BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF JOS
Patroness of the Archdiocese – Our Lady of Fatima
THE EARLY BEGINNINGS
The beginnings of what is now the archdiocese of Jos can be traced to February 12, 1907 when Rev. Fathers Oswald Waller, Joseph Mauren and Ernest Belin of the society of African missions (SMA) arrived Shendam, the only catholic station north of the Rivers Niger and Benue up to the 1930’s. Although, other missionaries soon crossed the Niger and Benue rivers from the south to evangelize the people of the defunct northern region of Nigeria, the mission station in Shendam marked the real beginning of Catholicism in the northern Nigeria. Since these early humble beginnings, the area has witnessed a catalogue of events and rapid expansion in practically all the major spheres of activities (religious, social and educational, spiritual and pastoral).
EXPANSION OF THE AREA
In 1911, the prefecture of the immense area which covered the whole of the then north eastern Nigeria with the foothold in Shendam was established with the centre relocated to Jos. in 1922. The Jurisdiction was enlarged and called the “Prefecture Apostolic of Northern Nigeria” and covered the territory north of the rivers Niger and Benue, with Kano as its headquarters. Further SMA forays into missions in the North led to the creation of the prefectures of Kaduna, Jos and Benue in 1934. Other missionary groups that arrived from the 1930’s to the time of political independence in 1960 include the Augustinians (Adamawa Region) and Dominicans (Sokoto) with a host of Sisters notably, the OLA, SSL and the Mercy Sisters, who joined the missions at different times for the education of women.
The provinces of Plateau, Bauchi and Borno as well as parts of Adamawa came under Jos prefecture while the remaining part of the North went to Kaduna. In 1953, Rome elevated the prefecture of Jos to the status of a Diocese. After attaining a level of momentous growth and upon consolidating on the already existing achievements, the diocese of Jos was raised to the status of an archdiocese in 1994. By 1995 the southern Kaduna part of the diocese was carved out and with other parishes from Kaduna Archdiocese was elevated to the diocese of Kafanchan. By 1996, Bauchi to the north-east of the Archdiocese was raised to the status of an apostolic vicariate; by His Holiness Pope John Paul II. It became diocese in 2002, while a part of the Archdiocese in Nassarawa state was ceded to Lafia diocese. On June 2, 2007, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI created the diocese of Shendam out of Jos which comprises of the southern geo-political zone of Plateau state and parts of the central geo-political zone, of the Plateau State.
The history of the Archdiocese wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the untiring efforts of a notable few, even when we are greatly indebted to so many of their collaborators for their dedication and the prize they paid. In this regard we remember the following:
Msgr. William Lumley – 1934 – 1953
Rt. Rev. Dr. John Reddington (SMA) – 1953 – 1975
Most Rev. Dr. Gabriel Gonsum Ganaka – 1975 – 1999
Msgr. Emmanuel Azuka Udeh – 1999 – 2000
Most Rev. Dr. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama – 2000 – Date
The Archdiocese remains eternally grateful to the generations of priests, religious, catechists and leaders of different groups who have gone before us, especially those whose faith inspired growth in others and have left their prints on the sand of time. We acknowledge all those who are known to God alone for their steadfastness to the end.