Prior to its creation and carving out from the Archdiocese of Benin City, the geographical area that makes up Uromi Diocese was for a long time the focus of early missionary endeavour.
The Catholic Diocese of Uromi encompasses the entire Esanland. Geographically, the Catholic Diocese of Uromi is located in the North Central Region of Edo state, made up of Esan West, Esan Central, Esan North East, Esan South East, and Igueben Local Government Areas. It has the following territorial boundaries: In the North and North-West, it is bounded by Etsako Local Government Areas; in the West by Uhunmwode Local Government Area and in the East by the Rivers Alika and Niger. The Diocese is comprised of the following towns: Ekpoma, Irrua, Ewu, Uromi, Ubiaja, Udo, Oria, Ugboha, Illushi, Ifeku, Onogholo, Uzea, Ewatto, Okhuesan, Emu, Orowa, Uroh, Ohordua, Ewohimi, Igueben, Opoji, Ugbegun, Egoro, Urohi, Ukhun, Idoa, Ebelle, Okalo, Ogwa, Ujiogba, Ugun, Amahor, Ewossa, and Ekpon.
The advent of Catholicism in Esanland began in the early 20th century through the activities of the European explorers and missionaries. These came along with the French and British merchants and adventurers and settled first in Lokoja in 1884 and later moved to Asaba in 1888. An Apostolic Prefecture of the Upper Niger was created with Msgr. Carlo Zappa as its First Vicar Apostolic. It was Msgr. Zappa who in 1908 sent two French Fathers, Frs. Clement Barnwarth and Joseph Corbeau (the pioneer apostles of the Catholic Church in Esanland) to Ubiaja and later Ukoni-Uromi, to propagate the Catholic Faith. After many Ukoni people were converted, Fr. Corbeau had to inaugurate another station at Okpujie-Uromi, which also flourished rapidly.
Nevertheless, many of these neophytes were not well grounded in the Catholic Faith and they had to struggle with their traditional practices and customs that contradicted their new way of life. Often, they found themselves under pressure, through taunts, insult and provocation to give up their faith and return to their traditional beliefs and practices. Whenever, they were able to resist and overcome such temptations, they became strengthened in their faith-conviction and were ready to bear more witness to the Gospel. Ubiaja and Uromi were the starting points from which the Catholic Faith spread to other towns in Esanland.
It is pertinent to remark here, that the S.M.A Fathers of the Irish Province, who succeeded the French Fathers Barnnwarth and Corbeau, adopted the “school system” as a means of evangelization and conversion. As they taught the pupils how to read and write, they also included Religious Instructions as part of the school’s curriculum. Bishop Patrick Joseph Kelly and other supervisors of schools, made sure that school Teachers were equally good Catechists and Interpreters. The Bishop set up school for the training of catechists and brothers who played Intermediary roles between the Missionaries and the Local people. In this way, the seed of vocation to the priesthood was sown in the hearts of many.
Pragmatically, the Missionaries were also involved in pastoral activities within and outside the school. Chapels or Churches were built within the Boarding Schools to Cater for the spiritual well-being of the students and some Mass centres and outstations were set up in neighbourhoods.
It was such stations that gradually evolved into parishes in some places. Sadly, this school system of evangelization was interrupted in 1971, when the Military Government took over all private schools in Nigeria from their rightful owners.
The enthronement of Bishop Patrick Ekpu gave a boost to the evangelization process. Through the great commitment of the Clergy and Religious, the education, enlightenment and empowerment of the laity, many Lay Apostolate Groups emerged. As a result of this, the Lay people participated actively in the missionary activities of the Church.
On December 14, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI, out of the Archdiocese of Benin City created the Diocese of Uromi. This young, dynamic and promising Diocese was canonically erected on February 25, 2006, with Most Rev. Dr. Augustine Obiora Akubeze installed as its pioneer Bishop.
And as God would have it, and as a reward for his hard work, on March 18, 2011, the pioneering Bishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze was raised to the status of an Archbishop and consequently appointed Archbishop of Benin City. He was installed on April 28, 2011. As a result of this elevation, Very Rev. Fr. John Akhidue, who was until this time the Vicar General to the then Bishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze was made the Diocesan Administrator pending the announcement of a substantive Bishop to succeed Most Rev. Dr Augustine Obiora Akubeze.
