Mother Bigard Celebrates Culture Weekend For 2013/2014 Academic Session

Pope Pius xii in his encyclical letter Evangelii Praecones teaches:

Whatever is good, should be preserved, Purified and elevated, by its contact with the Christian religion.

It was in view of the above Papal call, that mother Bigard, in her formative wisdom, from Friday 29th November to Sunday 1st December 2013, celebrated African culture, in the light of the Gospel. The human person is born within a culture, for culture is life, our heritage and our pride; thus we cannot ignore or relegate our culture to the background in the name of modernism or secularism. There are richly, good aspects of our culture and as African Christians; we are bound to celebrate them in the light of the Gospel.

The historic event kicked off on the premier day, Friday 29th November 2013, at the Seminary FIFA field, with an opening prayer, fervently rendered by Rev. Fr. Dr. Theophilus Anyanwu- Ichie Mmiri Enwe Iro I of Imezi-Owa. The Rector – Rev. Fr. Dr. Theophilus Ukoro Igwe, in a keynote address, reflected on the theme “NEW WINE, OLD SKIN: THE AFRICAN DILEMMA“.

The major points of the address were as summarized below. The evil of colonialism greatly imperiled African culture. This was because the colonized African was an object and not the subject of his history. He was not allowed to take an active part in the affairs of his destiny. African personality and culture were unreservedly denigrated.

Hence, the cultural ideal was the white man’s culture and not the African’s. The social aspirations, education, technology, arts and culture of the colonized Africans were highly modeled after those of the white men. Colonial education gave him (African) academic degrees but denied him of being proud of himself, his culture and his fellow African.

After the Rector’s address, the other events of the day kicked off in earnest. Odogwu Cultural Dance of Awka diocese, Enyimba Cultural Dance of Aba diocese and Odezuluigbo Cultural Dance of Nnewi diocese, entertained the audience with their profound cultural heritages, respectively.

On Saturday, 30th November 2013, the cultural Weekend continued in a grand style. Many African cultural heritages were unveiled in various displays in the morning session. The Abakiliki Diocesan Seminarians with an array of energetic dancers, able-bodied instrumentalists and a frond-veiled masquerade caught the attention of all. Their music could provoke a cripple to attempt some dancing steps. The interludes rendered by the BOB (Band of Bigard), were desired to be repeated than to be stopped.

The language expressed in their well thought out spontaneous lyrics possessed enormous cultural undertones. The Ogene groups of St Bernard Hostel were at their best. The Orlu Diocesan seminarians displayed a cluster of very fierce looking masquerades with an overwhelming energy, which performed to the cheering of all. The children of the Domestic Staff, in turn created a scene with a short but insightful drama of marriage in a typical Igbo culture. The drama condemned strongly the racial discrimination against ‘Osu’ people in the society.

The cultural displays, which continued in the evening of Saturday, 30th November, 2013 started with a paper presentation which was supposed to have taken place in the morning. Rev. Fr. Theophilus Nwodo standing in for Rev. Fr. Prof. Christian Aneke, the Vice Chancellor of Godfrey Okoye University preskented a paper in which he asserted that cultures are interconnected. He insisted that if any nation must grow, develop and enjoy peace, they must go back to the understanding of the relationship between different cultures. He then proposed that everybody’s culture should be respected. Moreover, the church should continue to be committed in creating this awareness in and among the people.

After the paper presentation, an interesting and very important aspect of the weekend, the induction of new members into the organization of the African thoughts and culture, was performed according to the due cultural and Christian rites. Different dioceses like Mbaise, Nsukka, Onitsha and Okigwe, kept all spell bound with their different types of masquerades, cultural dances and so on, according to their various cultures. Furthermore, Igbo proverbs (Ilu Igbo) were rendered to challenge our cultural intellectual curiosity and to bring to lime light the wisdom of our forebears. Ezema Gabriel, Ozioko Cyril and Okafor Eric, masterfully presented this informative aspect of the weekend.

