A KEYNOTE ADDRESS PRESENTED BY THE RECTOR, BIGARD MEMORIAL SEMINARY, ENUGU, ON THE OCCASION OF THE SOLEMN INAUGURATION OF THE 2014/2015 ACADEMIC AND FORMATION YEAR ON THIS DAY, OCTOBER 27, 2014.
Most Rev. Dr. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah,
Revered Members of the Academic and Formation Team
Ladies and Gentlemen,
May the name of the Lord be praised now and forever, Amen!
It is by God’s providential plan that we are able enough to gather here today in this auditorium as one and happy family, to formally inaugurate the 2014/2015 Academic and Formation year. The love of God for us has been overwhelmingly tremendous. On this note of joy, therefore, I heartily wish to welcome you to this noble ceremony.
An occasion like this invites us to give thanks to God whose beneficence and providence have continued to guide us individually and collectively as a family in this privileged journey of Catholic priestly formation. We say, may His name be hallowed forever. In a like manner, we sincerely welcome the inaugurating prelate, Most Rev. Dr. Godfrey Igwebuike Onah, the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, whose paternal care for this institution has been edifying. Our Father-Bishop, permit me to use this forum to congratulate you on your elevation and consecration as the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese. We say, long live Nsukka Diocese! We thank you for being here in our midst in spite of your numerous pastoral engagements. In fact, we can hardly thank you enough.
Again, I appreciate sincerely, the collaborative dispositions of my revered co-formators and my beloved seminarians. I will always remain highly grateful to you all. The grace of God for us has been unspeakably overwhelming. As we continue to thank God whose amazing grace has continued to guide us, we also wish to use this opportunity to cast a retrospective light at how far we have gone and how much we have been able to achieve in the immediate past academic and formation year. It is a time we would like to appreciate as well as congratulate all those who have excelled in learning, character and discipline. In so doing, we would like to challenge them to keep the flag flying, with the
full knowledge of the fact that their success embodies an expectation that they should even do better this time. Similarly, we also encourage those who did not do so well in the past to realize that all hope is not lost as we are in yet a fresh Academic and Formation Year with numerous opportunities for improvement. However, we should always bear in mind that hard-work and determination form the key to success for those who work diligently. They do not give up even when life vicissitude becomes overwhelming, having at the back of their mind that winners do not quit as quitters do not win. Thus, if anybody can, you can and it begins today since tomorrow might be too late.
Taking into consideration, the dramatic upsurge and turns of events in our age when scientism, technologism, irrationalism and religious apathy are spreading like wild fire and hastily permeating every aspect of human culture, it becomes very urgent that the seminary, as a home of priestly formation, should consist of programmes geared towards a more authentic formation of seminarians into balanced and mature human persons if we are to be relevant in a fast-paced world. Accordingly, it has become inevitable to reinforce the four pillars on which the priestly formation is built, namely: Human Formation, Spiritual Formation, Intellectual Formation and Pastoral Formation. In response to this call, this year’s Colloquium focused on the responsible application of Information and Communication Technology in integral priestly formation.
In the light of the New Evangelization, the Church is entrusted with the mission of presenting the Gospel in a new light and freshness so as to bring the Joy of the Gospel to all men at every point in time. While being always conscious of her call, the Church in her wisdom realizes that this mission would be less achieved, if she does not employ the various means of social communication. Hence, in line with such conviction as of the Vatican II Council Fathers that “if these media are properly used, they can be of considerable benefit to mankind” that this year’s colloquium centered on the theme, Towards A Responsible Use of ICT in Seminary Formation in Bigard Today. This is a clarion call on all and sundry to examine and re-evaluate the invaluable place of ICT in our vocation both as ministers and future ministers of the Word and Sacraments with the view of using these treasures efficiently to the glory of God and the sanctification of humanity.
Presently, one would hardly claim to be oblivious of the fact that among the myriads of challenges and the most terrifying to the Christian faith is Information Accessibility powered by ICT. Today, the slogan that information rules the world has given birth to a system whereby one is considered relevant depending on how much information he has, recalling the recent words of Bishop Bernardin Mfumbusa of Kondua, Tanzania, that “to exist in the information age is to be on line.” Sequel to this trend, what is in vogue among people today is the craze to ‘be the first to know.’ With this in view, the invitation for those in the house of formation to get acquainted with as well as be ICT friendly becomes all the more imperative in as much as the call to the priesthood is not a personal affair being that the priest is not for himself alone.
Convinced of this reality, priests and future priests cannot shy away from the imports of ICT by hiding under the cloak of thorough-going spirituality or morality since from all indication, the ICT could provide concrete resources for the four areas of holistic formation. Intellectually, ICT provides students with the tools they need to discover and own knowledge and makes research work easier than ever. In Human formation, ICT has enhanced effective communication. ICT could enrich Pastoral formation by providing forums for pastoral activities like preaching as well as spiritual conferences and retreats and thereby nourishing Spiritual formation.
From the foregoing considerations, the questions that quickly come to mind would be: how can we effectively use the dividends of the ICTs in our mission of evangelization? To what extent can the ICT be used in the proclamation of the kerygma without causing harm to the substance of the faith? Finally, how can we properly integrate Information Communication Technology in the holistic formation of candidates for the priesthood without injuring any of the four areas of priestly formation?
Besides, our response to these questions does not of necessity consist in proffering immediate answers. It consists, rather, in an on-going reflective critical assessment of our impact on the information-driven society. This is with regard to our approach to and application of ICT in the transmission of the gospel while we are in the house or formation or outside the four walls of the seminary.
Be that as it may, the benefits of ICT, notwithstanding, it is important that we remind ourselves of the dangers of adverse use of ICT. Being a world of its own, ICT could feed fantasy, making one to lose track of time.
Finally, as we begin this new Academic and Formation Year, let us not feel thoroughly satisfied with the feats we achieved last year. We should bear in mind that the challenges ahead are enormous. However,we are convinced that with God on our side we shall remain faithful to the end. Our prayer is that the good Lord who has begun this year with us will guard and guide us till the end. Once more, you are warmly welcome.
Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Ukoro Theophilus Igwe