Catholic Diocese of Sokoto at 50 (1964-2014)

Catholic Diocese of Sokoto celebrated her 50th year (Golden Jubille) anniversary on December 18th and 19th 2014, at Holy Family Catholic Cathedral Church, Sokoto

PREFACE

As the sower went out to sow, some seeds fell on patches of rock …” Lk. 8:5

We soon realize in the Acts of the Apostles that the physical absence of Jesus would be no barrier to the Gospel. Peter’s first sermon, despite his illiteracy attracted three thousand souls to the faith. (Acts 2:41) Rather than be held back by persecution, the Apostles turn it into a weapon of spreading the good news.

The concept of spreading the good news would be given a fillip and structure through the emergence and miraculous conversion of St. Paul (Acts 9). It was he whom Christ used to shape and give impetus to the concept of the Gospel being taken to the ends of the world. As we see in his life and times, the message of Jesus Christ has a sense of urgency and it is an imperative (Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel, 1Cor. 9:16) We can see from the range of people he gathered around himself, men and women of different backgrounds that the spreading the Message would require recruitment and teaching.

As the world opened up, thanks to new discoveries in transportation and stories of the world became clearer, the Catholic Church became more aware that evangelization would require the mobilization of huge resources, planning, co-ordination, the deliberate strategic deployment of these human and material resources to specific parts of the world. The setting up of Propaganda Fide in 1662 would mark the highest point in this divine project. As they say, the rest if history.

Today, we are the beneficiaries of he great and heroic stories of these men and women. It is therefore important that we remind ourselves about their gallantry. I have always loved history. Thus, when we tabled the idea of celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the Diocese of Sokoto, I believed that writing a short history of the Diocese would be a way of honouring those who have gone before us. It would also help us appreciate why we need to work even harder.

One of the things that should be clear to us is the fact that very little has changed very much in terms of the context of missionary activities in Northern Nigeria. We see in Northern Nigeria, an Islam that is still holding on to the relics of empire with Christianity being treated with some kind of suspicion. The colonial state created far more problems for missionaries than the local Muslims. Their protectionist measures sought to ensure tat their economic interests were not tampered with. Similarly, even today, some members of the political elite pose far greater problems for relations between Christians and Muslims in the Northern States. They were the ones who have made capital out of the so-called Sharia issues, or refusing to grant permission for the building of Churches.

The philosophy seems to remain, your religion is yours and our religion is ours. We can live together if we respect this understanding. Yet, even by itself, Islam in Northern Nigeria does not respect this rule of engagement. It is occasionally proud to announce that a Christian has become a Muslim, but it is unwilling to contemplate the notion of a Muslim becoming a Christian! It embarks on conversions among Christians by different means, marriage, promises of economic and bureaucratic inducements and so on.  On the other hand, we are told by some strange twist of logic that Christian men cannot marry Muslim women! Northern Islam remains quite peculiar from other forms of understanding Islam in Nigeria and beyond. Whereas elsewhere, people are intermarrying, pursuing their careers freely in the bureaucracy, in Northern Nigeria, the situation is different.

Notwithstanding all these, Christianity has come a long way and still has a long way to go in Northern Nigeria. It is somehow shocking to note that the Northern Muslim elites have not done much to build on the legacy of their ancestors. Today, what we see is the deepening of suspicion and a not so resolute commitment to addressing fundamental issues of human rights and justice as it affects citizens. For example, some Christian Governors and traditional rulers have contributed substantially to building mosques across the country in their domains, yet there is hardly any such evidence of a Muslim Governor or traditional ruler in the whoe of the North doing something similar for Christian

My hope is that those reading this will see great lessons in the continuity of the work of the Holy Spirit. I believe that we can all look at the great work of these missionaries with gratitude to God and pray that we ourselves are challenged to follow in their footsteps. Today, we have greater opportunities of education, infrastructure now more than there were at the time these brave men and women did what they did by bicycles, non-existence roads and so on.

Personally, I am humbled by the chance I have to preside over the Diocese in the course of this celebration. I want to thank Bishops Lawton, Dempsey and Kevin Aje who laid the solid foundation on which we are building. Bishop Aje, being the first indigenous Bishop inherited a herculean tack especially given the high expectations and the lack of local resources. He carried this task with diligence and wisdom for nearly thirty years.

In very strange ways, I feel a sense of connection with each of my predecessors in building the Diocese of Sokoto. First, is Bishop Edward Lawton. We decided to fix the grand finale of this celebration on the 19th of December to honour the exact date of his death, fifty years ago. For me, this was exactly the date I was ordained, thirty-eight years ago. I knew that Bishop Michael was rather fond of me from the time I first met him around 1977. I was taken aback when he asked me to come and preach a retreat to the priests of the Diocese of Sokoto when I was barely four years old as a priest. It was my first retreat to priests in any Diocese. As for Bishop Aje, I consider myself already one of his favourite nephews. When he was Parish Priest at the Cathedral of our Lady of Fatima, Jos, his doors were open to us due to his legendary hospitality. To all the clergy, religious and laity in the Diocese, I sand you my congratulations and appreciation for your support. May God bless us and may He continue to do great things for us. (Ps 126:3)

–  Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto Diocese

 

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of history is to undertake an investigation into the past. History undertakes a journey into the past by following the footprints of actors and actresses on the stage that the world is. Contrary to a relatively recent understanding of history, history is not just a gathering of new facts, it is, first and foremost, an exercise in interpretation of facts. History requires intelligent gathering of facts and intelligent interpretation of facts.

As an exercise in history, the purpose of this write-up is to guide the reader on a journey into the past. The past in question is the birth and growth of Catholicism in Sokoto Diocese. It is a past marked by an encounter between Catholicism and Islam. In the thinking oa many Nigerians, the difficult relationship between Christianity and Islam took root in the 19th century activities of Christian missionaries who traversed the various parts of what today constitute the Federal Republic of Nigeria. To this group of people, the Northern part of the country has always been and remains the property of the Muslims, while Christianity can only have a say in the Southern part of the country. However, a thorough and critical search into the history of Nigeria, shows that the relationship predates the 19th century and that at various times in the history of the people, there existed a sort of symbiotic relationship which have aided inter group relations. Although the history of Islam in the Northern part of the country dates back to between the 9th and 12th centuries AD, the first Christian missionary activity in Northern Nigeria came almost five years later precisely in the late 17th century, thus predating the Sokoto jihad.

