Expanding the Frontiers of Pastoral Leadership in a Changing Society

Festschrift for Peter Damian Akpunonu on the Occasion of His Priestly Golden Jubilee

by Hyacinth E. Ichoku (Volume editor) Martin Joe U. Ibeh (Volume editor)
©2016 Others 180 Pages


Providing effective leadership in Church and society is one of the most difficult human endeavors. It influences the dynamics and quality of social and spiritual life. The Church in the developing countries needs more than ever charismatic and prophetic leaders. Peter Damian Akpunonu – ordained a Catholic priest in 1966 at the young age of 23 – is one of the most outstanding seminary formators and influential Biblical scholars in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. His priestly golden jubilee provides occasion to reflect on his sterling qualities as a leader, an administrator and a pastor. This Festschrift also examines a wide spectrum of leadership models from biblical, historical and cultural perspectives. Seminary formation today needs urgent reform. Contemporary social challenges, including the potential retirement welfare crises for priests in Africa, are also crucial issues the Church has to address.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Short Profile of Peter Damian Akpunonu, G.M., S.T.D., L.S.S. (Rev. Fr.)
  • A Teacher and a Mentor: Reflections on Peter Damian’s Days in Bigard Seminary and the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA)
  • Peter Damian Akpunonu: Rector in Catholic Institute of West Africa and Ecclesiastical Ambassador in United States
  • The Biblical and African Orientations to Leadership
  • Reforming Seminary Formation for Effective Pastoral and Spiritual Leadership
  • Providing Enabling Environment for Lay Participation in Priestly Formation: A Personal Reflection
  • Strengthening the Faint-Hearted: The Prophetic Mission in Isaiah 40–55
  • Preaching the Gospel Without Ceasing: Jesus’ Enduring Commission to His Disciples (Matt 28,16–20)
  • Gaudium et spes at 50: Integrating Social Mission into the Centre of Catholic Life in Nigeria
  • When Evening Comes: Thinking of Retirement of Priests in Nigeria
  • Authors’ Profiles
  • Abbreviations

← 6 | 7 →


I am most pleased to write a foreword for a book celebrating one of our teachers, Very Rev. Peter Damian Akpunonu, popularly called PD, who celebrates the 50th year anniversary of his ordination this year. Very few have had the privilege of celebrating their 50th anniversary in the priesthood. I thank the Almighty God who has given him the health and strength to serve in the Church in a very unique way. These years have been dedicated to the service of the Church in the special area of training of priests both in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. Very Rev. Peter Damian Akpunonu was ordained to the catholic priesthood in 1966 at the young age of 23 by Pope Paul VI. He returned to Nigeria to have pastoral experience and was later in 1967 sent back for further studies in the Pontifical Biblical Institute where he obtained his Licentiate in Biblical Studies in 1970. He moved on to obtain a PhD from the Pontifical Urban University in Rome in 1971 and returned to Nigeria to begin the long apostolate of training candidates to the priesthood. These years of studies prepared him for the future and the long task of training candidates for pastoral ministry in the local and universal Church.

PD’s appointment to the staff of Bigard Memorial Seminary in 1971 coincided with a period in which the Church was in dire need of ministers in the Lord’s vineyard particularly in South Eastern (SE) Nigeria. The work of the early missionaries who arrived in SE Nigeria in 1885 was blessed with mass conversion of hitherto traditional worshippers to the Christian faith. Their missionary work; however, was interrupted by the Nigerian civil war (1967–1970). At the end of the civil war, the region was a mass of ruin. Public and communal infrastructure as well as churches and private houses were destroyed. The people were psychologically traumatised, homes were broken and most families lost their loved ones. Reconstructing and rebuilding not only physical structures, schools, hospitals and others but also, and more importantly, rehabilitating the returnees posed an enormous task for the state and the Church. To make matters worse, it was during this period that the missionaries were expelled from the country, thus creating a large vacuum in the new missionary land. The indigenous ← 7 | 8 → clergy were too few to meet the yearnings of the people. There was a critical need to raise indigenous clergy not only to fill in the gap created by the departure of foreign missionaries, but to expand the supply of pastors to meet the ever increasing spiritual and material needs of the traumatised and impoverished population. The words of the Lord Jesus that “The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few” were real indeed. The situation required extraordinary intervention.

In response to these expanding missionary requirements beginning from the 1970’s, an increasing number of young people were ready to commit themselves to the service of the Church’s missionary work. The need for the training of these candidates was most acute. There were few trained priests to take on the task of training seminarians for the huge task at hand. It is in this context that the invaluable contributions of Rev. Fr. PD Akpunonu could be evaluated and appreciated. He returned to the country at a time he was most needed and joined the existing staff of the Bigard Memorial Seminary in 1971. He spared no energy in the fostering of vocations and the training of seminarians. Years after, in 1978, he became not only the Rector of one of the largest seminaries in Africa but one of the most transformative influences in the history of that seminary. He deployed his enormous managerial, administrative and fundraising skills, raising funds from international and local organizations to reconstruct, expand, and modernise Bigard seminary which was for decades the only major seminary in SE Nigeria.