The Grand Finale

The mass for the grand finale of the culture weekend started by 9:15am on Sunday, 1st day of December 2013, with a solemn procession by the ministers, accompanied by the traditionally dressed members of African thought and culture. The chief celebrant, Rev. Fr. Dr. Anthony Eze in his homily, welcomed the entire congregation into the new liturgical year (Advent).

In a thoughtful synthesis adorned with spiritually uplifting words, he juxtaposed the cultural celebration and the advent period, pointing out that, “just as the advent celebration is a period of looking backward and forward, the cultural celebration is also a period of looking backward and forward on our cultural values and disvalues”.

In a wonderful and challenging homily, he highlighted the importance of culture for every individual, and society and he expressed the certainty that “without culture, we will be as useless as a computer without software”. He recommended the upholding of good elements in our culture and the suppressing of the less godly ones or their purification where possible.

Immediately after the solemn mass, members of the high table were led to the Bigard FIFA field by the sonorous Ikorodo cultural dance of Nsukka diocese, where the celebration that kicked off from Friday, 29th November, 2013 was brought to its final end. The great fiesta at the FIFA field started with an opening prayer by Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Anthony Ezeh.

In his opening remarks, Rev. Fr. Dr. Igboanugo, Ichie Ozioma 1 of Bigard welcomed all who turned up to the occasion and remarked, that as the theme of the day’s reading is ‘keep watch’, he is equally telling all and sundry to keep watch because, Bigard family has a lot with which to satisfy our curious minds. The chairman of the occasion, Chief Walter Oji, also in his note of welcome stated, that there should be catechesis over culture and it should be embraced by all for the future growth of the Church in Nigeria.

Among other activities, some members of the African Thought and Culture Society, Rev. Mr. Anthony Eze and Rev Mr. Sanctus Onuoha were installed as ICHIE UDOKAMMA 1 of Bigard and ICHIE SOMUADINA 1 of Bigard, respectively. Before the installation Obong Uforo 1 of St. Joseph Ikot Ekpene first presented them to Ichie Ozioma 1 of Bigard, Igwe Chinyere Ugo 1 of Enugu Urban and HRH Igwe Ojukwu.

Igwe Ojukwu then presented a talk on OJI (kola nut). He enumerated the possible cultural and Christian significances of the lobes of Oji when broken. “Three lobes indicate three persons in One God,” he proposed. He also saw it as a symbol of the holy family made up of three persons, Joseph, Mary and Jesus. He then called this type of Kola, ‘Oji Uka’. He pointed out that it could equally mean the present, the past and the future. He however, called four lobes, Oji Ikenga, which symbolizes, the four Igbo market days.

Those with five lobes receive applause because they signify goodness. Six lobes signify danger; some eat it while others do not. Seven lobes he continued could symbolize the seven days of creation, seven colors of rainbow or seven divisions of our Lord’s Prayer. He recognized that Oji with seven lobes is the king of Oji and is celebrated.

After the talk, there was a wonderful cultural display by the youths of the Domestic staff. The dance named Nkwawite, has its origin from Afia-Ikpo. Thereafter, the unveiling of the legacy magazine and the Bigard proposed Museum plan by the chairman of the occasion took place. Then, awards were presented to recognized dignitaries. Rev. Fr. Dr. John Nwafor of Enugu diocese received the award of EZINWA EJI EJE MBA 1 OF BIGARD; Rev. Fr. Theophilus Nwodo of Godfrey Okoye University received the award of ODI UKO NA MBA 1 OF BIGARD.

Furthermore, there were many cultural displays by the different dioceses. Ojinaka Togbo of Enugu/Awgu dioceses entertained all. The Ekpo of Calabar provincial group added flavor to the day’s event. Igba Mmonwu of Awka diocese was at its best. Izuogu of Nnewi diocese/Onitsha Archdiocese made the day memorable. Finally, Okigwe diocesan cultural group, made all happy by their rich cultural outing.

The closing remarks was done by the First Vice Rector of Bigard, Rev. Fr Dr. C. Umezinwa. He wished all journey mercies to their destinations. Rev. Fr. Dr. Anthony Eze finally said the closing prayer, thereby officially ending the three days ceremony.

Congratulations to Mother Bigard!

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