Diocesan History

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Idah (Latin: Idahin(us)) is a Latin suffragan diocese located in the city of Idah, Kogi State in the Ecclesiastical province of Abuja, in Nigeria.

Idah is located along the Niger river in Kogi State of Nigeria. The diocese mainly serves the Igala and Bassa ethnic groups, who live in the Igala Kingdom ruled by the Attah of Igala, along the Niger and Benue rivers, below their confluence, around Lokoja.

The diocese was first evangelized by the Spiritans (Congregatio Sancti Spiritus [C.S.Sp] a.k.a. Holy Ghost Fathers. The first missionary to the diocese was Father Joseph Liechtenberger who was sent to the area in 1902, and later missionaries of the same order including Irish bishop Joseph Shanahan were the progenitors of the first Catholic mission in Dekina. By 1905, this mission closed as a result of the hostility of the local community, constituted mainly of Muslim communities.

Bishop Shanahan, the ordinary of Onitsha archdiocese, called upon the German spiritans working in the then Benue Province to collaborate in reopening the Igala area to Catholicism. Fr. Anthony Konrath, a German Spiritan, reopened Catholicism in the area around 1932, operating out of Utonkon. He engaged in vigorous pastoral ministrations, visiting Ankpa and its vicinities such as Imane and Ojoku, celebrating masses for Catholic soldiers at the old Ankpa military barrack, Catholic residents and traders, especially of Igbo stock, residing within the area. He also visited and introduced Catholicism into adjoining areas. Reaching Idah in 1934 Fr. Konrath and his associates set up camp, establishing Idah as the headquarters of their Catholic operations, the first parish in what became Idah diocese.

The Cathedral church in Idah is named after the German missionary and bishop St. Boniface. The diocese of Idah continues to have a link with Germany, especially the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fulda, which since 1990 has helped to train seminarians and priests for Idah diocese, and undertaken various ecclesial initiatives and social projects.

The Second World War truncated the German missionary efforts in this area. They were arrested and interned in the Caribbean, as Nigeria was a British territory. At the end of the war they were returned to Germany, being replaced by English and Irish missionary priests from the Benue Province and later Nsukka area. Nigerian indigenous missionaries, such as the bishops John Cross Anyogu and Anthony Nwedo also carried out missionary activities.

The Spiritan priests from Canada (mainly from around the Montreal, Quebec region) continued as missionaries there and in the neighboring diocese of Lokoja in the 1950s, building ecclesiastical structures and institutions. The Canadian missionaries provided personnel and material resources until the indigenous clergy and religious began to take over pastoral responsibilities; some Canadians remained.

Apart from priests, there are many religious orders of women and men in Idah diocese. While some of these orders, such as the Holy Rosary sisters and Congregatio Sancti Spiritus (Holy Ghost sisters) in Ankpa, Inyano and Ogugu, are old, and possess a relatively long ecclesiastical history in providing pastoral, social and healthcare services alongside the Canadian missionary priests, Bishop Obot brought Nigerian-founded religions congregations into the diocese, especially of women, such as the Handmaid of the Holy Child Jesus (HHCJ) in Idah and Okpo; the Daughters of Divine Love (D.D.L.) in Egume, Imane and Idah; the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy (D.M.M.M.) in Sheria, Abejukolo and Ayangba. The order of Discalded Carmelites nuns branch also established their community in Okura, in 2000.

The Marist Brothers of Schools have also had a long history in the diocese teaching at the Our Lady of Schools, Anyigba. A women’s religious congregation, Marist Missionary Daughter of the Society of Jesus the Good Shepherd, though founded as a Pious Association in Uturu, Okigwe in 1989, received canonical approval from Bishop Ephraim Silas Obot on November 27, 2000 at the Holy Cross Parish, Dekina. Marist Brother Thomas Ezeaku established a school,with the approval and support of Obot, patterned upon the model of the Marist Brothers Secondary School in Uturu, Okigwe, in Ejule and Ayangba.

Prior to Obot’s arrival two Nigerian priests, later bishops, John Cross Anyogu and Anthony Nwedo, were active in the area as missionaries in the 1940s and 1950s.
Equally, the church of Idah has embraced lovingly and cordially within its prebystery priests whose natal origines emanate from other Nigerian regions or dioceses. Idah dioceses have priests with hometowns from such places as Achi in Oji River, Enugu State, Nsukka area of Enugu State, Agenebode in Edo State, Igarra in Edo State, Idoma area of Benue State, Owerri in Imo State, Awka, Enugu Agidi, and Enugu-Ukwu in Anambra State among many areas and dioceses of Nigeria.

The church in Idah diocese continued to grow, with more priestly and religious vocations, under the leadership of Obot, its first Bishop (from December 1977 to April 2009).

