Brief History

Brief History

A brief history 

​The Catholic Diocese of Kano started in the second decade of the Twentieth Century. By 1915, many Catholics have been residents in Kano. The first Baptism, which was that of Anna Beecroft, administered by Fr. Alphonse Berlioux, a missionary French priest who visited Kano from Lokoja, took place on 24th August 1915 as recorded in the Baptism Register of St Joseph Parish, Kaduna. Also between 1916 and 1918, another priest, Fr. Berengario Cermenatia French missionary paid several visits to Kano. However, Oral and written history witness to the fact that Christian evangelization entered Kano in the 16th century through the trans-Saharan trade routes, which were patronized by Christian communities of the River Nile region (Tracy, 1999)

​The first missionary to officially reside and work in Kano was Msgr. Oswald Waller SMA, who paid his first visit to Kano on December 15th, 1918. This first visit was precipitated by the call of Catholic Clerks and traders resident in Kano, who had begun to make series of requests for the building of a Catholic Church in Kano. After his visit, Msgr Waller SMA applied for permission to build a Church in Kano in 1919. This request was granted on the 13th of April 1922 by the Emir of Kano, Usman II dan MajeKarofi. It is on that note, that the First Church of the Diocese, St. Elizabeth Church, was built and officially Commissioned on 3rd May 1925 alongside the first priests’ resident in Kano “Bethany House” by the Prefect Apostolic Msgr O. Waller SMA. With his health challenges increasing, Msgr Waller SMA returned to France for treatment, while Fr. Alphonse Schahl SMA joined as Pro- perfect.

​In 1992, Kano became the headquarters of the Prefecture of Northern Nigeria, which grasped all Nigeria North of Rivers Niger and Benue, with Msgr Francis O’Rourke SMA as Prefect Apostolic. From thence until after independence, the Church in Kano could not make any meaningful progress among indigenes.

​In 1934, Kano Prefecture, Northern Nigeria's initial prefecture, eventually split into the prefectures of Kaduna, Jos, and Kano. Lost its position as the Apostolic Prefecture of Northern Nigeria to Kaduna because the Church in Kano could not make any meaningful progress among the indigenes due to the high influence of Islam   and also with the making of Kaduna State the political Headquarters of the North. As Kano's mission failed to Kaduna Prefecture, Msgr. Thomas Hughes stayed in Kano for a short while and relocated to Kaduna the unused central command as the Perfect Apostolic.

​Even though Kano lost the seat of ecclesiastical powers to Kaduna and Jos, gradual developments and grass root evangelization through the adoption of new strategies to achieve its purpose of establishing Christianity in the Diocese were introduced. Such methods include schools, catechism and medical services.

​Catholic schools were built: St. Louise sisters arrived in Kano in 1948 and built the St. Louis Primary and Secondary schools. This was followed shortly by St Thomas Secondary school. Furthermore, the building of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, which is now the Cathedral started in 1954, this was concluded with the dedication in 1956.

​Catholic missionary activities into the rural areas began in 1968, when Fr. Malachy Gately SMA from Ireland made the first move to evangelize the indigenes of Kano. He was able to penetrate some rural areas with the help of some catechists from Kaduna. With the establishment of schools within the parish vicinity, children were being taught Western education, through catechism and adults were being prepared for the reception of sacraments in the church with the help of grass root evangelizers and also through free medical services rendered to the community. This made the work of evangelization among the first missionaries to be bear fruit among the people. The growth of local languages is also directly linked to the introduction of formal education. The missionaries' work was hampered in the beginning by language barriers, as they struggled to present the gospel. Thankfully, the missionaries discovered that mother tongue Scriptures offered the best chances for the people to fully embrace the faith. They started learning the indigenes’ mother tongues and wrote them down. They quickly devised writing systems for the people. Fr. Malachy Gately was succeeded by Sean Hayes SMA, from Ireland who became the first priest to live among the Maguzawa people of Kano.

​In October 1991, Kano was carved out of the Archdiocese of Kaduna as an independent Mission (Missio Sui Juris), and Revd. Fr. John Brown SMA was elected the new superior. This independence made Kano rise to the new demands and challenges. Kano became an Apostolic Vicariate in 1996, with Bishop Patrick Sheehan OSA who was transferred from Yola Diocese, as local ordinary. Kano became a Diocese    in July, 1999 with Bishop Patrick, F Sheehan OSA as the first Bishop. Bishop Sheehan OSA, an Augustinian Missionary from Ireland, had served the Old Diocese of Yola for forty years as a priest out of which twenty-five years were as a Bishop. In 1997, Kano broke records with the priestly ordination of the first indigene, Fr. Maurice Koli Hassan, from Nasarawan Kuki, who was baptized as an infant by Fr. Sean Hayes SMA in 1970. On June 26th, 1999, the second Maguzawa priest, Fr. Linus Ubale was ordained. Ubale was from Refawa parish, founded by Fr. Michael Waters on the outskirts of Kano. On July 16th, 1999, Kano became a Diocese, with Rt. Revd Patrick Francis Sheehan OSA as first Bishop. 

​Bishop Sheehan OSA, who died on 13th November 2012, retired in 2008. He was then succeeded by Bishop John Namaza Niyiring OSA, who was consecrated and installed as Bishop of Kano on May 13th, 2008. Bishop John Namaza Niyiring OSA, a Nigerian Augustinian, is today the second but the first Nigerian Bishop of Kano.

The work of evangelization do follow a laid down pattern and this is why it is necessary to undertake the preaching of the gospel by using relevant strategies to stand the taste of time. In this era when the reading culture is gradually fading away due to the high presence of fast development of science and technology, the early missionaries embarked on the use of written strategy through publications of catechism books, bulletin and other forms of publications to evangelize and such is not adequate in filling the gap created due to digital communication.  Evangelization took a new turn with the appearance of televangelism which is visible within the North and South deaneries of Kano Diocese by the Pentecostal churches, this posed a big challenge to the Catholic Church with a good number of her members always tuning in to these Christian channels for spiritual nourishment.

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