About The Diocese

The Catholic Diocese of Lafia is conterminous with Nasarawa State which covers a land area of about 28’000square kilometers, comprising 13 Local Government Areas of Akwanga, Awe, Doma, Karu, Keffi, Lafia, Nasarawa Eggon, Obi, Toto, Wamba, Kokona, and Keana.

The diocese is a child of double heritage having largely been carved from Makurdi with 11 Parishes and two Parishes from the Archdiocese of Jos.

Evangelization of the whole area north of the Niger and Benue which includes the new Lafia Diocese is usually traced to February 12, 1907, when Frs. Oswald Waller, Joseph Mauren and Ernest Belin, all of the Society of Africa Mission (SMA) arrived Shendam, from where they spread their evangelical net to the Southern fringes of the Plateau-Akwanga/Nasarawa Eggon areas of Alogani and Aloce and further down to Udei Station in the Benue province. Other pioneer missionaries, notably the Holy Ghost Fathers, had also crossed over the two great rivers from the South o\to bring the Good news to the people of the Northern part of this Country.

In 1911, the whole area was elevated to the status of a “Prefecture Apostolic” and Jos became the Ecclesiastical Headquarters. In 1929, however, the jurisdiction was enlarged to include the old provinces of Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Niger, Zaria, Northern Benue (now Wholly Nasarawa State), Adamawa and Borno. Then it became known as “Prefecture Apostolic of Northern Nigeria, with its headquarters in Kano.

In 1934 the prefecture of Northern Nigeria was further divided into two distinct prefectures of Jos and Kaduna. The prefecture of Jos includes the province of Plateau, Borno, Parts of Adamawa and Benue provinces (later day Makurdi diocese). Monsignor William Lumley, SMA, at theirty six years old Priest was appointed prefect of Jos. By the time Monsignor Lumley left in 1954, he had already opened resident missions in Udei (Benue), Alogani/Aloce (Nasarawa State), among others.

In 1953, the prefecture of Jos was elevated to the status of Diocese. Fr. John Reddington, Vice Provincial of the Irish SMA, in Cork was consecrated its first Bishop. Confronted with the need for effective evangelization of the area, Bishop Reddington handed over the Southern part which consisted of Udei and Lafia/Nasarawa in 1956 to the Holy Ghost Fathers who were working at the prefecture of Otukpo, Benue Province.

By 1961, when the Diocese of Makurdi was finally erected, the area handed over by Jos now became part of the new Diocese and still included the areas of Lafia, Keffi, Nasarawa and Wukari divisions. By 10th of September 1995, the parishes of Takum and Wukari were formally handed to the diocese of Yola and subsequently to the new diocese of Jalingo in 1995. That same year, 28th October 1995 saw to the birth of Otukpo diocese from Makurdi Diocese under the leadership of Most Rev. Dr. Athanasius Atule Usuh.

With regard to the evangelical work in what is now the new Lafia Diocese, the Irish SMA handed over the region to the English Holy Ghost Fathers in 1956 (part of Akwanga/Nasarawa Eggon area, where a mission was opened as far back as 1940). The Holy Ghost Fathers established a mission and Teacher Training College in Lafia (the famous St. Augustine’s Teacher College, Lafia) and a mission secondary school (St. James Minor seminary) in Keffi, but there was not much contact with the indigenous peoples of the surrounding areas. Bishop Donald Murray committed the area to the English SMA province, shortly after his Episcopal consecration in 1968. The specific aim was that of addressing the challenges of evangelization at a time when the unfortunate Biafran War forced the predominantly Catholic Igbo’s to flee the area. Fr. Kevin Carroll SMA, came over and opened a mission in Gitata.

As the English SMA did not have the number of priests to cover the area adequately, Bishop Murray, C.S.Sp called on the Nigerian Spiritan province to assist them. The Spiritans arrived in 1974 to staff the missions in Doma and Toto. Another missionary religious congregation of the Ursuline Sisters of Jesus established a medical clinic in Agwatashi in 1987 and the Holy Child Sisters who were already established at Duduguru replaced the Ursuline Sisters in 1990 due to pastoral exigency. At present the Diocese of Lafia is left with only two Missionary priests-Frs. Donald Fennessy and Duaglas Bluett, SMA.

Makurdi Diocese had grown in leaps and bound under the leadership of Bishop Athanasius A. Usuh, the successor of Bishop Donald Murray of blessed memory. It has given birth to Otukpo Diocese in 1995 and the Diocese of Lafia in 2001. For the church in Nasarawa State, this is a dream come true. With the choice of Lafia as the Capital of Nasarawa State following the creation of states in 1996, it has equally become the seat of the New Diocese of Lafia.

It was on 31st March 2001, that the Priests, Religious and Laity witnessed the canonical erection of the new Diocese of Lafia following the consecration and installation of their son, Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Ishaya Audu as the first Bishop of Lafia Diocese. This remains a landmark in the annals of the Diocese of Lafia.
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