The reader of this write-up is being offered an account of the birth and growth of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto. This follows the footprints of missionaries-bishops, priests, consecrated persons and the lay faithful – who, at one time or the other, played a role in the birth of the Diocese and in its growth. Fifty years after the erection of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, there is a unique opportunity to follow the footprints of the fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, friends and foes of the Diocese. The birth of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto in 1964, preceded by the creation of the Sokoto Prefecture in 1953, and the arrival of the Dominicans led by Monsignor Edward Lawton in 1954. The growth of parishes in the Diocese started from the birth of Gusau, the first parish, to the birth of many others. This cannot be complete without paying tribute to the role of the American Dominican Sisters and of their Nigerian successors in the Diocese of Sokoto vis-à-vis the contribution of the Diocese to education and health care delivery.

  1. THE COMING OF CHRISTIANITY TO NORTHERN NIGERIA

For a number of reasons, what is today known as the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto is quite unique. From the point of view of geographical location, its territorial spread includes four North Western States of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, namely: Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Katsina, making it one of the largest Catholic Dioceses in Africa, larger than some African countries. From the point of view of history, the Diocese is located in the hart of the Sokoto Caliphate, the stronghold of Islam in Nigeria and much of West African.

The origins of Catholicism in Sokoto Diocese should be traced to the origins of Christianity in Northern Nigeria, the landmass lying to the north of Rivers Benue and Niger. But tracing the origins of Christianity in Northern Nigeria leaves the historian, not on solid ground, but on the terrain of probability. While considering the opinions of many historians concerning the emergence of the Catholic Church in Northern Nigeria, one could assert, on the grounds of probability, that the earliest presence of a Christian missionary in the Region would be that of Belgian Franciscan Brother, Peter Farde. Brother Farde was in captivity in Agadez and later transited through Gobir and Sokoto shortly after his liberation. The history of the Catholic Church in Sokoto would be traceable to Farde’s transit through Gobir and Sokoto shortly after his liberation from slavery in Agadez in 1688.

When Farde left his country, his intended destination was not Africa. He was not sent to Africa as a missionary. He was sent to the Holy Land. But the insecurity of the route, his capture by pirates, to be specific, brought him to Africa. What happened on the trip to Agadez would be of enormous significance in the history of Christianity in Northern Nigeria. It is the story of how a captured slave became the first Christian missionary in Northern Nigeria.

“During his trip, Peter gained the confidence and friendship of his master, who promised him and his friend Daniel their freedom once Peer finished directing the construction of an Italian style villa for him. Peter spoke of the faith and within four weeks had led 200 slaves, Jews and Moors (most likely non-Muslim blacks) to the Christian faith. All this was done discretely, and even his master, Sura Belin was secretly baptized with all his family.”

It was a time when religious liberty was not in the books. Peter was made to pay a huge prize for bringing Christianity to a predominantly Muslim society. But this costly missionary endeavour was not without fruit. Some of the black slaves he baptized would have been the first Hausa Christians. When Peter regained his freedom, he continued building his master’s villa, this time under surveillance. He was locked up every night and could talk to no one. Peter was able to compensate his master with money he received from home. With that, he regained full freedom to return to Amsterdam.

“On 10th July 1688, Peter left together with two Moors his master sent to accompany him as far as the Nigeria River. These however, took leave of him at the town of “Gobel” (Gobir); at this time Gobir capital was at Tsibiri (just west of Maradi), about 400 km south of Agadez. Peter continued on alone, heading straight south which he mistakenly thought was the direction of Elmina. After two days of walking over that land he came to hilly country (which would be in the area of Kwatorkwashi in Sokoto State, Nigeria).   He travelled on two more days without meeting anyone or seeing any path, resting in trees at night because of wild animals presumably hyenas.”

Another landmark in the coming of Catholicism was the coming of two Franciscan priests to Katsina around 1710. These dies in 1711, having worked for only one year. There is no record of any presence of activity of Catholic priests in Northern Nigeria until 1921 when one Father Berengari Cerminati, of the Society of African Missions (SMA) travelled on a bicycle from Zaria to Sokoto, a distance of 402 kilometres.

The work of nurturing the early seed sown by the early SMA Fathers would later be confided to friars of the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans, who deployed their great organizational skills. In February 1951, three Dominican priests, Fathers Edward Lawton, Michael Dempsey and Arthur Kinsella arrived Lagos from Chicago. The Dominicans has been invited to work in the Sokoto Prefecture carved ot of the Archdiocese of Kaduna in 1953. In 1954, Father Lawton was appointed Prefect Apostolic of Sokoto, with his investiture taking place on March 14 of the same year, and in 1964, when the Prefecture was raised to the status of a Diocese, with Monsignor Lawton as its first Bishop. In the early years of the Prefecture, he benefitted from the assistance of Father Nadeau, the first resident priest in Sokoto and Father McHatton. These would be joined by Brother Thomas Martin who arrived Gusau in April 1956. The Dominican Sisters from Great Bond, Kansas in the United States arrived Gusau the same year.

These founders of Catholicism in Sokoto Prefecture toiled with no wealth at the expese of their health. This was the case of Bishop Lawton who died of a heart attack on December 19, 1966. But here was another challenge they faced. It was the challenge of Christian-Muslim relations in a predominantly Muslim society.

After the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria was declared in 1900, fear of introduction of Christianity to the area was aggravated on the part of the Islamic leaders. The British, for their part, were convinced that it was necessary to keep off rival imperialist powers in order to maximize exploitation of resources found in the territory. The British know that every ruling class would resist the usurpation of its power, and that the greatest resistance to alien rule would be on religious grounds. The ruling class in the Caliphate suspected the British would achieve their goal by creating the false hope that the religion of the people as well as traditional authority would not be tampered with.

