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THE CATHOLIC MISSIONS

In the first last topic,  you read about the Portuguese traders who came to 
Nigeria to trade as well as to spread Christianity which however 
was short lived due to their involvement in slave / trade. In 
this unit, you will study about the formation of the Society of the 
African Mission by the Catholic missionaries in order to plant 
Christianity in West Africa, especially, Nigeria. 
2.0 OBJECTIVES
By the end of this unit, you should be able to:
• identify the contribution of the Catholic Mission to the 
growth of the Christian Church in Nigeria
• state how many mission stations were opened by Catholic 
priests in Nigeria in the early period of Christianity.
 
3.0 MAIN CONTENT

3.1 The Formation of the Society of the African Mision for Spreading of the Roman Catholic Faith 

The formation of the Society of the African Mission for the 
spreading of the Roman Catholic faith helped in the planting of 
Christianity in Nigeria. The Society attempted to plant Christianity 
in Sierra-Leone around 1860, but, it failed. However, it moved 
from Sierra-Leone to Dahomey to plant the Roman Catholic Faith. 
The planting of the Catholic Faith at Dahomey, now the Republic of 
Benin, began with Father Borghero who was assisted by two other 
Missionaries. In 1860, the Italian Roman Catholic Father, 
Borghero who was stationed at Whydah in Dahomey, paid a visit 
to Abeokuta and Lagos. In 1862, he re-visited Lagos. However, on 
reaching Lagos, he met some of Nigerians Catholic freed slaves 
from Brazil who had settled there. In addition to this, Father 
Borghero was also surprised at meeting some Brazilians who had 
aptized in the Roman Catholic Church, but, were living in Lagos. 
Father Borghero was encouraged when he saw some of his natives 
and Nigerians who were adherents of the Roman Catholic faith in 
Lagos. He established a Mission station at Lagos. But, it has no 
permanent Priest. He made Lagos one of the out-stations of Ouidah in 
Dahomey. By 1862, Father Borghero sent a Catechist named 
Padre Antonio who was a freed slave from Sao Tome Island to 
the Lagos Mission. 
While Catechist Padre was stationed in Lagos, he taught Nigerians 
and other nationals who lived in Lagos the Roman Catholic faith. 
He baptized Children, prayed with the dying and buried the dead.
In 1868, Father Pierre Bouche was sent to Lagos by the Catholic 
Mission to resume duty as the residential Priest in Nigeria. The 
Roman Catholic Mission built a Chapel in Lagos in 1869 for the 
adherents of the Catholic Faith. The Church also established a 
Primary School in Lagos the same year. From Lagos, the Roman 
Catholic Faith spread across Nigeria. The faith spread to Onitsha 
through another Father named Lutz who worked around Onitsha 
town. This marked the growth and expansion of the Roman 
Catholic faith towards the Niger Delta area. The Catholic adherents 
further sent Fathers Chauses and Holley from Onitsha, towards Ilorin, 
and Ondo.
In 1885, the Catholic Mission sent two Irish Priests who were 
members of the Society of the African Mission to Lagos. They 
were Fathers Healey who stationed at Abeokuta and Father 
Connaughton who was made the Lagos schools Manager in 
Nigeria. In 1886, Father Chauses opened a Mission Station at Oyo. 
In 1891, he was collated Bishop of Nigeria.
He died around 1894. Father Chauses was succeeded by Bishop 
Paul Pellet who opened a Mission Station at Ibadan in 1895. 
Around the period, Father John. M. Coquard established the Sacred 
Heart Hospital at Ibadan. 
The Spread of the Roman Catholic Faith to Lokoja, 
Onitsha and Asaba
In 1884, the Roman Catholic Mission opened a Mission station 
at Lokoja in Kogi State, Nigeria. Three Fathers were sent by the 
Catholic Mission to Lokoja to continue spreading the Catholic 
Faith in the area.
However, one of the fathers died at Lokoja in 1885. Father Andrew 
Dornan was sent to replace the deceased Father. After some years, the 
Roman Catholic Mission Headquarters was removed from Lokoja and 
it was located to Asaba by Father Carlo Zappa who was placed 
to head the Lokoja Mission area. Father Bishop Shanahan built a 
Mission house at Onitsha. He spread the Catholic Faith to Oghuli, 
where he built a Primary School, conducted baptism classes and 
learnt Ibo language. His speaking the language made many Ibo 
people to be converted into the Catholic faith. Bishop Shanahan 
founded the congregation of the sisters of our Lady of the Holy 
Rosary in Ireland in 1920. The sisters were trained to offer 
service to the Catholic Missions of the Holy Ghost Fathers in 
the Eastern parts of Nigeria.
In addition to these, Father Shanahan also converted many other 
Nigerians into the Catholic Faith i n Ibo land. By 1924, the 
Catholic Church in Nigeria was staffed by natives of Ibo who 
were priests. In 1933, Father Shanahan consecrated the new 
Cathedral that was built by the Church in Nigeria.

SELF-ASSESSMENT EXERCISE
Assess the roles of the Society of the African Mission in Nigeria.

CONCLUSION
 
The formation of the African Mission for the spread of the 
Catholic faith helped in the expansion of the faith in Nigeria. 
The Roman Catholic Mission began in Lagos around 1860 with Father 
Borghero. The Church spread from Lagos to Onitsha, Ilorin, Ondo, 
Oyo, Lokoja, Oghuli and other parts of Ibo land in Nigeria. 
The mission had established Schools in all its mission stations in 
the country where children were educated and converted the Catholic faith

SUMMARY
Father Borghero and the freed slaves of Nigerians championed the 
planting of Catholic faith in Nigeria. Bishop Shanahan founded the 
Roman Catholic Mission station at Onitsha in 1886. He evangelized 
Oghuli. He built a mission house and School there. Many Nigerians 
received Bible instructions in the Bible Classes at the various 
Catholic Mission stations in Nigeria. In addition to these, many 
Nigerians benefited from the Catholic Mission through the 
receiving of Western education from them. The Catholic mission 
spread from Lagos to other parts of Nigeria. 
 
6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT
 
Examine the roles of the Nigerian freed slaves in the planting of 
Roman Catholic Faith in Nigeria.
 
7.0 REFERENCES/FURTHER READINGS
Ajayi, J.F.A. (1964).Christian Missions in Nigeria, 1814-1891, The 
Marking of a New Elite, London: Longmans group Ltd.
Ayandele, E.A. (1966).The Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria 
1842-1914, London: Longmans Group Ltd. 
Babalola, E.O. (1976).Christianity in West Africa, Ibadan: Scholar 
Publications International (Nig) Ltd.  

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