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Our Diocese: History & Facts

This history of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Auchi dates back to the latter part of the 19th century when the first Roman Catholic Missionaries arrived at Agenebode in the present Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State. Although, evidences abound of earlier contacts of the Christian missionaries with the indigenes of Agenebode and environs, the officially recorded date for this is 1884 when catholic priests started visiting Agenebode and environs from their then headquarters in Lokoja. Later on the missionary headquarters was moved from Lokoja to Asaba. Rt. Rev. Monsignor Carlos Zappa became the prefect of the upper Niger at that time in Asaba. As Prefect, Monsignor Zappa again successfully resumed evangelization works into the interior of Agenebode and its surrounding towns through the River Niger. In 1897, a parish was officially erected at Agenebode (the first parish in the Diocese) with Rev. Fr. Peter Piotin, SMA, as the first parish priest. From Agenebode, other parish stations were opened in Etsako; at Ivianokpodi, Iviukwe, Okpekpe and Apana. In 1908, he established the first Major Seminary in Nigeria, St. Martin’s Seminary at Ivianokpodi. The seminary was later transferred to Asaba in 1927 by Bishop Broderick. Among the Seminarians who moved from the seminary at Ivianokpodi to Asaba was the late Rev. Fr. Paul Emechete, the first Nigeria Priest, and the late Rt. Rev. Monsignor Joseph Agbodio Erameh, a native of Anegbette in South Uneme Clan in present Etsako Central Local Government Area of Edo State.

With the death of Bishop Broderick in 1933, Bishop Leo Taylor was appointed his successor in 1934. Bishop Taylor who came to Asaba/Benin Vicariate from Lagos where he was principal of St. Gregory’s College, created Uzairue parish in 1935, with Fr. I. Healy, SMA, as its first Parish Priest. Bishop Taylor ordained the first Edo priest who was also the second indigenous priest of the Vicariate Apostolic of Western Nigeria in the person of the Late Rt. Rev. Monsignor Joseph Agbodio Erameh at Asaba, on December 20, 1936 and transferred the major seminary there to Benin City in 1938. Bishop Taylor was succeeded in Asaba/Benin Vicaiate by Bishop Patrick Joseph Kelly in the same year. With the unparalleded pastoral zeal of Bishop Kelly, the Catholic faith spread in the now Diocese of Auchi and other areas of the Benin Ecclesiastical province by leaps and bounds.

In 1973, Bishop Kelly retired and handed over the then Diocese of Benin City to Bishop Patrick Ebosele Ekpu who was ordained Bishop in 1971 (now Archbishop Emeritus of Benin City). And 30 years after, the Diocese of Auchi was created from the Archdiocese of Benin City. The Catholic Church, during the episcopacy of Bishop P.J. Kelly established eight secondary schools in the area. Our Lady of Fatima College, Auchi; St. John’s College, Fugar, St. Angela’s Grammar School Uzairue, St. Peter’s College, Agenebode, and St. Joseph’s College, Otuo, St. Mary’s Grammar School, Eme-ora, St. James Grammar School, Afuza and St. Aloysius Gonzaga Grammar School, Ososo. These institutions were taken over by the Government in 1973.

The Mission also established a hospital, Notre Dame Hospital (now Sancta Maria Hospital) at Uzairue and a Medical Centre, Sancta Maria Medical Centre at Agenebode. The history of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Auchi would not be complete without accounts of its spread to Akoko-Edo and Owan Local Government Areas of the Diocese. In contrast to the warm welcome which the early Catholic Missionaries received in Etsako areas, their experience in Akoko-Edo and Owan Local Government Areas was one of initial resistance, if not down-right hostility by the Church Missionary Society (the Anglican) which was the first Christian Mission to establish its presence in these areas. The relatively slow pace of conversion to the Catholic faith and of vocations to the catholic priesthood in the areas for a long time can be attributed, in part, to this historical fact.
The first appearance of the Catholic Church in Akoko-Edo was recorded in Imoga in the early 20th century (c. 1911) and later in Igarra (c. 1916) through the Catholic missionaries based in Lokoja and Okene. Among the priests who came from Okene to plant the Catholic faith in Akoko-Edo were Rev. Fathers Keenan, Walsh, Felin, Mcfadden and Conboy. In 1954, St. John the Apostle’s Parish, Igarra was created by Bishop Kelly, with Fr. Morris Maquire, SMA, as its first parish priest. For a long time, the whole of Akoko-Edo was one parish-St. John the Apostle’s Parish, Igarra. In 1983, St. Anne’s Parish, Ososo was created and in 2003, St. Peter’s Parish, Ibillo was created by Most Rev. Dr. Gabriel Ghieakhomo Dunia. (The first in his Episcopacy). Other Nine (9) parishes and Ten (10) mass centres have been established by Bishop Gabriel Dunia since he became Bishop of the new Diocese of Auchi.

