Brief History of

Ekwulobia Diocese


EARLY BEGINNING:

The history of the Catholic Church in Ekwulobia Diocese goes back to the coming of the missionaries in Onitsha. The first batch of these missionaries led by Fr. Joseph Lutz (C.S.Sp) arrived Onitsha from Gabon, on Saturday, December 15, 1885. Their arrival marked the beginning of Catholic mission in the southern part of what later became known as Nigeria.

Fr. Albert Bubendorff joined the missionaries at Onitsha in 1890. When Adazi mission was established in 1912, he became the first parish priest. Adazi mission became the staging point for the spread of the Catholic faith in Ekwulobia Diocese.

 

OTIKPO:

The first mission established in Ekwulobia Diocese is St. Vincent’s Otikpo established on a piece of land jointly owned and donated by the Uga and Amesi people through their chiefs Okpalaozigbo and Ezechukwu respectively.

St. Vincent’s Church/School had its humble beginnings in 1917 in a family house. By 1918, the present site of the Church has been recognised as the mission station. Construction started in 1924. The converts trekked long distances to quarry and carry back the stones used in the Church building. Fr. Bubendorff visited so often on inspection. The Church and a two-room rest house for the visiting priest were completed and opened on July 19, 1929 by Archbishop Joseph Shanahan, on the feast of St. Vincent de Paul. Catholic converts from as far as Orlu and Okigwe converged at this church for worship. 

The fortunes of St. Vincent’s Church and School were adversely affected by the decision of Fr. Liddane in 1931 to establish a school near Oye Udo market Uga because this site lay directly on the Awka-Okigwe road and was more accessible to surrounding communities. Gradually, the school was moved and St. Vincent remained as a place of worship. But it never became a parish until St. Vincent de Paul Parish Uga and St. Vincent’s Amesi were created out of Immaculate Heart Parish Uga and St. Joseph’s Amesi in 2000 and 2001 respectively. See pitcures of the first Mission church established by the early Missionary Priests and the New Church building

AKPU – UFESIODO:

The exact year of the founding of the Catholic Church in Akpu is not certain, but 1911 is a good guess. It was occasioned by the rift in the CMS Church in Ajalli. The catechist, Mr Nwafor, was reported to have flogged pupils from Akpu unfairly for failure to do communal work in the Church and in his farm. With the enthusiastic support and encouragement of Chief Ezeilo, the Warrant Chief of Akpu who felt slighted by the action of the Catechist, in not first reporting the incident to him, urged the Christians from Akpu pulled out en masse.

Not long after, a delegation of young men from Akpu arrived Nteje to invite the Parish Priest, Fr. Curia. On the scheduled day, both parties met at Awgbu and Father was led across the Odo river to the new horizon known as Ufesiodo (across the Odo). The Priest’s presence in the town was a source of pride, a sign of independence and maturity not only for the converts who had invited and brought him but for the whole town also. The new Church stood at ‘Ochie Uno Umudike’.

Akpu parish was created on July 31, 1945 by Archbishop Charles Heerey. Hitherto, it took about three months for priests at Adazi to visit Akpu station. Adazi was also further away. Hence the need for the Church and the priest to come closer to the people. Rev. Fr. Michael Cyprian Iwene Tansi (now Blessed) was the pioneer parish priest. He was assisted by Fr. E. Emerenini. Akpu parish comprised nearly all the parishes in Orumba North and Orumba South Local Government Areas and had its parish centre at Ugwuntiji-egbe, Akpu.

 

ACHINA ST. CHARLES’ - The Advent of the Catholic Church:

The Catholic Church found a home, though a temporary one, in Achina in 1916 at Chief Nwosu Mbike’s compound. After the necessary arrangements were made, Rev. Fr. Albert Bubendorff was invited to visit. Mr. George Nwabunwanne from Umunya became the first catechist and teacher. When Chief Nwosu could no longer offer his protection to the young Church, the Church had to move to Enugwu-Umuonyia and came under the patronage of Chief Mbachu in 1917. In 1919, the Church was transferred to Ugwuagba because it was more centrally located relative to the many town communities that formed the church community. Four years later, the Church moved to Oluo because of some quarrels and increasing inaccessibility of the road to Ugwuagba.