  1. A HOSTILE RECEPTION

Various reasons have been advanced to explain the refusal to allow Christian missionary activities in the Muslim emirates of Northern Nigeria. One of such reason was that the British colonial policy of indirect rule protected customs and traditional systems of government in those emirates from external influences. Another reason, a derivative of the first, explained that the colonial government promised not to interfere with Islam, and this was reiterated at the installation of every Emir. In keeping with that promise, establishment of Christian missions was kept out of predominantly Muslim area. Another explanation was that the policy grew out of British fear of Mahdism. Margery Perham maintains while Frederick Lugard has a “liberal” attitude towards Christian missionaries, this attitude was not subscribed to by some Residents led by C.L. Temple. According to Emmanuel Ayandele, the only restriction placed by Lugard on the Christians was that they could only enter a Muslim area at the invitation of the Emir. He added that it was only under Percy Girouard as High Commissioner from 1907, that hostility towards Christian missionaries became an official policy.

The primary reason why the Colonial Office supported Residents who opposed the expansion of missionary work into Muslim areas was the belief that any influence that tended to weaken the religious authority of the Emirs over the mass of the people was injurious to imperialist interests and must be resisted. In this way the “authority and prestige” of the Emirs needed to be safeguarded. But this policy was considered insufficient by the Emirs who continued to treat Christians as infidels and enemies.

Christianity was considered to be westernization. The education it brought formed a new elite schooled in western values and rebellious to the authority of the traditional aristocracy. Most of the earliest Christian adherents were people of low social status such as former slaves and other social outcasts. Christianity met with hostility in the emirates because it bore the potential of weakening the religious authority of the Emirs. To prevent this, the colonial government, posturing as neutral umpire, frowned at the situation where Christian missionaries were preaching the equality of all men. Such abolition of class distinctions was perceived as inimical, not only to the authority of Islamic traditional institutions in the area, but also to colonial authority.

Christian missionaries were to protect Islamic authority so as to protect British colonial interests. Let us now examine the course of events that led to the ban on Christian Missions from Muslim area.

Before the 1880s some Emirs with whom the Christians first came in contact welcomed them probably because they sought to enhance their authority by associating with European agents. The Emir of Bida, for example, did not only give a boy to Bishop Samuel Crowther to be educated, but also wrote to neighbouring Emirs appealing to them to allow the Bishop begin missionary work in their territories. It was when the Royal Niger Company began to infringe on the sovereignty of the Caliphate, thus exposing the imperialist intention of the Europeans, that the attitude of the Emirs towards the Christians became hostile. It is important to note that this was not the first time such hostility towards Christians had occurred. The treatment meted to Peter Farde in 1688 comes to mind as an earlier example.

Though not so violent as today, there were occasional clashes between the two groups. But the problem was not just the close association of Christians with western colonizers. The Christians also experienced difficulties because of the distorted and racist view of Islam and the Caliphate on the part of some of their missionaries. They believed that Islam was simply imposed on the Hausa by the Fulani during the jihad and that the former were only nominal Muslims who could be easily converted to Christianity. They were therefore optimistic that once the Fulani had been removed from power by British conquest they would be able to win converts among the peasantry. This was the view that informed the attitude of the so-called Hausa Mission, a branch of the Church Missionary Society (CMS). Travelling to Kano via Zaria in 1900, led by Bishop Herbert Tugwell, the missionaries embarked on an anti-Fulani propaganda announcing as they moved along that the British had come to liberate the peasantry from Fulani tyranny.

The hostility of the Resident Officers could also be explained by the fact that they regarded the missionaries as threats to their political influence in the emirates. They were used to having their orders carried out by the Emirs without question and some of their activities were hardly made public. The presence of missionaries would have changed this situation. Christian missionaries were accused of preaching equality of all men and their system of education was thought to be capable of causing “unrest and fanaticism” by bringing up a “separate educated class in rivalry with the accepted rules of the people.” What the British wanted to avoid was the education of the talakawa that would be capable of inducing them to become conscious of colonial manipulation and exploitation. This policy was in line with the type of education that was prescribed for the Muslim areas.

The British were faced with a delicate situation. On the one hand, they did not want the religious authority of the Emirs to be weakened; on the other hand, they faced the inevitable presence in Muslim cities of “non-native Africans” who were mostly Christians and therefore subject to the “Muslim authority” of the Emirs. They tried to resolve this contradiction by resorting to a policy of segregation in urban settlement. The non-native Africans were permitted to settle only in specified sections of the town outside the main city where the native inhabitants lived. The new settlements were called “Sabon Garis” (New Townships) to which “naives” subject to the native administration were as far as possible restricted.

Thus, in order to ensure maximum control of all sections of the population the various religious and linguistic groups were kept physically, culturally and psychologically apart. In most urban centres there was the ancient walled city housing the indigenous population, the “Tudun Wada” created to house northerners who were not indigenous to the town, the “Sabon Gari” for “native foreigners and the Reservation Areas for the Europeans. Even where the so-called “non-native” Africans had been living amicably with the indigenous population within the city walls they were ordered out by the British.

In Sokoto town itself the Resident Officer, G.J. Lethan was disgusted with the question of the immigration of the more sophisticated and English-speaking natives into the town. What irritated him most was that these immigrants were “building with the permission of the local authority in the native town and did not show the slightest inclination to form a Sabon Gari.” He expressed the fear that the practice might lead to quests to build Churches, adding that it was possible the Sultan would agree. He warned that care ought to be taken lest the “Sultan’s affability in these matters took him to a point where he would be distrusted by important sections of his people.” The attitude of the British to non-Muslim immigrants in Sokoto reflected the general trend that persisted throughout Muslim cities in Northern Nigeria.

  1. FROM THE SOUTHERN COAST TO THE NORTH

In 1884, Catholicism arrived Lokoja through Fathers Jules Poirier and Fiorentini, both of the Society of African Missions (SMA). Father Poirier died a few months after their arrival. Father Charles Za;pa, also of the Society of African Missions (SMA), arrived in 1886. The year 1884 is often referred to as the year of arrival of Catholicism in what is today called Northern Nigeria. Such a position calls for nuance when one considers earlier presence in Bornu, Katsina, Gobir and Sokoto referred to earlier. It is more accurate to say that this was the first arrival of Catholicism during the second attempt at implantation.

