First Annual Retreat for the 2014/2015 Academic/Formation Session

Seek a convenient time to search your own conscience, meditating on the benefits of God… therefore, those who intend to lead the interior life and have grace of devotion must with our Lord go away from the crowd.

The Seminarians of Bigard Memorial Seminary through the auspices of two seasoned retreat moderators followed these words of Thomas A Kempis in his book titled My imitation of Christ by going into solitude and silence for four days.

The annual retreat for the 2014/2015 academic/formation session began on the night of Friday December 12, and ended on the morning of Tuesday, December 16, 2014. The four days spiritual encounter with the Lord was moderated by Rev. Monsignor Jerome Madueke of Awka Diocese and Rev. Fr. Oliver Anolue of Onitsha Archdiocese. These spiritually and intellectually imbued priests led the Seminarians into the true meaning and demands of the Catholic Priesthood.

Monsignor Jerome Madueke who moderator the the retreat for seminarians from Philosophy one to Theology three at his introduction to the retreat on Friday night regretted the impatience of many youths especially seminarians. He admonished that one step be taken at a time by focusing on the present for it is the present that will determine the future.

With this he brought to limelight the importance of the period of Seminary formation. Seminarians should within this period allowed the Holy Spirit to work in them so that they may enter into close relationship with Christ. The positive transformation of our world could be at any stage of our lives. He emphasized the need for silence, prayer and interior reflection so as to fully realize the kind of persons God wants us to become.

On Saturday, December 13, monsignor during the Mass reflected on the person of Elijah basing on the readings of the day. Do we need Elijah in our society today? Elijah among the Israelites rose up to combat the corruption in his time. He had the zeal and as such he was able to challenge the status quo thereby transforming it. Our world today is corrupt and needs Elijahs, those disposed to the Holiness of God to challenge the situation. We can become new Elijahs by transforming our corrupt world no matter our age limit. Therefore, we have to begin now.

During the conferences within the retreat, Monsignor dwelt on the theme THE HIDDEN LIFE OF JESUS. We have scanty information about the hidden life of Jesus in the scriptures because first, the Jews did not recognize children and women. Secondly, the Evangelists focused on the life and ministry of Jesus which culminated in his passion, death and resurrection and not his autobiography. They were only concerned about those aspects of Jesus’ life that will aid the faith of the early Christian community and their readers.

The pieces of information we have about Jesus’ hidden life are from the Fathers and the apocryphal books. Jesus divine though he was humbled himself by staying in Nazareth under the authority of Joseph and Mary for thirty years before he began his public ministry. These years under his earthly parents were his ‘Seminary days’.

From the womb of Mary he was able to create positive impacts on people around him for example John the Baptist, the Shepherd, Simeon and even Herod thereby showing that every child even from the womb is important and must be respected. Under the tutelage of his earthly parents, Jesus prepared himself for his public ministry. He learnt obedience thus he was docile enough to follow his parent back to Nazareth at the age of twelve.

Also, in the Nazareth family Jesus developed his identity, relationship, interiority, silence and dignity of labor. He learned the Jewish laws and customs. These helped him to live contemplatively before the commencement of the work for which he was sent by God the father.

Connecting it to the contemporary situation Monsignor Madueke told us that many today are allergic to authority. Seminarians today no longer come under the authority of their parents in order to be guided by them. Nobody wants to be led, everyone wants to be an authority figure. We should allow authority especially our parents and formators to help us organize our lives. Jesus by his hidden life teaches us to subdue our pride.

The Catholic Church today is so noisy because people no longer develop interiority. People no longer cultivate the virtue of silence so as to meditate and contemplate. Even the liturgy is becoming superficial. Materialism is becoming the order of the day, thus, our worship is no longer in spirit and in truth but in flamboyancy. We have to learn this interiority and this can only be done in the seminary.

Finally monsignor spoke at length on the misuse of talents especially in the seminary. In the seminary, talents are used by some as a means of outshining others, some use it to attract favour and attention. Many others exhibit their talents with pride while some see it as a distraction to their formation process. There is need to take time to develop our talents, to learn the rules associated to whatever one is interested in.

This development is not to be done autonomously but under the guidance of someone. According to him, many priests desert their talents as priests because for them it was only a means of achieving their goal as seminarian. He therefore admonished us to integrate our talents in our vocation.

Rev. Fr. Oliver Anolue who moderated the canonical retreat for the prospective deacons reflected on one of the sayings of Christ “Unless your virtue goes beyond that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Mtt. 5:20). He led them through the six “Ps” that could destroy a man namely; Position, Possession, Prestige, Pleasure, Power and Pride. He also explained to them the necessity of prayer and mortification and the need to guard the virtue of chastity.

On Tuesday, December 16, 2014, Fr. Oliver Anolue presided over the Eucharistic celebration with Monsignor Jerome Madueke as the homilist. The post communion prayer was followed by an appreciation to the retreat moderators by the Bigard family as well as response by the retreat moderators. Next was the prayers for the Pope’s intention and then the retreat blessings that brought the retreat to a close. We pray God to bless our retreat moderators and make this retreat bear fruit in our lives especially as we await the coming of our Lord Jesus this Christmas.

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