ST LUKE’S PARISH IN CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF MINNA, NIGERIE
(We can do all things in Him who strengthens us – Phil. 4:13)
The Catholic Diocese of Minna started in 1911 as an Outstation of Lokoja. Fr Leon Bourge, of the Society of African Missions (SMA) was the first Missionary to plant the seed of evangelization in the Diocese. The Minna Outstation expanded into a mission territory under the SMA fathers from 1911 to 1962. During this period, the SMA Fathers worked tirelessly, building schools and churches. Later on, the SMA Fathers were assisted in their work by the Our Lady of Apostles (OLA) Sisters, the Sisters of St. Louis (SSL) and the St. Patrick Fathers (Kiltegans) who did tremendous work in education and medical apostolates. In 1964, Minna was established as the Apostolic Prefecture when the territory was detached from Kaduna Archdiocese.The St Patrick Fathers (SPS) took over the affairs of the Prefecture with Monsignor Edmund Fitzgibbon as Prefect Apostolic. The Sisters of the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM) joined the Prefecture. In 1973 the Apostolic Prefecture of Minna was raised to the status of a Diocese with Most Rev. Dr. Christopher Abba as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Minna, under the Ecclesiastical Province of Kaduna. The Irish Sisters of Mercy and Sisters of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy (DMMM) joined the diocese.
Bishop Christopher Abba was transferred to the Diocese of Yola and Bishop Martin Igwemezie Uzoukwu was ordained the second Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Minna. The New Evangelization Sisters (NES), Sisters of the Sacred Heart (SSH), Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus (HHCJ), Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus (EHJ), Our Lady of Fatima Sisters (OLF), Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters (IHM), Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ (PHJC), Franciscan Sisters, Oblates of the Virgin Mary (OMV), Missionaries of St Paul (MSP), Claretian Missionary Fathers (CMF), Theatine Fathers (CR), Missionaries of Divine Mercy Congregation (MDM), Missionary Sisters of St Faustina (MSSF), and Ad Gentes Missionaries have served in the Diocese since its inception. As we can see, many congregations of priests, brothers and sisters joined in the diocese bringing each the contribution of their charism in the pastoral of the diocese through parish, school, and health apostolates. However, presently there are only four non-Nigerian Missionaries working in the Diocese: One sister of Sisters of Medical Missionaries of Mary and us the three M.Afrs.
Today, there are 75 parishes, 6 Quasi Parishes, and 7 Chaplaincies spread over an area of about 56,229,000sq kilometers. The major ethnic composition of the Diocese includes Nupe, Gbagyi, Kadara, Koro, Pangu, and Kamuku. Other ethnic groups from around Nigeria include Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. The population of the Diocese is 77,589, out of about 4 million people in Niger State. The diocese has 81 diocesan priests, of whom 20 are abroad for studies and mission work.
BIRTH OF ST LUKE’S PARISH
St. Luke’s Parish is the latest initiative of the Ghana/Nigeria Province, and the first non-Yoruba Mission of our Society in Nigeria. The Pastoral Team consists of Johan Miltenburg, John William Nkhoma, and Virgilius Kawama. St Luke’s Catholic Church, Gyedna Village, is the Centre of our parish. St Luke’s Church was not in the plan of the Diocese to be a parish anytime soon due to lack of what it takes to be a parish. Nevertheless, inspired by the words of St Paul, “We can do all things in Him who strengthens us – Phil. 4:13”, together with the Ghana/Nigeria Province Authority, we opted for St Luke’s Church for the following reasons:
1. Proximity; the Church is 300 metres away from our land bought for residence, youth apostolate, hospitality centre, and vocation work.
2. Missionary territory; the Church was farthest outstation of St Michael parish of Garam. Being remote and rural, it provided us with options to open more churches in the surrounding villages where Catholicism was not present yet.
3. Community set-up and composition; The environmental territory is more suitable in answering to our White Fathers’ charism of Encounter, Dialogue, Justice and Peace, Primary Evangelisation, On-Going Formation, and so on.
4. Missionary work and activities; Since we will live in a community of three Confreres for parish work, two Seminarians, Confreres in-charge of Minna Project, and the Vocation Promoter (an estimate of 7 White Fathers), we felt the immediate need to an environment that will keep the confreres busy not only today but forever, and St Luke location was found capable of keeping all our Confreres very busy as they spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in their various apostolates.
5. Geographical location; the fact that, St Luke’s Church is at the end of St Michael parish gives a clear geographical demarcation among the parishes of St Michael parish of Minna Diocese, St Theresa Parish of Abuja Archdiocese, St Charles Parish of Minna Diocese, and St Fabian Parish of Kaduna Archdiocese.