From the point or view of that second attempt at implantation, the opening of the Shendam mission in the Plateau Province in 1907, could be regarded as the beginning of the real establishment of the Church in the North of Rivers Niger and Benue. The Shendam mission was manned by SMA Fathers Oswald Waller, Mauren and Belin. Other pioneer missionaries crossed over the two great rivers from the south in order to bring the Good News to the people of the North. They travelled to Minna, Kaduna and Zaria, ministering to Catholic settlers who were mainly from the southern parts of the country. Churches were built and in many places. Mass was celebrated in the homes of Christians.   The first Mass in Kaduna or Zaria Province was said in the area of the present Kakuri Bus Stop in 1908, where there was a Catechist’s house until the demolition in 1967. Father Cerminati travelled on bicycle as far as to Sokoto to do his pastoral work. In 1911, an ecclesiastical jurisdiction was established to include the eastern half of the northern territory and was named the Prefecture Apostolic of North-Eastern Nigeria. All other areas north of the two great rivers were administered by the Vicar Apostolic of Asaba to the south of the River Niger.

The task of these pioneer missionaries was by no means easy. Apart from supporting themselves by their labour in farming, keeping sheep and goats, they relied largely on support from their home countries and the generosity of the native people. Roads were bad and means of transport were poor. Disease-carrying insects like tsetse flies and mosquitoes led to death of many missionaries shortly after their arrival. Despite these difficulties, they and their indigenous successors have built the Church in Northern Nigeria on a solid foundation. The heroic work of men and women of religious institutes and societies of apostolic life cannot be overlooked either. They built the new Churches, taught in the newly established schools, healed in hospitals and clinics, and toiled in various aspects of authentic development.  They worked and continue to work selflessly to renew he face of the earth in Northern Nigeria.

  1. BIRTH OF THE DIOCESE OF SOKOTO

After the missionary adventures of Franciscan Brother Farde in 1688, Father Berengario Cermenati, SMA, had travelled from Zaria to Sokoto in November 1921, traveling the 402 kilometre distance on bicycle, in the company of his cook, Mallam Audu. While this first arrival of Catholicism in Sokoto cannot be ignored, later developments proved even more vital. The creation of the Prefecture of Northern Nigeria in 1929 with Monsignor Francis O. Rourke, SMA as its first Prefect Apostolic, the growing Catholic population in Kano, Shendam and Zaria, the division of the Prefecture of Northern Nigeria into the Prefectures of Kaduna and Jos in 1934, provided the catalyst for the emergence of the Prefecture and later Diocese of Sokoto.

Although it was and remains the most important Muslim city in Nigeria, Sokoto, as at that time, remained an outstation of Zaria with a congregation of Catholics from Southern Nigeria. The first baptisms recorded theretook place on October 16, 1931, and were administered by John MacCarthy.

The history of the Church in Sokoto took a new turn for good with the activities of Father Malachy Gately who became Superior of Zaria Mission on November 11, 1933, when Father John MacCarthy went on leave.   Within a short time, Gately began to explore far-away provinces to make contact with Catholics who were mostly from Southern Kaduna, and with indigenes of the province who had refused to become Muslimks, the Maguzawa. Sokoto was not the target of Gately. He knew the city as the seat of the most important Muslim ruler in Nigeria, the Sultan of Sokoto. His interest was thus in the area to the south-west.

Seeing bright prospects for Catholicism in Argungu, Father Hughes wrote in September 1934 to the Resident Officer in Sokoto Province, J.H. Carow, seeking permission to open a mission there. With permission granted, Father John MacCarthy went to Argungu in Sokoto Province at the end of 1934 to choose a site for the new Mission. With this began, in September 1935, pastoral work among its inhabitants, and from Argungu, a priest visited Sokoto once a month. The intention was to open a new central station in places such as Sabon Birnin, Birnin Kebbi, Kontagora or other places nearer Argungu. Argungu was to be a stepping stone and a launch-pad for missionary activities in the area.

The strong presence of Islam in the area did not dampen missionary zeal and determination to preach to the local people who had not embraced Islam. MacCarthy hoped to get their attention because of the level of marginalization they suffered as well as some material benefits which the Church could provide.

This must have encouraged the journey of Gately and MacCarthy in 1934. Having obtained permission from ecclesiastical and civil authorities, they commenced the building of the first mission station among northerners in the prefecture in 1935. This bore fruit when the first priest, John MacCarthy and Patrick Lee (who arrived in the prefecture with his brother, John and Denis Minihane the previous October) went to live in the area among the new faithful in June 1935. A harsh climate and ill-health led to the departure of Lee in September.

As a way of ensuring continuity, Lee was replaced by James McEvoy (who had a short stay of about three months) and subsequently by Denis Minihane. As a result of its inclement climate, the area witnessed continuous movement of priests in and out of the area, so much so that 16 priests lived there for various periods of time between 1935 and 1947 when it was closed down.

Opposition to the presence of the Church in the area was not open but hidden. The Church was seen as contesting with the Caliphate for the soul of the people. The establishment of a Christian mission almost at the doorstep of the Sultan of Sokoto was seen as a challenge to Islamic authorities who regarded the indigenous non-Muslim as pagans. The situation was such that, despite Church’s provision of western education and building of schools (over the years 13 schools were opened), much success was not recorded. Little success was recorded in the area of education because of lack of interest in western education as well as the inability to recruit high quality teachers. In response to these and other frustration missionaries’ experiences in the area, even after putting in what they considered their best; Hughes was reported to have described the case in Argungu as remaining hopeless. He suspected that the authorities had a hand in the situation which may have prevented the people from taking advantage of the facilities.

In 1934, during Gately’s tour, his attempt to establish a mission near Gusau was stopped by the Resident Officer. The latter told him he would need authorization by the Sultan of Sokoto. In 1935, a plot of land was acquired to build a Church in Gusau. But there was no priest residing there until the arrival of Father Daniel Watson on December 9, 1947. The arrival of Father Watson in Gusau as its first resident priest meant the closure of Argungu did not bring about the death of Christianity in the area.   Watson was resident priest in Gusau from 1948 to 1950. Gusau was visited periodically from Zaria after 1921. However, with time and with the opening of the railway from Zaria to Kaura Namoda in 1927, it has a small community of southern Catholics who received pastoral care from Zaria. Henry Kenny, who was then stationed at Zaria, performed the first baptisms in Gusau on July 21, 1929. There were 55 baptized Catholics and 52 Catechumens registered in 1929. The Church provided spiritual and medical care for them. In September 1948, provision was made in the area of accommodation as Father Watson was able to build and reside in small house next to the Church.

