African Catholicism Project Holds Her Congress on Theology, Society, and Pastoral Life in Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu – Nigeria

The Pan-African Catholic Congress on Theology, Society, and Pastoral Life was held in Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu – Nigeria. The Congress which was hosted by African Catholicism Project in Collaboration with Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, spanned from Thursday, December 5 to Sunday, December 8, 2019. The Congress with the theme – What Must We Do to Perform the Works of God (John 6:28)? – also marked the 50 years of SECAM, 25 years of Ecclesia in Africa, and 10 years of Africae Munus.  

Participants in the Seminary Auditorium during the opening ceremony

The congress featured many guest speakers, prominent among whom were: Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle (Ghana), Prof. Kurt Appel (Austria), Bishop Sithembele Sipuka (South Africa), Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah (Nigeria), Prof. Bill Cavanaugh (USA), Bishop Francis Adesina (Nigeria), Prof. Emmanuele Colombo (Italy), among others.

Very Rev. Fr. Dr. Ikpenwa presenting Kolanut to the guests

As typical of congress of this magnitude, there were sequences of paper presentations, conferences, speeches, and other forms of interventions. The congress, however, was not purely academic as the night sessions were majorly reserved for social events and for celebrating some individuals and institutions that had distinguished themselves in the mission projects of the African Church.

Prof. Bill Cavanaugh (USA) presenting a paper in a plenary session
Prof. Kurt Appel (Austria) addressing the participants

The 4-day congress was most enriching. Each day’s activities came in two sessions – the morning (9am – 12.30pm) and afternoon sessions (2.15 – 6.00pm). In the morning sessions there were plenary sessions which led to concurrent sessions and discussions. Each plenary session featured 4 paper presentations. In the concurrent sessions, however, lectures went on simultaneously in three Lecture Halls. Each of the halls had a unique theme which 4 paper presenters were required to address in a related topics assigned them under the moderation of a scholar known as the chairman. The morning sessions ended at 12.30 hours.

A cross-section of the participants in the Seminary Auditorium during a plenary session

The afternoon session started at 14.15 hours with concurrent sessions which featured other unique themes and new set of presenters. By 16.00 hours the participants gathered at the auditorium for the second plenary session. The afternoon sessions ended at 18.00 hours. At 20.30 hours, all the participants again gathered in the Seminary Auditorium for social events and an allocutio that ended the day’s program.      

A group photograph taken after the Mass that flagged off the congress presided over His Grace Most Rev. Charles Palmer-Buckle

The Pan-African Congress ended with a Eucharistic Celebration on Sunday, December 8, 2019. The Mass was presided over by His Lordship Most Rev. Desmond Tambala, and concelebrated by His Grace Most Rev. Charles Palmer-Buckle, Very. Rev.  Fr. Dr Albert Ikpenwa and other priests who were part of the congress. In attendance also were the seminarians of Bigard memorial seminary, Enugu, and many other participants. 

Some participants listening to paper presentations during a concurrent session

In his homily drawn from the readings of the day, the bishop remarked that truth must be said at all times and in all circumstances even when the resultant effects appear to work to one’s disfavour.  Christ, he said, called the Pharisees brood of vipers on account of the harm they caused to the community of their time through insincerity of life. Going forward, he called on all participants of the congress to be steadfast, faithful, and committed to the mission of the universal Church, and indeed the African Church in particular.

Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle dancing with Igbaumuogalanya Cultural Troupe during the opening ceremony

Rev. Fr. Prof. Stan Chu Ilo gave a vote of thanks after the post communion prayers. He thanked all who were instrumental to the success of the congress, the guest speakers for accepting to speak during the sessions, and finally all who were part of the congress. There were group photographs in front of the seminary chapel after the Mass ended.      

Participants deliberating over issues in the Seminary Auditorium

Find below the themes addressed in the plenary and concurrent sessions, the names of the moderators, and corresponding presenters:





  • + Charles G. Palmer-Buckle (Ghana):  From SECAM to the African Synod: Profile of Pastors with the Smell of Sheep in Africa
  • Joseph Faniran (Nigeria): The Dreams of our Fathers and Sons at the Synod: How Far so Far?
  • Stan Chu Ilo (Nigeria): From African Synods I&II to Pope Francis: Continuing the Reform and Renewal of Vatican II?
  • Noelina Nakato (Uganda): Dreams of our Mothers and Daughters for the Renewal of Faith and Life in Africa: Addressing the Challenges Facing African Women in both Church and Society in Africa


Hall A – THEME: Evangelization and Mission                                               

Moderator:  Albert Ikpenwa (Nigeria)

  • Albert Owusu-Afriyie (Ghana): Go out and Proclaim the Good News: Bible and Faith in Building the Church as the Family of God
  • George Ehusani/Emmanuel Ojeifo (Nigeria): Leadership Training for Pastoral Agents and Agents of Change in Africa: Field Notes from the Trenches.
  • Florence Oso (Nigeria): Proclamation and the Missio Dei in Africa: Has Africa Realized the Proposals of the 2 African Synods.
  • .  Bolanle Ojo (Nigeria): Authentic Formation of Pastoral Agent: A Veritable Means of New Evangelization in Africa

Hall B. THEME: Evangelization and Formation of Pastoral Agents.

Moderator: Barnabas Shabayang (Nigeria)

  Hall C.  THEME: Evangelization and Politics in Africa

  Moderator: Chinedu Anieke (Nigeria)



Hall A. THEME: Catholic Intellectual Traditions in Africa: From the Ivory Tower to Faith     Formation In parishes.

