OUR BRIEF HISTORY

The Catholic Diocese of Lafia is conterminous with Nasarawa State Twhich covers a land area of about 28’000 square kilometers. The diocese was erected on 31st of March 2001 with Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Ishaya Audu (now Archbishop of Jos Archdiocese) as the pioneer Bishop. The Diocese is a child of double heritage having largely been carved from Makurdi Diocese and the other part from the Archdiocese of Jos.

History has it that evangelization of the whole area which is north of the Niger and Benue, that includes the young Lafia Diocese is usually traced to February 12, 1907 when Frs. Oswell Waller, Joseph Mauren and Ernest Belin all of the Society of Africa Mission (SMA) arrived Shendam in Plateau State.

In 1911, the whole area was elevated to the status of a “Prefecture Apostolic” and Jos became the Ecclesiastical Headquarters. In 1929, the jurisdiction was enlarged to “Prefecture Apostolic of Northern Nigeria with its headquarters at Kano. In 1934, the prefecture of Northern Nigeria was further divided into two distinct prefectures of Jos and Kaduna. The prefecture of Jos included the provinces of Plateau, Borno, parts of Adamawa and Benue provinces). Monsignor William Lumley SMA was appointed Prefect of Jos. By the time Monsignor Lumley left in 1954, he had already opened resident missions in Udei (Benue State) Alogani/Aloce (Nasarawa State), among others in Plateau State.

In 1953, the prefecture of Jos was elevated to the status of Diocese. Fr. John Reddington, then Vice Provincial of the Irish SMA, in Cork was appointed as 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 in Benue Province. The Holy Ghost Fathers established the famous St. Augustine Teachers Training College, Lafia and St. James Seminary in Keffi. By 1961, by Jos now became part of the new Diocese.

By 1968, when Bishop Donal Murray was consecrated as Bishop of Makurdi diocese he decided to hand over the northern part of the diocese to the English SMA Fathers apart from Udei. The basic aim was that of grappling with the challenges of evangelization at the time when unfortunate incidence of Biafran War compelled the predominantly Catholic Igbos to flee the area. This period saw the advent of Fr. Kevin Carrol who established mission in Gitata.

In 1974, the English SMA Fathers did not have adequate priests in the northern part of Makurdi Diocese to serve the pastoral needs of the people. Bishop Donal Murray invited the Nigerian Spiritan Province to assist them. The Spiritans arrived and worked in Doma and Toto missions respectively. Another missionary religious congregation of the Ursulines of Jesus established a medical clinic in Agwatashi in 1985 and the Holy Child Sisters who were already established at Duduguru replaced the Ursulines Sisters in 1990 due to pastoral exigency.

Makurdi Diocese had grown in leaps and bounds ever since under the Late Bishop Athanasius A Usuh, Bishop emeritus of Makurdi Diocese successor of Bishop Donal Murray of happy memory. It has given birth to Otukpo Diocese in 1995 and Diocese of Lafia in 2001, Katsina Ala, and Gboko 2013. With the choice of Lafia as Capital of Nasarawa State following the creation of States in 1996, it has equally become the seat of the diocese.

The Diocese has ordained 54 indigenous Priests since her creation, in addition to the 7 indigenous Priests of the Diocese before her creation. The young Diocese is profoundly indebted to Dioceses of Makurdi, Jos, Kafanchan, Otukpo, Gboko, Kastina Ala and Ogoja to have aided us with Fidei Donum Priests to work in the Diocese. There are other missionary Priests who are also involved in the works of evangelization in the Diocese, to with, Society Missionary of Africa, (SMA), Order of St. Augustine (OSA), Holy Ghost Fathers (Cssp), Via Christi Society (VC) and congregations who are involved in health and educational and social services. The Diocese has (56) Major Seminarians and (10) candidates in the spiritual year program. The harvest is enormously rich but the labourers are few.

The diocese which is 19 years, is growing in basic infrastructure. The Bishop in his visionary zeal has acquired substantial portions of land for future pastoral and administrative purposes. In addition vehicles were purchased to facilitate developmental works and social services. Schools and hospitals are equally receiving due attention within the meager resources available. If the Lord does not build in vain do the labourers labour”, says the Psalmist. We continue to rely on the power of God- IKON ALLAH to firmly establish his Kingdom in Lafia Diocese.