The Holy See through Archbishop David Matthew, had invited the Dominicans to work in the north-west of the country, specifically in the proposed Prefecture of Sokoto comprising the civil Provinces of Sokoto and Katsina. The Dominicans accepted the responsibility and Father Edward Lawton was appointed Prefect Apostolic of Sokoto in February 25, 1954. He was consecrated at the st. Pius Catholic Church, Chicago, USA and left on March 14, 1954. Returning to Yaba in September 1954, he went up north, taking charge of the Prefecture on November 13, 1954 with Gusau as his seat. Gusau was the only residence for missionaries in the 46,000 square miles of the Prefecture whose 1,200 Catholics were scattered among five million inhabitants, the vast majority of whom were Muslims. Despite difficulties and hostilities encountered by the Dominicans they were able to accomplish a lot within a short time. In 1955, thanks to the tireless efforts of Monsignor Lawton, Gusau which had been an out-station of Zaria, became a Parish.

The city of Sokoto was blessed with a Catholic Church which was dedicated by Monsignor Lawton on November 1, 1957. Named after the Holy Family, it is now the Cathedral Church of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto. Lawton’s wise pastoral leadership and the collaboration of the Dominican friars and sisters enhanced the growth of the Prefecture in those difficult days. Led by Lawton, the Dominicans toiled, serving the needs of the people in the Prefecture, even when there were fiscal challenges. From Gusau, the first seat of the Prefecture, Lawton travelled constantly, visiting people confided to his pastoral care, seeking and negotiating for sites on which to build Churches. His administrative skills and his organizational abilities stood him out as a pastor. In January 1961, Monsignor Edward Lawton moved his seat from Gusau to Sokoto, and that explains why Sokoto and not Gusau is the seat of the Bishop today. On January 15, 1954, he was appointed Prefect of Sokoto and was installed on November 13, of the same year. He was appointed Bishop of Sokoto on June 16, 1964. His Episcopal ordination took place on August 15, 1964.

During the first ten years of the Prefecture, the population of Catholics has risen to 10,000. Bishop Lawton took part in the last two sessions of the Second Vatican Council. Within Nigeria, apart from his Episcopal duties in the Church in Sokoto, he also had responsibilities within the Bishops’ Conference. He was travelling more than ever before to preach and take part in meetings boh in Nigeria and beyond. During one of such trips, he dies in his car on December 19, 1966, on his way from Sokoto Kaduna, having travelled about 20 miles, having just completed recitation of the Rosary, he died of coronary thrombosis.

In succession to Bishop Lawton, Father Michael James Dempsey, one of the two confreres with whom he arrived in Nigeria in 1951, was chosen as second Bishop of Sokoto. Since their arrival, Dempsey had been working in Yaba, Lagos. He was transferred to Northern Nigeria in 1965 having become religious superior of the Dominicans working throughout the recently created Diocese of Sokoto. His appointment as Bishop was announced on August 15, 1967, and was installed October 1, 1967.

In Dempsey, the Church in Sokoto was blessed with a zealous preacher who was able to overcome the hostility in the area with his excellent diplomatic skills. At the time he became Bishop, there were only American Dominican priests, brothers and sisters working in the Diocese. Bishop Dempsey turned his attention to the northern Christians who remained and was not afraid to open the first Catholic Secondary School in Gusau in 1968. At the end of the civil war, the school, St Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, would later be taken over by the military government and renamed “Sambo Secondary School.”

In 1976, Bishop Dempsey ordained Father Joseph Keke, the second Diocesan priest of Sokoto. A sign of a local Church that has come to maturity is in her having an indigenous clergy. Since the ordination of Father Keke, the Diocese has witnessed the ordination of more Nigerian Diocesan priests. There has also been a flow of Nigerian Dominicans working in the Diocese in succession to the American Dominicans.  Under the pastoral leadership of Bishop Dempsey, the first Church building in Sokoto dating back to 1958 was replaced by a new cathedral capable of accommodating the thousands who now worship there regularly each week. Bishop Dempsey was considered to be one with the locals and they were reluctant to see him leave the country and the Church which have benefitted so greatly from his long years of ministry. But he had to leave because of health and immigration challenges.

Bishop Kevin Aje succeeded Bishop Dempsey. He had been appointed Co-Adjutor Bishop of Sokoto in November 1983, and was ordained in Rome by Pope John Paul II on January 6, 1983. He was installed Bishop on April 28, 1985, thus becoming the third Bishop, and indeed the first African and Nigerian Bishop of the Diocese. Bishop Aje continued from where his predecessor stopped and created more parishes and out-stations.   On June 10, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Aje from the pastoral care of the Diocese of Sokoto. He appointed Monsignor Matthew Hassan Kukah, a priest of the Archdiocese of Kaduna, to be his successor.

The appointment of Monsignor Kukar to the Episcopal see of Sokoto on June 10, 2011, and his Episcopal ordination on September 8, 2011, provided a window of opportunity for a new beginning in harmonious co-existence of Christianity and Islam. Long before his Episcopal appointment, Kukah’s interventions on national issues had earned him the respect of Christians and Muslims alike. His personal friendship with His Eminence, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar, which began even before he got to Sokoto, comes across as a breath of fresh air. Sokoto todlay is a city where the head of the Caliphate, a descendant of Shaikh Uthman Dan Fodio and the Catholic Bishop are friends. That largely explain how and why Christians were able to have, for the first time in the history of Sokoto, a public procession to mark Christ’s triumphant entry on Passion Sunday in 2014. But this embrace of he Ecclesia and the Caliphase can only be a starting point.

Under Kukah’s Episcopal leadership, more parishes are being erected to ensure greater presence of the Church in other places within the Diocese. The achievements of Bishops Aje and Kukah are best appreciated within the larger context of the growth of the Diocese, that is, the creation and growth of parishes which began during the Episcopal ministries of Bishops Lawton and Dempsey.

  1. GROWTH OF THE DIOCESE OF SOKOTO

From the Belgian Franciscan, Peter Farde, to priests of the Society of African Missions, SMA, mostly Irish, some Italians, to the American Dominical Friars and Sisters, foreign missionaries zealously worked in harsh conditions to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News of salvation, in Sokoto Prefecture and Diocese. The history of the growth of the Diocese of Sokoto is a history of how foreign missionaries sowed the seed while an indigenous clergy, consecrated persons and lay faithful watered and nurtured it.