Moderator: Paschal Mba

  • Sylvanus Nnoruka (Nigeria): Transforming African Catholic Intellectual Tradition and Worldviews: Lessons from my Service to the Catholic Academy in Nigeria.
  • SimonMary Aihiokhai (Nigeria/USA): What Lessons Can African Churches Learn from the Role of Religious Conflicts in 20th century wars and genocide.
  • Bill Cavanaugh (USA): What Lessons can African Churches Learn from the Conflict and Collaboration between Religion and the State in Catholic Education.
  • Toussaint Kafarhire Muruhula (DRC): The Jesuit in Africa: Mission, Ministry, and Moments of Grace in Advancing Catholic Intellectual and Social Traditions in Africa.

 Hall B. THEME: Catholic Moral Traditions in Africa: Morality Truly Catholic and Truly African

 Moderator: Leonard Ilechukwu (Nigeria)

  • Paulinus Odozor (Nigeria/USA): The Implementation of Amoris Laetitia in Africa: Some Important Lessons and Challenges in Africa.
  • Nathanael Soede (Benin Republic): The Two African Synods as Invitation to an Ethics of Life in Africa: Some Lessons for the church in Africa.
  • Ikenna Okafor (Nigeria/Austria): Fraternal Solidarity and the Ethics of Care and Compassion in Church and State in Africa
  • Justin Nabushawo (Uganda): Dialogue and Conflict Resolution in our Churches: Lessons and Failings since Ecclesia in Africa.

     Hall C. THEME: Health, Healing and Human Suffering

     Moderator: Ruffino Ezama (USA/Uganda)


From Vatican II to African Synod II: Traditions, Transitions and Transformation in the Catholic Church in Africa

Moderator: Nontando Hadebe (South Africa)

  • Luke Ijezie (Nigeria): Why Traditions Matter: A Biblical Understanding of Tradition and Innovation in Christian History
  • +Sithembele Sipuka (South Africa): The Bishop as Teacher of the Faith in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities for Collaborative Ministry in our local churches.
  • + George Desmond Tambala, OCD (Malawi)  Between Rome and Africa: The Challenges and Opportunities of Implementing African Synod I& 11
  • Kurt Appel (Austria): Reform and Renewal in Local Churches: Lessons from Rosmini and Pope Francis

Allocutio: Mother MaryAnn Dike.




Theme: The Church in Africa as Salt and Light and the Family of God: The Social Mission of the Church

Moderator: Agatha Chidolue

  • Ruffino Ezama (South Sudan): No Development without Peace: Lessons from Sudan
  • +Francis Adesina (Nigeria): Proposals for a Servant and Transformational Leadership for God’s People in Africa
  • 3. Elizabeth Kamini (Kenya): Building Peace and Development from the Rough grounds: My Story
  • Teresia Wachira (Kenya/Pax Christi): Reconciliation and Peace in Africa: Some Lessons on the Obstacles and Hope for Peace in Africa and the Agency of the Catholic Church as a Peace-Maker.


Hall A:  THEME: Dialogue and Inculturation in the Christian Mission in Africa.

Moderator: Damian Udechukwu (Nigeria)

Hall B: THEME: Dialogue and Reconciliation in the Christian Mission in Africa.

Moderator: Bona Ugwu (Nigeria)

  • Lawrence Nwankwo (Nigeria): Lessons from African Pentecostals and Charismatics:  Renewal of Faith, Healing and Miracles
  • 2.Itumeleng Daniel (South Africa): Healing of Wounds of Body and Soul: Going Beyond the Search for Miracles to A Biblical Understanding of Wholeness
  • Cosmas Uzowulu (Nigeria): Dialogue in Cultural Conflicts Between the Church and African Traditions: Lessons from Biblical Traditions.
  • Agnes Adepoju (Nigeria): Training of Pastoral Agent in the Spirit of Pope Francis: Healing of Victims and Addressing Boundary Issues in the Church’s Social Ministry

Hall C:  THEME; Dialogue and Reform for the Church as a Field Hospital in Africa.

Moderator: Clement Obasi (Nigeria)



Hall A: THEME: Communicating the Truths of Faith: Social Media and Social Issues Facing Young People in Africa

Moderator: MaryReginald Anibueze (Nigeria)

  • Gerald Musa (Nigeria): The Gospel according to Social Media: Field Guide for the Perplexed
  • Walter Ihejirika (Nigeria): Communicating the Good News in the Era of fake news: Lessons for Deepening the Faith in the Light of the Two African Synods
  • Eddy Obi (Nigeria): The Church in Africa and the Challenges of Climate Change: Pathways to an African Ecological Ethics.
  • Dorris Van Gaal (Netherlands): A Forgotten Mission in African Catholicism? The Gospel and Politics of Global Migration.

Hall B:  THEME: Communicating the Truths of Faith: Marriage and Family Life

Moderator: Ambrose Agu (Nigeria)

  • Justina Ndaita (Kenya): The Role of Catholic Education in the Evangelization of Culture in Africa
  • Raymond Aina (Nigeria): The challenges of Poverty on African Families: What Has the Church done in Africa since African Synod I&2?
  • Anna Nyadoma (Zimbabwe): Serving the Vulnerable Among Us with Integrity: Best Practices for Accompaniment
  • Eunice Kamaara/Daniel Lagat (Kenya): The Reinvention of Humanity in the West: Gender Theories, and the Rights of African women and families.


Theme: Moving from Words to Action—Leadership, Authority, and Mentoring

Moderator: Patrick Alumuku (Nigeria)

Allocutio: Ruffino Ezama; Conversation Partner, Bienvenu Mayemba


(Holy Mass marking the end of the congress and departure)