St Luke’s Church was approved as a M.Afr parish main centre by the Bishop with his council in their meeting on 28th November 2018. They acknowledged the fact that the M.Afr are among the few missionary congregations keeping to their charism, not being misled by material desires for big/town parishes, but by the need of the time, able to foresee the future of the Church for God’s glory, true missionaries who are ready to struggle to contribute to the mission of Christ. Our presence in the Diocese is very much appreciated.
St. Luke’s Parish is located in the boundaries between Abuja Archdiocese, Kaduna Archdiocese, and Minna Diocese, in the remote area named Gyedna, in Kwamba Deanery. It has five centres: one is predominantly for the Igbo, while other four are Gbagyi people; two of which cater for English and Gbagyi speakers, and other two are exclusively for Gbagyi speakers. Some few people speak Pidgin English and broken Hausa. The population is above 250 parishioners and the majority are young people between 20 to 45 years old of age. Gbagyi is the tribe and main language of the natives. The first Parish Mass was celebrated on the 2nd December 2018.
CHURCHES MAKING ST LUKE’S PARISH
St Luke’s Parish is made up of five Churches. Possibly, more will be opened especially after our catechists complete their training and the community receives more confreres. St. Luke’s – Gyedna, Parish Main Centre is along the foreseen dual carriage way that connects Kaduna State , Niger State and Abuja/Federal Capital Territory. The Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA), a strongest protestant Church, is the dominant church in the area. It has many members. We relate very well with them; we celebrate Christmas, New Year, and Easter festivities together, rotating from one Church to the other. Our main Church building is progressing well, despite funding problems. It is at the roofing stage. The multipurpose hall has been renovated, strengthened and tiled. We are grateful to our friends as well as the Church members for their generous contributions. The Bishop, Vicar General, Dean, Chiefs, and so many priests and laity appreciate the M.Afr’s good job at Gyedna. The other four Churches are also working on their church buildings; St Peter–Azu’s church is at roofing stage; St Martin–Chawa’s church is plastered and windows are fixed; St Kizito–Boyi Madaki has floored their church; and St Peter–Ijah Gbagyi has bought the land for a permanent church building. All the churches demonstrate obvious prospects of growth.
Since its inception as a parish, a good number of confreres have contributed to offering a missionary dimension to our Sunday Parish Apostolate. They include;
the Superior General Fr Stanley Lubungo, the Provincial Superior Fr John Aserbire, the Provincial Treasurer Br John Abobo, the Society Building Committee Officer Fr Jose Manuel Gordejuela, the Provincial Delegate Fr Emmanuel Mambwe, the Provincial Councilor Fr John Mubanga, and the Vocation Director Fr Victor Shehu. The Bishop of Oshogbo Diocese Most Rev. Dr. John Akinkumi Oyejola, has been a blessing to
o in our new mission.
Our Parish Apostolate is typical primary evangelisation. We are involved in the formation of the laity through church councils, organizations, societies, committees, and groups. As at now, we have the following; Catechists, Catholic Men Organization (CMO), Catholic Women Organization (CWO), Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), Block Rosary Movement, Choir, Zumutan Mata (Typical Hausa Women Group), Zumutan Maza (Typical Hausa Men Group), Charismatics, Lectors/Lay Readers, Legion of Mary, Altar Servers, Cadets, St Vincent de Paul, Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue, Crossing the Red Sea Prayer Ministry, Religious and School Education Committee, Liturgical Committee, Welfare Committee, Communications Committee, Finance Committee, Building/Land Committee, Harvest Committee, Youth/Children Affairs Committee, Marriage and Family Life Committee. We visit our parishioners and non-parishioners in the spirit of Encounter, Ecumenism and Dialogue.
2020 PASTORAL MAJOR CONCERN
Our 2020 Pastoral Plan of Activities was drawn-up on 3rd January 2020. It consists of all the plans of St Luke’s Parish, the Deanery and the Diocese. The Pastoral Team agreed to dedicate more time and resources to the formation of the laity; to continue training our four Catechists who speak Gbagyi and Hausa, to organize monthly seminars and sessions in different fields, to buy all Parish liturgical materials, to empower our workers and willing parishioners through skills acquisition in shoe and belt making, hairdressing, barbing, farming, vaseline, airfreshner, and liquid soap making. Our intention is to lay a proper foundation for the laity. Experts in different topics will be consulted for help in teaching and guiding our parishioners.
We can do all things in Him who strengthens us – Phil. 4:13. St. Luke’s Parish is growing fast. The number of parishioners keeps on increasing; we started with about 100 faithful but now we record above 250 parishioners every Sunday. The parishioners are very good, encouraging, simple, hospitable, friendly, and cooperative. All the successes recorded so far are the result of our total trust in God, who strengthens us, and also due to focused leadership; starting with the General Council, Provincial Council, Sector Council, Parish Team, Parish Pastoral Team, and our dedicated community workers. We appreciate your efforts and our prayers are always with you. With Mary our Mother, We succeed!!!
Author; Virgilius Kawama