The Coming of Nigerian Dominican Friars and Diocesan Priests:

The first six parishes of the Diocese – Gusau, Sokoto, Yelwa, Funtua, Malmfashi and Katsina – were established and served by American Dominican confreres. While one salutes the courageous pioneering work of the American Dominican friars who founded the Prefecture of Sokoto, the history of the growth of Sokoto Diocese would be incomplete without acknowledging the fact that the Americans had worthy successors in the Nigerian Dominican friars who worked in the Diocese. Brother Clement Tyulen stands out as the first Nigerian Dominican friar to work in the Diocese, and in his footsteps, many other Nigerian Dominican followed.

A local Church comes of age when it begins to have its own personnel, its own missionaries, for mission ad intra and for mission ad extra. A visible sign of this coming of age of the Church in Sokoto is the slow but steady increase in the number of Diocesan priests. Another sign is the Episcopal ordination of its first African Bishop, Monsignor Kevin Age. As at January 6, 1983, the day of his Episcopal ordination, the Diocese had 17 parishes, 27 Diocesan priests and 10 religious sisters. The Diocese has since witnessed and continues to witness growth, thanks to the increasing number of its Diocesan priests and a very dynamic laity. The presence, work and witness value of the Dominican Sisters deserves special mention.

That the Diocese has continued to grow despite a hostile reception, is in theological terms, a testimony of divine providence. The Church in Sokoto is by no means materially rich. Fifty years after the creation of the Diocese, most of its members are low income earners. Middle income earners are quite few. Yet, its financial situation at its inception was even more precarious. The Church survived on very lean resources coming largely from the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and from generous benefactors in the United States of America, the home country of the missionaries. Despite lean resources, the Diocese has continued to grow. The establishment of parishes, out-stations and other institutions bear testimony to this growth.

The parishes in the Diocese of Sokoto are as follows:

  1. Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Gusau, Zamfara State
  2. Holy Family Catholic Cathedral Church, Sokoto, Sokoto State
  3. Dominic’s Catholic Church, Yelwa, Kebbi State
  4. Mary’s Catholic Church, Argungu, Kebbi State
  5. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Funtua, Katsina State
  6. Vincent Ferrer’s Catholic Church, Malumfashi, Katsina State
  7. Marin De Porress Catholic Church, Katsina, Katsina State
  8. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Talata-Mafara, Zamfara State
  9. Dominic’s Catholic Church, Birnin-Kebbi, Kebbi State
  10. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Illela, Sokoto State
  11. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Layin Minista, Malumfashi, Katsina State
  12. Paul’s Catholic Church, Jega, Kebbi State
  13. Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Kamba, Kebbi State
  14. Our Lady Queen of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, Old Airport, Sokoto, Sokoto State
  15. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Magama Jibiya, Katsina State
  16. Mary’s Catholic Church, Dusin-Ma, Katsina State
  17. Peter’s Catholic Church, Sabon-Gari, Kaura Namoda, Zamfara State
  18. Gabriel’s Catholic Church, Daura, Katsina State
  19. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Shagari Low Cost, Katsina, Katsina State
  20. Edward’s Catholic Church, Gusau, Zamfara State
  21. James Catholic Police Chaplaincy, (Police Training School) Farfaru, Sokoto, Sokoto State
  22. Thomas Aquinas Chaplaincy, (The Federal Polutechnic), Kaura Namoda, Zamfara State
  23. Kevin Catholic Church, Gidan Dare, Sokoto, Sokoto State
  24. Peter’s Chaplaincy, Army Barracks, Sokoto, Sokoto State
  25. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Illela Garage Sokoto, Sokoto State
  26. John’s Catholic Church, Gidan Kurma, Katsina, Katsina State
  1. THE DOMINICAN SISTERS IN SOKOTO DIOCESE

The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Sokoto Diocese trace their roots in the Church to St. Dominic De Guzman, founder of the Order of Preachers, to the Dominican Sisters of Regensburg (Ratisbon) Germany, Amityville in Brooklyn, New York, and Great Bend, Kansas, in the United States of America (now Dominican Sisters of Peace, USA). The community of Dominican Sisters in Regensburg was guided by the Sisters of St. Sixtus in Rome, a foundation originally under the government of Sister Blanche from St. Mary in Prouille, France, the first foundation of Dominic himself. In 1853, the Regensburg nuns responded to the needs of Germany immigrants in America, resulting in the Amityville foundation and Mother Antonina in 1902, founded the Congregation in Great Bend to answer the 20th Century needs for health care and education in Kansas. Like them, the Dominican Sisters in Great Bend would later respond to similar needs in the Diocese of Sokoto.

In December 1951, the Apostolic Delegate to West Africa, Archbishop Matthew, made two requests of the Dominican friars: to add the civil province of Katsina to their sphere of pastoral activities in Sokoto, and to send Dominican sisters. The request for the sisters was understandable in its antecedence. After the Society of African Missions was founded in 1856 by Bishop Melchior de Marion Bresillac, its first Superior General, Father Augustine Planque, founded in May 1876, a congregation of women religious, Sisters of the Our Lady of Apostles (OLA). In 1876, when they came to Nigeria to collaborate with the SMA Fathers, they were given a house on Broad Street in Lagos. History testifies to their being the oldest group of religious women in Nigeria today, and their Broad Street convent is the oldest convent of sisters in Nigeria. Archbishop Matthew’s request to have Dominican sisters in Nigeria was, in a way, an invitation to re-enact what the SMAs and the OLAs did in those early days of Catholicism in Lagos.

No one can write a credible history of Sokoto Prefecture and Diocese without acknowledging the heroic presence and ministry of the Dominican Sisters. The Dominican Sisters arrived in Gusau from Great Bend, Kansas in September 1956. Their arrival and the emergence of the Nigerian Dominican Sisters who inherited their ministry represent a great tonic for the work began by the Dominican Fathers and Brothers in the Church in Sokoto.

Almost from the day of their arrival, the sisters were busy ministering to the needs of all who came to them. They were Christians, Muslims and Traditional Religionists. The maternity and dispensary were cleaned and made ready to receive patients. Clinics were conducted in the countryside under trees. Those who were too ill to come to the clinic were visited. When necessary, some were taken in for medical treatment at the government hospital, or for delivery in the maternity if no complications were present. Nigerian men and women were trained by the sisters to aid in the dispensary and the maternity. Some sisters taught religion in the mission primary school and also in the countryside. Visits were made to families in the town.

