We are excited to gather this morning as a community of St. Joseph Major Seminary, Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria, to heartily express our welcome and gratitude to the Ochylski Foundation represented here by Mr. Dan Ochylski. We are happy to receive and thank our distinguished benefactor, who heard about the electricity problem in our seminary and promptly intervened with compassion. We rejoice today for seeing one who came to our rescue like Jesus Christ did for humanity. The Ochylski Foundation has come to the rescue of our seminary from the problem of electricity. The very reason for our gathering this morning is to express our profound gratitude to you, Mr. Dan for your willingness to visit us after receiving your wonderful gift. The value of appreciation for a favor cannot be overexaggerated. We learn from St. Ambrose (339-397 AD) who was the Bishop of Milan in Italy that “no duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks and gratitude”. Again, we cannot forget Thomas Merton (1915-1969) the renowned American Theologian and Poet who affirms that “Gratitude takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” Hence the Formators, Seminarians and other members of St. Joseph Family sincerely offer you, Mr. Dan, our immense gratitude for the gift of a 330 KVA Generating Plant. It is a wonderful gift that we truly cherish.

The issue of power supply had been a worrisome and thorny challenge in our seminary. The lack of a dependable alternative source of power to the National Electric Power, made us to labor in darkness for some years when the generating plant we previously had got spoilt. The inability to get a replacement was due to lack of sufficient finances as we were struggling to get food and other essential needs instead. Our sources of finances are usually limited compared to the needs of the Seminary. And particularly in the past two academic years, we were practically living at the mercy of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), whose power supply has always been epileptic and erratic as ever, and we most days we had to stay in total darkness to the point of using candle lights in the Chapel to recite prayers or to study. Water supply was equally an issue since it depends on electricity to have access to water. The condition was so pathetic that even during examinations, there was no source of light for studies at night resulting to the poor performance of many. The situation was better experienced than told. In fact, many people were tempted to attribute the power problem to a demonic manipulation.

The dream of having a dependable alternative source of power for the seminary was realized by your kind intervention. This dawn of a new day came through the Archbishop of Calabar, Most Rev. Joseph E. Ekuwem in whose connection God brought us the blessing. It was like a dream when he gave the indication, but it became a reality, indeed, a reality that gladdens our hearts and makes us beholden to give thanks more profoundly. The depth of joy is preceded by the darkness of misery, and the value of having light is increased by the experience darkness. Our current excitement and gratitude know no bounds because of our experience. The joy that fills our hearts right now for you is because of our experience that brought us face to face with the reality and meaning of darkness. Mr. Dan, thank you. Your generosity has changed the narrative of our affliction to that of joy. We truly feel indebted to the Ochylski Foundation that you represent and our indebtedness to you can only be sufficiently paid with prayer.

Now we can appropriate the prophecy of Isaiah when he says, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light shined. We who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on us has light shined. You have multiplied the natural home, you have increased our joy, we rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, for the yoke of our burden you have broken as on the day of Midian”(Isiah 9:1-3). Truly, our burden has been lifted, and the memory of your kind gesture will remain evergreen in the archives of our institution. Perhaps, we should think of immortalizing your foundation in our seminary.

St. Joseph Major Seminary was founded in 1976. It belongs to the Calabar Ecclesiastical Province consisting of Calabar Archdiocese, Ogoja diocese, Ikot Ekpene diocese, Port Harcourt diocese and Uyo diocese. Numerically speaking, our Seminary has high prospects. Currently, we have a total of Four Hundred and Sixty-nine (469) Seminarians from Ten (10) Dioceses and Fourteen (14) Religious Congregations. This number of seminarians is served by 17 resident formators and 22 part-time lecturers who come in to assist in both departments of Philosophicum and Theologicum. We equally have 50 nonacademic members of Staff.

In truth, we cherish the gift you have given us, and we appreciate much more your presence among us today giving us the opportunity to thank you. As a practical demonstration of our gratitude, we present these gifts to you…. Please, accept them for the value of their symbol and not merely for their material worth. Elephant in African culture symbolizes an embodiment of power, strength, wisdom, good fortune and protection. The gift of an artwork in the symbol of an element expresses the wish of the values represented by it.

The Gift of a Portrait of Himself
A Smiling Face of Appreciation
The Gift of a Symbolic Elephant Sculpture
Gift of a Beautiful Hat
Mr. Dan expressing a Sentiment of Appreciation.
The Seminarians, the Formators with Mr. Dan
Mr. Dan and the Seminary Formators

We wish you a happy stay in Nigeria and journey mercies in your travels. May your visit to Nigeria be memorable and may God bless and reward you more exceedingly!

Thank you and welcome!

Rev. Fr. Patrick Abem,

The Rector.

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