The first Roman Catholic outpost celebrates its 120th anniversary on June 26
St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Ebute Meta, Lagos, the first Roman Catholic church outpost outside the Holy Cross Cathedral, is about to mark its 120e Birthday on June 26, 2021.
Rev. Micheal-Christian Okonkwo, the priest in charge of the church, told the Nigeria News Agency (NAN) in Lagos on Thursday that the event would have taken place in 2020 without the restriction of activities induced by COVID-19.
The priest noted that St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Ebute Meta, the first Roman Catholic church on the mainland of Lagos, founded in 1900, had many historical and spiritual meanings associated with it.
NAN reports that according to the history of the church, the Holy Cross Cathedral had enjoyed a prominent place as the first point of establishment of the Roman Catholic Church.
It responded to the spiritual needs of returnees from Brazil, other Latin American and Caribbean countries in the mid-19e century.
Initially, the church’s influence was limited to the island of Lagos until Roman Catholic missionaries sought to gain converts through the Lagos Lagoon on the mainland.
Evangelism probably began around 1890 under Bishop O’Rourke with outside services and later Masses in the homes of early converts.
In 1895, the church acquired the current location of the Saint-Paul Catholic Church from the De Souza family; On February 4, 1900, the Rev. Ernest Haugher (SMA) performed the first baptism in St. Paul’s.
The church was listed in the United Nations Register of Heritage Sites following the Holy Black Sculptures of Spiritual Images which prompted the church’s use for the FESTAC 77 mass.
According to Okonkwo, the Church has grown in faith and in number.
“St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Ebute Meta, to the glory of God, celebrates 120 years of existence on the last Saturday in June.
“We are happy and happy to be rolling the drums to celebrate this unique moment in the life of the church.
“It was a wonderful journey for this church which started with the baptism of just two people to reach the parish strength of almost 78,000 parishioners and continues to count.
“It was also a path of growth in faith, of growth in understanding and in acculturation.”
Catholic clergy told NAN that St. Paul’s had given rise to several other parishes, including St. Dominic and St. Anthony Catholic churches, among others.
The priest appealed to the government to return to the church the land of two schools that once belonged to the parish.
He said the schools, St. Paul’s Catholic Boys School and Mount Carmel Girls School, were among the mission schools that the government took over a few years ago.
“Our early missionaries took the spiritual and intellectual life of their parishioners seriously and that is why they built schools in many missionary churches.
“It has been a joy to celebrate our school alongside the church anniversary, but some time ago the government took over all mission schools.
“After a while they returned some schools, but the ones that are so dear to the church were not returned.
“The schools, which were on the grounds of the church, were not well run after they took over the schools.
“Three years ago, the structures became dangerous for students and they were destroyed.
“We want to make a passionate appeal to the government to return the land to the church so that we can use it for the good of the community,” he pleaded.