The missionary sisters made it a priority to aid in the establishment of an indigenous community of Nigerian sisters. The Dominican Sisters within the Diocese began admitting young Nigerian women to be formed as Dominican Sisters. The first postulant was received on February 11, 1973, and the first novice on February 17, 1974. On June 29, 1977, two novices, Sisters Anne Ekennia and Josephine Ottah, made first profession. Meanwhile two more postulants and two more novices were received. Many young Nigerian women began to show interest in the community as a means of realizing the Dominican ideal in their lives and being of service to their people. Two American sisters were appointed as Major Superior and Directress of Novices until such time as the Nigerian community would become a congregation.

The Dominican charism is an apostolic way of life rooted in contemplation, and the sisters, like their friars, have enriched the Church in Sokoto with their charism. It is to the credit of the Dominican Sisters in Sokoto Diocese that at a time no other religious institute of women would dare come to Sokoto, they came, stayed, responded and continue to respond to several needs, namely, health care, religious education and most importantly, the need for a presence of consecrated life in Sokoto Prefecture and Diocese. The need to respond to these needs led to the foundation of a community of Dominican Sisters in Gusau in 1956. Consecrated persons do great things in the Church and society. But what they are, what they stand for, is even more important than what they do. In fact, the value of what they do flows from what they are. Their mission flows from their identity. They would have no mission in the apostolic sense of it without their identity as consecrated persons. As a Dominican, Bishop Dempsey understood this quite well. He knew the apostolate would need to be rooted in community life. He saw the immense value of an apostolate presence when he envisioned a religious community of women whose witness value would inspire the non-Muslims, the Maguzawa and other non-Hausa indigenous tribes in Yelwa, Birnin-Kebbi and Zuru areas. This process, which began in 1976, came to a favourable conclusion on December 8, 1981, when the entity was raised to the status of a pious union. In canonical terms, a pious union is an association of the lay faithful. Almost twenty-six years later, on January 27, 2007, Bishop Kevin Aje granted diocesan right to the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. What that means in canonical terms is that the Dominican Sisters are recognized as a religious institute in the Church placed under the special care of the Diocesan Bishop.

Gusau remains the seat of the Prioress General, the leader of the sisters. The first Nigerian Prioress General was Sister Franka Igweilo (2001-2005). She was succeeded by Sister Faustina Jimoh (2005-2013), and Sister Jacinta Nwaohiri (2013 to date). The sisters live and work not only in Sokoto Diocese, but in other Dioceses in Northern and Southern Nigeria. They are actively involved in pastoral ministry, in the provision of good quality education and medical care.

  1. EDUCATION AND HEALTH CASE IN THE DIOCESE OF SOKOTO

Christianity preaches a message of salvation which involves healing of the whole person. Like Catholic Dioceses all over the world, the Diocese of Sokoto fulfills its mission by providing opportunities for learning and healing. The various educational and health institutions in the Diocese testify to this.

The Education and Health Care in the Diocese of Sokoto are as follows:

Institutions of Learning:

  1. Joseph Mukasa Catechetical Training Centre, Malumfashi, Katsina State
  2. Our Lady of Fatima Nursery and Primary School, Gusau, Zamfara State
  3. Nursery and Primary School, Malumfashi, Katsina State
  4. Holy Family Nursery and Primary School, Sokoto, Sokoto State
  5. Comprehensive Nursery and Primary School, Jibiya, Katsina Sgtate
  6. Patrick’s Nursery and Primary School, Illela, Sokoto State
  7. Martin De Parres Nursery and Primary School, Katsina, Katsina State
  8. Martin De Parres College, Katsina, Katsina State
  9. Theresa’s Nursery and Primary School, Funtua, Katsina State
  10. Vincent Ferrer’s College, Malumfashi, Katsina State
  11. Dominican College, Gusau, Zamfara State
  12. Theresa’s Secondary School, Funtua, Katsina State

Medical Services:

The history of medical services in the Catholic Church in Nigeria could be traced to 1886, when the Sisters of the Our Lady of Apostles arrived in Abeokuta. St. Marie of the Assumption worked with two SMA priests, Fathers Francois and Coquard. The provision of medical services in the Diocese of Sokoto started with the arrival of the first Catholic mission in Argungu in 1935, when Father Patrick Lee took ill. This led to the opening of a medical house in August of the same year. It was meant to provide medical services to the pupils attending the Catholic schools in the area. But up to 1936, only five pupils were treated in the whole Argungu Division. The enterprise ended in 1948, when the Argungu mission was closed.

With the creation of the Sokoto Prefecture in 1953, and the arrival of the American Dominican Sisters in 1956, a thriving health care centre and maternity hospital was opened in Gusau. These would be taken over by the ten North Western State Military Government in 1975. That the Dominical Sisters played a leading role in the history of medical services in the Sokoto Prefecture is an undeniable fact.

By 1960, the American Dominican Sisters opened a general hospital in Yelwa with additional lay medical staff from overseas. As it was the only hospital in a very wide area, it soon became well known and provided great services to the people. In 1972, a take-over agreement was written by the North Western State Military Government. The Secretary to the State Military Government signed on behalf of the government, while Bishop Dempsey signed on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto. In 1974, the hospital facilities and administration were finally taken over by the North Western State Military Government. Mallam John Dan Yauri confirmed that it was necessary for the American Dominican Sisters to establish a hospital because, when they came to Yauri, they met rampant cases of communicable diseases, meningitis, guinea-worm, snake bite and cholera. He added that the present General Hospital Yauri, now in Kebbi State, was originally owned by the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Diocese of Sokoto is now left with two health centres. There is one in Malumfashi, which was established by the American Dominican Sisters, and a second one in Sokoto, which is run by the Nigerian Dominican Sisters.

Central Clinic and Maternity, Malumfashi, Katsina State

The clinic was conceived at the coming of the Dominican friars to Malumfashi in 1960. On arrival, they saw the health needs and challenges of inhabitants. There were many cases of snake bite. In 1964, the Dominican friars invited the Dominican Sisters to treat patients in the villages who were suffering from various sickness and diseases. Mallam Musa Argungu explained that the American Dominican Sisters began their work amongst Maguzawa women who, in most cases, were victims of snake bite. The clinic started with three Dominican Sisters from the United States of America. It was closed in 1975, because Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital at Zaria had opened p an affiliate rural general hospital in Malumfashi less then one mile from the mission compound. The present primary health centre, the Central Clinic, was later reopened when the Nigerian Dominican Sisters took over the centre.