Following the death of Bishop Obot, Anthony Adaji, Missionary Society of St. Paul (M.S.P.), auxiliary bishop of the diocese since June 28, 2007, was named by the Holy See the Second Bishop on June 1, 2009.
Special Churches

The Cathedral episcopal see is a St. Boniface Cathedral, in Idah, which takes its name from the German missionary founding bishop of Fulda, St. Boniface (Winifred). The second and now consolidated evangalization and missionary efforts of the German Spiritan missionaries represented by Fathers Anthony Konrath, Schrol, Monsignor Kristen and others were entrenched in the 1930s. They selected Idah as the first parish in the present Idah diocese, and built the first church dedicated to St. Boniface, the indomitable Winifred, apostle of the faith in their native Germany, especially revered around Fulda.

The missionary efforts of the German priests was short-lived as a result of the Second World War (World War II), when they were interned being considered as “enemy aliens” given that Idah diocese is part of the British colony. They left Idah for Enugu, and onward to the Caribbeans, and after the war returned to Germany.
The feast day of the Cathedral, and consequently of the diocese is June 5, following the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Idah diocese, especially through the fervent efforts of the first bishop, the late Most Rev. Ephraim Silas Obot (December 17, 1977 – April 12, 2009), the diocese has continued to maintain links with the Diocese of Fulda.

The Diocese of Fulda has helped trained a number of seminarians and priests for the diocese of Idah. The women of the Fulda diocese and other groups within Germany have continued to support different missionary projects of the entire diocese. Specifically the Catholic Women Organization (C.W.O.) of Idah diocese and the diocese of Fulda, Catholic women has a long lasting relationship due to the efforts of Bishop Obot, enabling the fostering of such collaboration between the older and younger church in a missionary spirit of faith enrichment, material empowerment and relational wellbeing.

Ordinaries

  • Apostolic Prefect of Idah: Fr. Leopold Grimard, C.S.Sp. (October 4, 1968 – death 1977)
    Suffragan Bishops of Idah
  • Ephraim Silas Obot (born in Adiasim, Ikot- Ekpene on October 6, 1936, ordained June 29, 1968, consecrated as a bishop on October 31, 1971 in Ikot-Ekpene), Titular Bishop  of Iunca in Byzacena (1971.06.28 – 1977.12.17), (December 17, 1977 – April 12, 2009); previously Auxiliary Bishop of IkotEkpene, Nigeria (June 28, 1971 – December 16, 1977). In April 1978, he assumed control of the diocese of Idah, following his installation ceremony at the Cathedral of St. Boniface, Idah. He was the bishop until his death on Easter Day, April 12, 2009, at his episcopal residence. He set up diocesan institutions and infrastructures within his new diocese of Idah. From four indigenous priests he met in 1978, Idah diocese later came to have close to a hundred priests working within the diocese, and in other dioceses within Nigeria, Europe, and the United States; died on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, at his episcopal residence in Idah, and was buried on May 1, 2009.
  • Anthony AdemuAdaji (born October 13, 1963 – ) (named by Pope Benedict XVI on June 1, 2009 – … ); previously Titular Bishop of Turuda (2007.06.28 – 2009.06.01) & Auxiliary Bishop of Idah (June 28, 2007 – May 31, 2009) Bishop Obot had nominated Bishop Adaji’s elevation, working alongside the Metropolitan of the Abuja Archdiocese, Archbishop John Onaiyekan, as auxiliary bishop of the same diocese in June 2007. The first recorded Christian activities in this area are attributed to the services of the Church Missionary Society, a branch of Anglicanism, especially members of the 1841 British Niger Expedition, that included the African and Yoruba ex-slave, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, later to become an Anglican Bishop. The first Catholic activities took place in Dekina in 1902. Catholic missionaries of the Congregatio Sancti Spiritus (Holy Ghost Congregation) were seemingly drawn into the area upon the invitation of the Society of African Mission (SMA) then based in Asaba for missionary collaboration around that territory. Initial efforts intended to establish the Catholic faith faltered after the missionaries and the Attah could not reach any conclusion. Later, Sir Frederick D. Lugard, invited these Catholic missionaries to explore the area of Dekina, coming in through Lokoja, and in 1902, Joseph Lichtenberger, became the first missionary and presumably said the first mass in this area. Even this missionary experiment later failed woefully, due to the adversity of the indigenous population and Islamic adherents, and the sheer lack of supportive resources and the arid environment, incapable of sustaining the rigors of the initial phase of this missionary encounter.

The first Igala member and priest of the Nigerian Church founded Missionary Society of St. Paul, by the name of Anthony, became the first Bishop of Igala extraction—both as an auxiliary and later a full bishop.