation year by the Officiating Prelate, Address by the Rector of Bigard Seminary, Enugu, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa, Inaugural Address by the Officiating Prelate, Musical rendition by the Seminary Main Choir, Cultural dance display by seminarians of Enugu/Awgu dioceses, an Inauguration Lecture by Rev. Fr. Dr. Damian Udechukwu titled: “False Prophecy in Jeremiah 24: A Case Study in Nigerian Context.”;  then, Presentation of awards to seminarians who excelled in academics and morals in the course of the last academic and formation year.

In the end, there was a vote of thanks by the Vice Rector I, Rev. Fr Dr. Francis Igboanugo. In his words, he thanked the inaugural prelate, Most Rev. Dr Ernest A. Obodo, for his insightful inauguration address and for his acceptance to be inaugural prelate for this new academic/formation year. He thanked the Rector, Rev. Fr Dr Albert Ikpenwa, for his commitments and sacrifices. He appreciated the efforts of the Heads of Philosophy and Theology Departments, and indeed, all the students and staff who worked behind the scene to make this year’s inauguration ceremony a success.