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A RETROSPECT: " BIGARD MEMORIAL SEMINARY"

More than 75 years ago, there was not a single native priest in this southern portion of Nigeria. In 1922, the Spiritan missionaries were evangelizing this vast area and through the Vicar Apostolic during that time, Bishop Joseph Shanahan C.S.Sp., they opened this seminary. The pioneering group, which included 6 students, encountered a lot of difficulties. From Onitsha, it was transferred to a more conducive place of Igbarian where it was officially instituted as St. Paul Seminary in 29 July 1924.
Later on, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples decided to build a regional seminary for Western and Eastern Nigeria. In 1948, the foundation was laid in the permanent site for the seminary in Enugu. By 4 March 1951, St. Paul Seminary was inaugurated and renamed as Bigard Memorial Seminary in remembrance of the 2 French ladies, Stephanie and Jeanne Bigard, foundresses of the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle that supplied the finances for the buildings of the seminary. At present, there are 16 major house structures in this Enugu campus.

In 12 May1970, Bigard Memorial Seminary was handed over from the Spiritan congregation to an indigenous administration, made of 7 professors who were past students of Bigard. To solve the problem of congestion, a new campus was open at Ikot-Ekpene in 1976. Starting as a philosophate, it became autonomous and blossomed into a full-pledge major seminary known as St. Joseph. A second daughter was born in 1985. The Archdiocese of Owerri opened the "Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary" again to alleviate the problem of overpopulation at Enugu. In 1997, the growing enrolment at the main campus had to be addressed once more and the result was the opening of a new campus at the diocese of Awka. This philosophate, now known as Pope John Paul II Seminary, serves as a feeder seminary to Bigard Memorial Seminary. Finally, the fourth daughter was born last year at the Archdiocese of Onitsha. Known as "Blessed Tansi Seminary," this institution is serving as a formation house for theologians.

In its checkered history of more than 75 years, Bigard Memorial Seminary has produced more than 3,936 priests. From its roster also come 3 cardinals, 6 archbishops, 19 bishops who serve the Church not only in Nigeria but also Sierra Leone, Cameroun and Liberia as well. Among its distinguished alumni is Blessed Michael Tansi who was beatified by Pope John Paul II during his last visit to Nigeria. The Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle is proud to be associated for many decades with the illustrious history of this institution.

A Success Story: Bigard Water Supply

In Africa, it can be rightfully said that "Water is life." For the past few years, Bigard Memorial Seminary experienced the strain of a growing seminary population. Coupled by old infrastructures that have to be regularly maintained, the seminary is faced with another major problem: a water crisis.

These pictures show the dam that was built to supply water to "Bigard Memorial Seminary." Water that is stored here is pumped to the filtration plant for the use of 914 seminarians. P.O.S.P.A.’s Secretary General, Msgr. J.Galvez, is accompanied by the Rector, Fr. Valerian Okeke, and Nigeria’s PMS National Director, Msgr. H. Adigwe, during this visit last November 2000.

Several proposals were considered including supplying each of the 700 seminarians with buckets to fetch water. Water sources were identified and finally a solution was arrived at. Less than a kilometer from the seminary grounds is a water spring and the ingenious plan of damming this water source was initiated. With the dam in place, a pumping station was situated near the water source in order to bring the water to the next station - the filtration plant. Now this system serves as a reliable source of potable water to the whole campus. The Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle is proud to have sponsored and contributed for this unique project. A water crisis of major proportions was thus hastily averted.

 

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