A KEYNOTE ADDRESS PRESENTED BY THE RECTOR, BIGARD MEMORIAL SEMINARY, ENUGU, ON THE OCCASION OF THE SOLEMN INAUGURATION OF THE 2016/2017 ACADEMIC AND FORMATION YEAR ON THIS DAY, OCTOBER 31, 2016.
Your Excellency, Most Rev. Michael O. Elue,
My brother Formators and esteemed Members of the Staff,
Dearly beloved Seminarians,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
May the name of the Lord be blessed both now and forever, Amen.
I heartily welcome you all to this great occasion as we have gathered to officially
inaugurate the 2016/2017 Academic and Formation year. I am very much honoured to welcome in our midst the inaugurating prelate of this academic/formation year,
His Excellency Most Rev. Michael Odogwu Elue, the Catholic Bishop of Issele-Uku
diocese. My Lord, you came all the way from Delta State to identify with the Bigard Family, in spite of your numerous pastoral engagements. We are very much grateful. I sincerely acknowledge the fraternal communion and collaboration that I share and enjoy with my brother formators and the commendable docility of my beloved seminarians. I thank you all.
My dear friends, when we look back through the last academic/formation year, we realize that the steadfastness of God has continued to abound for us and we have enjoyed his infinite mercies and blessings up to this present moment. It is with this sentiment of gratitude to God that we have gathered today to also reflect, evaluate, congratulate, encourage and challenge ourselves as we are faced with a new academic and formation year that is filled with fresh hopes, prospects and opportunities. In the same vein, we congratulate our seminarians who in the past academic/formation year have excelled in learning, character and discipline and all who wholeheartedly and collaboratively pursued our goal of formation as transformation. For those of us who are still hesitant, we enjoin you to wake up to your responsibilities as we work collectively to achieve a more holistic formation here in Bigard.
As we encourage ourselves to open ourselves to the fresh hopes and opportunities that come with this new academic/formation year, it is pertinent to bear in mind that holistic formation and transformation is best achieved when we see ourselves as a communion of persons. (Cf. Our Colloquium Paper). Looking at the world today, it is clear that in spite of technological advancement meant to unite people and nations together, man has continued to move away from his fellow men and thus isolating himself more and more from his true vocation. The result is gross individualism, nepotism, bigotry and sentimentalism that permeate almost every human structure and system. The seminary has been given its own share of the blame as it is accused of failing in its responsibility to ingrain in its candidates this communal spirit and stem off the tidal waves of individualism seen in the Church especially among the priests. It is in this light that this year’s Colloquium with the theme: The Seminary as a Communion of Persons, makes an urgent demand on us to pull down the walls of individualism, break our cages and empires and obliterate the structures of cliquism,nepotism and sentimentality among us in order to build a communion of persons.
The need to form a communion of persons in the seminary finds its clear and definitive expression in the nature of the seminary as “a community that relives the experiences of the group of twelve who were united to Jesus” (PDV. no. 60). Hence, communion in the seminary must reflect the communion shared by the first Christian community characterized by faithfulness to Christ concretely expressed through exchange of brotherly affections, prayers, shared burdens and responsibilities, and a unity that transcended race, age, sex, culture and class (cf. Acts 4:32-33). This Christian communion is attained through the process of conversion, renunciation and total commitment. It involves “a movement from affirmation of self, in the negation of the other to the affirmation of others, in the negation of self” which is practically expressed through sharing of material goods with others and a total commitment to the word of God lived out in the sacraments and liturgy of the Church. Within this context, forming a communion of persons on the part of seminarians requires a committed resolve to imbibe the qualities that dispose them to life in communion with others. In effect, a seminarian aspiring to the priesthood must have the right intention which is the desire to serve Christ and the Church and a sufficient degree of human maturity, which is the ability to be in control of one’s emotional, sexual and active life. More so, a seminarian must possess a sufficient knowledge of the doctrine of the Church, introduction to forms of prayers, behaviour in conformity with the Christian religion and the right attitude to Christian religion (PDV, 62).
My dear friends, in this academic/formation year, Pope Francis reminds us that “a sense of deep communion … cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings” (Laudato Si, 91). Therefore as we keep up with the struggle for self-determination and steady progress in every aspect of our formation, let us carry one another along and contribute responsibly to making the Bigard Family a true family, a community of not only academic stalwarts, but men of deep faith, sterling dignity and impeccable character.
I appreciate the unwavering commitment of my brother formators and the openness and malleability of my dear seminarians. We pray the good Lord to keep us in his love and grant us the graces we need to meet with the demands of this Academic/Formation year. May the joy of the Lord continue to be our strength as we labour in his vineyard. Once again, I say a hearty welcome to you all.
Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Albert Ikpenwa