The Birth of St. Charles’ Catholic Mission: 

St. Charles’ Catholic Mission was born in the year 1924, in a small mat house. Only a year after, it suffered a setback. Many people withdrew from the Church. This was remedied by Mr. Julius Amasiani, who was sent to Achina as a teacher in 1923. He was helped by Fr. Flanagan and Archbishop Charles Heerey. An all-stone Church building was completed on December 26, 1936. The consolidation of faith and education followed from 1937 to 1944. During this period of consolidation of the faith, Mr. Amasiani was replaced by Mr. S. Edozie and Mr. E. Egbunilo in succession. Missionaries also visited from Nteje and Adazi.

Achina became a Parish: 

Archbishop Charles Heerey created Achina Parish on 1st July, 1945 and its territory spanned almost the whole of Aguata Local Government. Rev. Fr. Christopher O’Neil was the first parish priest in residence. A father’s house was completed in six months. Between 1945 and 1955, Father O’Neil was assisted by Rev. Frs. Dunn, Brennean, O’Brien and T. Cleary respectively.

The parish went through a tempest in 1956 when Achina people demanded the removal of Rev. Fr O’Neil because of what they perceived as the slow pace of development in the Church which they attributed to what appeared to them as Fr. O’Neil’s interest in other towns making up the parish. Disappointed at the impatience of Achina Catholic community, Archbishop Heerey raised Immaculate Heart Uga to a Parish status, moved all the other towns that had constituted Achina parish as well as Fr. O’Neil to Uga. Achina became a one-town parish under Rev. Father P. Keegan. Rev. Fr. T. O. Dwyer worked briefly in Achina from 1957 to 1958. Msgr. Martin Maduka (late) took over from 1958 to 1960. During the Nigerian civil war, Onneh and Agbudu towns were returned to Achina parish. Ogboji town was also returned to Achina Parish in 1972.

OUR LADY OF FATIMA CATHOLIC CHURCH, IGBOUKWU:

The Catholic Church made its debut in Igboukwu in 1912. It came from Nnobi through the instrumentality of the late Chief Ezenwosu from Ezigbo village. Those sent to Nnobi to carry out the task of bringing the Church to Igboukwu included Joseph Anasiudu, Simon Ijezie, Peter Okafor, James Ofordum, Koneke Unegbu, Dominic Enendu and Michael Okafor. The first catechist was the late Mark Ebighigboo who resided at Chief Ezenwosu’s house. The infant Church was first located at Nkpukpo and with a kindergarten. Later, another land was acquired at Ogwugwuagu and St. Paul’s primary school was opened there which eventually rose up to standard six. In 1949, the Church opened another primary school near Nkwo Igbo market also called St. Paul’s, now called Central School, Igboukwu.

From Nkpukpo, the infant Church was transferred to the present site of Our Lady of Fatima, Igboukwu in 1914, after the land was acquired through the efforts of James Orana who persuaded Nwokonkwo Ezeibekwe and others to cede the land to the Church. The Church in Igboukwu was administered from Adazi. These missionaries exercised ministry in Igboukwu Rev. Frs. Liddane, Kettle, Fox, Lihane and Fr. Whelan who later became a Bishop. They trekked to Igboukwu from Adazi-Nnukwu where they were based. The first indigenous priest – Rev. Fr. Moses Orakwudo of blessed memory, of old Adazi-Nnukwu parish also came to Igboukwu for pastoral duties.

Our Lady of Fatima became a parish on March 17, 1954, with Rev. Fr. Patrick Kinnerk as the Pioneer Parish Priest. In 1959, the construction of Our Lady of Fatima Church started. In 1963, the foundation stone was laid by His Grace, the late Archbishop Charles Heerey and the then incumbent Parish Priest was Rev. Fr. Kevin McArdle, an Irish priest. The Architect who designed the magnificent edifice free of charge was Gerard Fay, an Irish too. On December 31, 1978, His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Arinze, the former Archbishop of Onitsha and His Grace Most Rev. Albert K. Obiefuna dedicated and officially opened the church.