In respect of Owan the Catholic faith came into the area from two directions, namely, Uzairue in Etsako and Uromi in Esan land. Records indicated that itinerant Catholic missionaries from Uzairue under Fr. Piotin passed through Ihievbe, Uokha to Otuo (all in Owan East) and returned through Igarra back to Uzairue about 1933. With regard to the Western area of Owan, the faith came through Ubiaja, Uromi and later, Ekpoma in 1955. Thus while all Catholic areas of Owan East were outstations of Holy Rosary Parish, Uzairue, those of the West were first under St. Anthony’ Parish, Uromi and later under Mary the Queen Parish, Ekpoma.

Between 1945 and 1947, attempts were made by the Catholic missionaries to establish a primary school at Afuze as a first step to establishing a church there. These attempts were strongly resisted by the Church Missionary Society (CMS). In 1948, a Catholic primary school was eventually established at Afuze-Emai. At present, there are three parishes and two mass centres in Owan: St. Joseph’s at Eme-ora, St. Jude’s at Afuze-emai, St. Thomas Moore, Sobe, St. Joseph mass centre Otuo and St. Patrick’s Mass centre, Ozalla, while St. Thomas Moore Parish, at Sobe was ceded to the Diocese of Auchi from Ondo Diocese in 2003; St. Mary’s Catholic Girl’s Grammar School at Eme-Ora was established in 1965, while St. James Catholic Grammar School, Afuze-Emai was established in 1969.

The struggle for the Diocese of Auchi actually began in the early 1980’s. Year in, year out the sons and daughters waited patiently for this gift to their land, but to no avail until finally on the 4th of December, 2002, the news came: Auchi Diocese created and Gabriel Ghieakhomo Dunia, its first Bishop. It was a joyful news not just because of the long expectation of it, but because with the church “nearer home” evangelization will continue to be closer and made abundantly within the reach of the people more than ever before. And so it has been since then.

Geopolitically, the Diocese covers the six Local Government Areas of Edo North senatorial district, namely Etsako West, Etsako Central, Etsako East, Owan West, Owan East and Akoko-Edo Local Government Areas of Edo State.

 

GENERAL STATISTICAL INFORMATION

Creation / Erection of Diocese by Rome………………………………6th Nov. 2002

Announcement of Creation of Diocese………………………4th Dec. 2002

1st Episcopal Ordination and taking of Canonical Profession…………22nd Feb. 2003

Overall population of Diocese……………………………………………970,000

Catholic population of Diocese………………………………………………100,300

Total number of Diocesan Priests…………………………………………………67

Total number of Religious Priests in the Diocese…………………………………2

Total number of Priests of Auchi Diocesan Origin in other Dioceses and Religious Orders………55

Total number of Male Religious (Brothers)…………………………………………3

Total number of Female Religious…………………………………………………62

Total number of Major Seminarians………………………………………………61

Total number of Catechists…………………………………………………………76

Total number of Parishes……………………………………………………………26

Total number of Mass Centres………………………………………………………10

Minor Seminary………………………………………………………………………1

Total number of Secondary Schools…………………………………………………5

Total number of Nursery / Primary Schools………………………………………21

Total number of Catholic Schools Taken Over by Government……………………46

Total number of Pastoral / Social Institutions………………………………………6

Total number of Medical Institutions…………………………………………………5
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