The clinic now operates in a new building beside the one established by the American Dominican Sisters, which is still part of the central clinic offering diverse health services. It is made up of an administration department, male and female wards, a children’s ward, an isolation ward, a delivery room, a drug and pharmacy unit, an outpatient pharmacy, laboratory, a scanning room or department, a doctor’s consulting room, a nursing section, a surgical theatre, a mother and child welfare department, and an injection and dressing room. The clinic is headed by an Administrator, Sister Christiana Umeadi, OP. It has a staff strength of twenty six, including two doctors and security officers.

Holy Family Health Centre, Gidan Dare, Sokoto, Sokoto State

The Holy Family Health Centre in Sokoto began to provide servicds at he Dominican Sisters’ Convent, Mabera area of Sokoto in 1998, when the sisters began to offer minor health services to Christians living in the neighbourhood. Owing to increased patronage and congestion at the sisters’ convent, Bishop Kevin Aje moved it to its present location at Gidan Dare, Sokoto on December 13, 2000. The clinic has the following departments: finance, nursing, clinical laboratory, administration, general out-patient, clearing and security. On its staff are one part-time doctor, five nurses, a driver, two laboratory technicians, and two cleaners. The clinic offers free immunization to children from 0-1 year, free HIV test and counseling.

Founded to provide medical services to all and sundry, irrespective of religious affiliation, Catholics and members of other communities frequent the clinic, while members of the Muslim communities stay away for fear of being converted to Christianity.

POST SCRIPTUM

History is the memory of a people. As was said in the introduction, it is an inquiry into the past. Without such an inquiry, a people will not find its bearing. The history of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto is a history of the relationship between Christianity and Islam. Looking into that history is a necessary condition for harmony between the two religious communities. The relationship between Christianity and Islam has always been delicate. But there are new opportunities for dialogue and friendship that ought not to be missed so as to work for a better future.

Catholicism arrived in the area that made up the Sokoto Caliphate about half a century after the British conquered Sokoto. It was met with suspicion of anything western, and Christianity was perceived as western because it was brought by missionaries from the western world. The Caliphate might have ceased to exist. But the spirt of the Caliphate continues to be kept alive. And the political pulsations and hiccups of contemporary Nigeria from the colonial era until now are somewhat related to the enduring presence of that spirit. In Nigeria’s history of two military interventions within the first seven months of 1966, the massacre of southerners in the north, especially the Igbo (the largest ethnic group in the nascent Catholic Diocese), the exodus and the war, the post war aggravated suspicion, and the refusal or hesitation by Nigerians and their leaders to fully embrace democratic values; these have combined to make Sokoto Diocese the grass that suffers because of the combat of elephants.

As the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto celebrates the 50th anniversary of its erection, the issue of religion and its place in Nigeria continues to generate animated discussions. In fact, as the celebrations get on the way, democratic rights in Nigeria are threatened by insurgents who claim to be acting in the name of Islam.

Related to the issue of religion is that of ethnic affiliation. It is a well-known fact that once a Nigerian step out of his local government area he or she is subjected to discrimination. That is why the history that has been traced in this write-up raises anew the question of religious and ethnic minorities, not only in Sokoto and larger parts of Northern Nigeria, but indeed in the whole of Nigeria. Can a Nigerian actualize his or her potentials and fulfill his or her aspirations wherever he or she chooses to reside in Nigeria? Can a Nigerian have his or her full humanity and citizenship acknowledged, protected and respected wherever he or she is within the borders of the country around the Niger – Nigeria? Will Nigerians succumb to the temptation to break up Nigeria along religious lines of religion as late Muammar Gaddafi of Libya suggested, with Christians leaving the North for Muslims and Muslims leaving the South for Christians?  Or will they resolve to work to build a nation where, in the word of the old Nigerian national anthem, “no man is oppressed”?

The challenge of peaceful co-existence of Nigerians within a common boundary is the challenge of human and civil rights, the rights of the Nigerian as a human being and a citizen. And there is a relationship between respect for human rights and the attainment of holistic development. The history of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto reminds us of the need and of the duty to respond to this challenge by constantly striving to build a nation where the dignity of every human being is acknowledged, respected and protected. It is for our generation an obligation to assume this duty so that future generations of Nigerians will have a nation to protect them. At the heart of the dignity of the human person is his or her religious conviction. The path to the common good necessarily passes through the way of respect for the dignity of every person. In the spirit of Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanae, of John Paul II’s Ecclesia in Africa, and of Benedict XVI’s Africae Munus, the promotion of human rights and good governance is to be seen as providing an enabling ground for religious liberty which embraces freedom of conscience, freedom of believe, and even freedom not to believe.

The state exists to protect, not to violate human dignity. That is why, the role of the democratic state is not to adopt any religion bu to protect all citizens as they practice their religions. This history challenges Nigerians to work for respect of the constitutional provision of freedom of worship.

The history that has just been traced shows that the Catholic Church in Sokoto, like the Catholic Church anywhere in the world, has made remarkable contributions to development in the area. Development is not just the provision of infrastructure. But even if that were to be used as criterion, the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, in the few schools and medical centres she runs has made and continue to make provisions in the area of infrastructure. What is even more important is that Catholicism in Sokoto has contributed to spiritual, intellectual, moral, professional and technical formation of Nigerians – Christians and Muslims, indigenes and non-indigenes – resident in this part of the country. By so doing, the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto has not onloy built Churches, schools and hospitals, she has built human beings.

From the missionary adventures of Peter Farde and other courageous Franciscans through the tenacity of the SMA Fathers and the American Dominicans led by Edward Lawton, to the Nigerian Dominican friars and sisters, the Diocesan priests and lay faithful, the story of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto is indeed a story of martyrs. Here then is an example of what John Henry Newman would describe as a “conspiration pastorum ac fidelium”, a co-inspiration of pastors and the faithful. It is a history of how Bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters, and the lay faithful have been using the grace received at baptism and nurtured in the other sacraments to work for the holistic formation of the land in and around Sokoto and of the human beings living on it. In them, despite all odds, the Spirit of God is alive, renewing the face of the earth.

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