Our Lady of Fatima is the mother of the following parishes: St. Theresa’s Parish Ichida, St. Augustine’s Parish Ichida, St. Rita’s Parish Ichida, St. Patrick’s Parish Aguluzigbo, Queen of All Hearts Parish Aguluzigbo, St. Mary’s Parish Ora-eri, St. Maria Goretti Parish Umuona, St. Anthony’s Parish Ikenga, St. Michael’s Parish Igboukwu, St. Martins’s Parish Igboukwu, St. Flannan’s Parish Igboukwu, St. John’s Parish Igboukwu.

ST. JOSEPH’S CATHOLIC CHURCH EKWULOBIA:

The Catholic Church migrated from Adazi town in Anaocha Local Government Area to Ekwulobia in 1925. This was when Fr. Albert Bubendorff was the parish priest of Adazi. The pioneers who helped in bringing the Catholic faith to Ekwulobia include Albert Okolocha, Reuben Ogwatta, Hezekiah Ezeuchu, James Ike, Ezekiel Nwankwo, Peter Anojuo and a host of others. They were the first converts to be baptised. The first church building was erected at Agu-Udo Umuchi on a piece of land offered by Mr. Ezekafor Ezeobu. Mr. Jovenial Ibekwe was the first teacher catechist who also doubled as a school teacher. He was succeeded in this order by Mr. Emmanuel Ezeagu of Adazi, Mr. David Ogbu of Adazi, Mr. Thomas Okafor of Nnobi, Mr. Stephen Ezeanya of Adazi, Mr. Richard Isidienu of Nteje and Mr. Henry Akwanya. They were also succeeded by many others.

As the number of converts to Catholicism increased, there was a need to expand the meeting place. This necessitated the movement to the present site of St. Joseph’s Cathedral called Agu-Eke in 1928. It was then an ‘evil’ forest. In 1932, the school was transferred to Agu-Agba at the boundary of Ekwulobia and Isuofia. The school later made a journey back to Agu-Eke because it was meant to serve other neighbouring communities. 

Bishop Peter Okpaleke belongs to the Canon Law Society of Nigeria since 1995. He had also served as the Co-ordinator for Research and Publications, Canon Law Society of Nigeria from 2009 to 2013.

Ekwulobia continued to be an outstation of St. Andrew’s Adazi. This was till Achina Parish was created in 1945. Ekwulobia became an outstation of St. Charles Achina. This continued till 1955 when Ekwulobia Parish was created with Rev. Fr. Moses Orakwudo C.S.Sp as the first parish priest. He administered the parish from Achina till the rectory was completed in 1956. At the time of its creation, Ekwulobia Parish had Isuofia, Oko and Aguluezechukwu. 

DEMOGRAPHICS DATA OF EKWULOBIA DIOCESE

S/NO

ITEM DESCRIPTION

STATISTICS

1.

AREA IN SQ. KM

675.8 Sq.km.

2.

TOTAL POPULATION

984,415

3.

CATHOLIC POPULATION

602,115

4.

NO. OF PARISHES

82

5.

DIOCESAN PRIESTS

240

6.

RELIGIOUS PRIESTS

13

7.

RELIGIOUS BROTHERS

9

8.

RELIGIOUS SISTERS, CONVENTS AND COMMUNITIES

21

9.

CATECHISTS

142

10.

MAJOR SEMINARIANS

58

11.

MINOR SEMINARIANS

276

12.

MAJOR SEMINARIES

-

13.

MINOR SEMINARIES

1

14.

HOUSES OF FORMATION FOR RELIGIOUS

1

15.

SCHOOLS (Nursery/Primary)

35

16.

SCHOOLS (Secondary)

14

17.

Schools (Other)

-

18.

HEALTH CENTRES

7

19.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREAS

3