On Monday, October 09, 2017, Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu was agog with dignitaries from all works of life for the annual ceremony of the inauguration of the Academic and Formation Year 2017/2018. The program of the day included the commissioning of a newly tarred avenue and the St. Luke’s Hospital Complex respectively by Gov. Ifeanyichukwu Ugwuanyi and Francis Cardinal Arinze.
The event began with a Holy Mass of Thanksgiving presided over by His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Arinze with Most Rev. C. V. C. Onaga, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa, the Rector of Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, and a host of other concelebrating priests including: Rev. Fr. Dr. Jacob Okoye who represented the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Awgu Diocese, Rev. Fr. Dr. Gregory Nnamani who represented the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, Very Rev. Fr. P. D. Akpunonu, a past Rector of Bigard (fondly called the “Rector of Rectors”), the College of Formators and others.. Dignitaries present at the Holy Mass included Gov. Ifeanyichukwu Ugwuanyi, the Executive Governor of Enugu State, Hon. Okenwa Obinna, Hon Uche Ede, Mr. Uwakwe Azikiwe, Hon. Emmanuel Agbo, Hon Dan Ene, and host of other dignitaries.
In his homily, Francis Cardinal Arinze reflected on the close and inseparable relationship between the Catholic priesthood and the Eucharist. According to him, the work of the priest is chiefly the work of celebrating the Eucharist, i.e. offering the same sacrifice first offered by Christ on the Cross. Thus, the priest is to offer himself in and through Christ as well as lead the people to offer themselves to God. Citing St John Mary Vianny and Blessed Iwene Tansi as models, he advised priests and seminarians to make their spirituality felt by the deep devotion with which they celebrate the Mass.
Before the end of the Mass, the Rector, Fr. Ikpenwa briefly expressed his unreserved appreciation of the goodwill of all who honored the Seminary by their presence and prayed for God’s blessings on them all.
With the Mass ended and photoshots taken in front of the Bigard Main Chapel, a joyful procession of all seminarians and guests led through the Seminary Main Avenue to the newly reconstructed avenue leading to the Academic Block, Hospital and Auditorium for commissioning. There, the Governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, in a ceremonial gesture of cutting of ribbon, commissioned the newly asphalted Bigard 2nd Avenue.
The procession continued through the newly asphalted avenue to the reconstructed ultra-modern Seminary health care unit for commissioning by the Cardinal. Before the formal commissioning of St Luke’s Hospital, the Seminary Chief Infirmarian, traced the history of its emergence and sustenance to the initiative and continued support of the Catholic Workers Volunteer Force led by Doctor E. B. C Udora. After the presentation, Francis Cardinal Arinze performed the rite of the blessing of the Hospital and commissioned it to the Glory of God and the care of the sick. He invoked God’s blessings on all doctors and nurses who offer selfless services in the care of seminarians, and prayed that whoever comes to the Hospital sick, might leave it sound in health of mind and body.
The Seminary rolled out drums in a reception at the Blessed Iwene Tansi Auditorium to entertain her esteemed guests. In continuation of ritual of the inauguration of the Academic and Formation Year, anthems were rendered by the Bigard Fans of Jesus in the following order: Papal anthem, National anthem and Bigard anthem. This was immediately followed by the presentation of kolanut which were blessed in accordance with tradition by the Cardinal.
In his address, the Rector, Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa expressed his gratitude to God for his graces and blessings on the Seminary as well as his heartfelt appreciation to the guests and beckoned on all to feel at home. After the address, the Bigard Main Choir entertained all with a classical choral presentation, after which the Rector made a solemn request on the Francis Cardinal Arinze, the Officiating Prelate for the year’s inauguration to officially declare the 2017/2018 Academic and Formation Year open. In a solemn and ceremonial manner, the Cardinal in prayer declared open the Academic/Formation Year. This was followed by a thunderous and joyous applause by the entire Bigard Family and her guests.
An Inaugural Address was rendered by Francis Cardinal Arinze. Under the theme, Reflections on the Priestly Ministry, he stressed that the major act of the priest any day is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Among other things, the Cardinal advised all priests and seminarians, especially those present, to moderate their attitude towards earthly goods, nurture their zeal for the priestly apostolate, especially through devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to respect and foster the apostolate of lay faithful. His paper, which was presented in the form of theses, was geared towards eliciting and encouraging depended reflection and discussion.
As part of the inauguration ceremony, awards were given to seminarians who distinguished themselves in academics and character. This was followed by the presentation of the winner of the annual “Francis Cardinal Arinze Award”, an award given to the best student in academics in fourth year theology, judging from a cumulative result of the three years of theological studies already done. This year, the winner was Mr. Bartholomew Ezeokafor. On another note, the annual award of “Best Behaved Seminarian” in Bigard, which normally is chosen from the fourth year theology students, went to Mr. Ugochukwu Ugwu. Amidst cheers and applauds, the Executive Governor of Enugu rewarded the two outstanding students with handsome monetary gifts.
In his address, the Executive Governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi expressed his joy at the company of Francis Cardinal Arinze and Bishop Callistus Onaga. He lauded the cooperation between the Catholic Church and the State towards the growth of the State. He expressed satisfaction at being hosted by Bigard and how proud he is to be a Catholic. In his generosity of spirit, Gov. Ugwuanyi promised to donate a bus to the Seminary for the management of the newly commissioned ultra-modern hospital.
Rev. Fr. Dr. Francis Igboanugo, the Vice Rector I of Bigard, gave the vote of thanks. He thanked the Cardinal, the Governor and all present and recalled in appreciation how 20 years ago Jim Nwobodo, the then Governor of old Anambra State, visited and donated the St. James’ Library Complex to Bigard.
Bishop C.V.C. Onaga brought the reception to a successful end with a closing prayer, while Francis Cardinal Arinze gave the final blessing. Rev. Fr. Dr. Blaise Emebo, one of the Bigard Formators, moderated the event as Master of Ceremony. Refreshments followed thereafter.
The Inauguration ceremony was successfully wrapped up with an inaugural football match, which took place at the Bigard FIFA field at 4:00pm, with the Cardinal taking the kick-off. The match which was between the Bigard team and a team from Godfrey Okoye University Enugu, ended 2 goals to 1 in favour of Bigard.