As it is often said, the reward for hard work is more work. On account of his record accomplishments in Bigard, he was requested by the Bishops of West Africa to go over to the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, to carry out the same transformations. He spared no energy to transform the Institute, in spite of the difficult economic and political circumstances of the period. From there he was invited to the US in 1997, where he deployed his consummate training skills in training the seminarians.

It is not an exaggeration to say that more than 50% of about 4000 priests working today in the 18 dioceses that make up the Calabar, Owerri, and Onitsha ecclesiastical provinces were trained under Fr. PD Akpunonu. His intellectual influence has also been remarkable. For over 30 years, he taught Sacred Scripture and the Biblical languages in Bigard and CIWA and ← 8 | 9 → therefore influenced in no small measure the understanding and interpretation of the scripture among generations of priests in the SE and beyond.

The celebration of Fr. Peter Damian’s 50th anniversary of ordination to the catholic priesthood is an auspicious occasion to reflect not only on the remarkable achievements and sterling leadership qualities he has provided in the Church but also on our models of priestly formation vis-à-vis the central mission and cost of discipleship in the local Church. I commend the efforts of Frs. Hyacinth Ichoku and Martin Ibeh who took the initiative to collate and document these reflections as part of PD’s Golden Jubilee celebration and those who have contributed to this Festschrift. I believe that this is only the beginning of future efforts to document and celebrate not only the notable achievements of Fr. Akpunonu but also many other heroes of faith in our local Church.

I strongly recommend this book to the happy reading of all.

+Valerian M. Okeke

Archbishop of Onitsha &

Metropolitan, Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province

October 3, 2015. ← 9 | 10 →

← 10 | 11 →


Peter Damian Akpunonu (popularly known as PD) is celebrating his golden jubilee as a Catholic priest in January 2016. He was ordained by his Holiness Pope Paul VI (now Blessed Paul V1) in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, on January 6, 1966, at the age of 23. His call and career as a priest can be described as exceptional, but also his qualities as a person. PD is a charismatic leader, pastor, teacher, mentor, and friend. His scholarship and leadership profiles are intimidating. One can say without fear of contradiction that public opinion is unanimous on his steadfastness, great strength of purpose, and unwavering commitment to the Church.

To mark his golden jubilee, a group of his friends and former students spontaneously and unconventionally put together a number of essays. The choice of the topic and subject matter of the different papers have bearing on the extraordinariness of the personality, character, and achievements of our jubilarian. Celebrating him provides the occasion to do a reflection on priestly training and leadership in the Church, especially in view of the hydra-headed challenges facing it in our contemporary society. One may ask: Has the Church adequate strategies and functional instruments to confront them? Is the formation of future priests and leaders of tomorrow so streamlined and robust enough to tackle these challenges? Which models of the Church are most relevant today? How fulfilling and rewarding is the priestly ministry, especially at an old age?

This Festschrift has by no means provided clear-cut panacea to these issues; it has given some insight and impulse for further discussions. His Grace, Archbishop Valerian Okeke, wrote the foreword. A short profile on PD was compiled by Martin Joe Ibeh. Chike Akunyili, a medical doctor who provided voluntary medical services to Bigard Memorial Seminary when PD was the Rector and has since been a close friend of his, reflected on providing an enabling environment for lay participation in priestly formation. Augustine Oburota, a former Rector of Pope John Paul Seminary Awka, traces the origin of seminary institution and highlighted the need for reforming the seminary formation for more effective pastoral and spiritual leadership. Leadership from biblical and contemporary Church perspectives ← 11 | 12 → was taken up by Ignatius Obinwa. He highlighted the parallels in models of leadership across different eras and cultures. Emmanuel Dim describes evangelization as the core mission of Christ’s disciples. Patrick Chibuko chronicled PD’s career as a formator, rector, and scholar. PD’s leadership in CIWA and ambassadorship in the United States of America was elaborated by Uche Matthew Obikezie. Luke Ijezie underscored the strengthening of the faint-hearted as the prophetic mission in Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 40–55) to which PD devoted much of his scholarship. Martin Joe Ibeh emphasized the integration of a social mission into the centre of Catholic life in Nigeria, noting that the separation of spiritual and social lives remains a sore point in the development of the country. Finally, Hyacinth Ichoku using statistics and figures made a compelling case for strategic thinking and urgent action to avoid the impending welfare crises facing retiring priests in Nigeria.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (December)
African Leaders Social Mission Retirement welfare Seminary Formation Lay Participation
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 180 pp.

Biographical notes

Hyacinth E. Ichoku (Volume editor) Martin Joe U. Ibeh (Volume editor)


Title: Expanding the Frontiers of Pastoral Leadership in a Changing Society
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182 pages