Furthermore, by divine providence again, Pope Francis, on November 6, 2014, graciously announced the elevation of Msgr. Donatus Aihmiosion Ogun, O.S.A. as the Bishop – elect of Uromi Diocese, to continue with the work of shepherding the flock of Uromi Diocese to greater height as the Bishop. And on January 31, 2015, Msgr Donatus Ogun was ordained and installed Bishop of the Diocese of Uromi to the glory of God, and remains so till date.
Thanks to the visionary leadership of our Chief Shepherd and the collaboration of Priests, Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful of the diocese, the Diocese is growing fast in all ramifications. The spiritual life of the faithful is well attended to; many outstations have become Autonomous Mass Centres with Resident Priests while many more churches are being established to further the work of evangelization. To meet the special needs of the elderly who have no one to cater for them in their homes, in July 2017 the Diocese established a home, Uwa Itohan bi Ofure (Home of Mercy and Peace)where these senior citizens are adequately catered for by the Sisters of Saint Louis who run the home and their collaborators.
During the course of the year 2018 and in the month of January, 2019, four new religious families: The Oblates of St Joseph, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, the Claretian Missionaries and the Augustinians (Order of St. Augustine) were welcomed into the Diocese. These and other religious institutes that work in the Diocese are contributing to the growth of the Diocese. In the year 2018 four new Autonomous Mass Centres were erected. One more was created in the month of January, 2019 bringing the total number of Parishes/Autonomous Mass Centres in the Diocese of Uromi to 45.The Saint Joseph Retreat Centre located at Ukpoke Inemen, Ugboha in Esan South East Local Government Area of Edo State, a massive retreat facility built and donated to the Diocese by the family of Rt. Hon. Engr. Joseph and Lady Patricia Uujamhan is serving to foster the spiritual growth of the faithful. Some other developments that are worthy of note are the establishment of a Diocesan Printing Press, the Witness Printing Press as well as the founding of a Liturgical school, Sacred Art School in Uromi. The Young Catholic Men Organisation (YCMO) and the Young Catholic Women Organisation (YCWO) established by the Bishop of Uromi Diocese on the Feast of the Holy Family in December 2018 to cater for couples who are from 0-10 years in marriage and singles between the ages of 35 and 45 years are doing great.
Come January 31st 2020, the Bishop of Uromi Diocese, Most Rev. Donatus Ogun will be 5 years old as Bishop of Uromi Diocese. As shepherd of God’s people in Esanland, this 5th anniversary of his Episcopacy will be marked with the hosting of a Diocesan Delegate Assembly. The Assembly will bring together Catholics, non-Catholic Christians as well as non-Christians to discuss Burial practices in Esanland. As Christians, we have the responsibility of bringing out the best in our culture by shedding the light of the Gospel on it. The Assembly, therefore, will be a dialogue of Evangelization between the Christian faith and our culture as Esan people. This forthcoming Diocesan Assembly which will be the apex of the several efforts the Diocese has been making in this regard by way of Seminars it has organized on burial practices in Esanland will hold from 10th to 13th of February 2020 at the Chancery Hall of the Catholic Diocese of Uromi.
With the last two new Autonomous Mass Centres created in 2021, St. Thomas Idunwele- Ewu and St. Peter and Paul Ahia/ Udakpa the total number of Parishes/ Autonomous Mass Centres in the Diocese of Uromi have risen to forty- eight (48).
The establishment of Stella Maris Girls College, Iruekpen by the Diocese; a boarding School managed by the Sisters of St. Louis, famous for their competence in the administration of schools across the world, is a great impetus to the Church’s work of evangelization through education. The Holy Mass for the official opening of this citadel of learning was celebrated on Saturday, 30 October, 2021.
All Christ’s faithful of this ecclesiastical jurisdiction are grateful to God for his graces and blessings upon our Diocese. As we work to foster the spiritual uplift as well as the growth and physical development of the Diocese we pray God to bless the work of our hands. May He be the beginning and end of all we do. We humbly ask him to inspire our actions and bring them to completion with his ever-present help. Amen
FACTS AND FIGURES OF THE DIOCESE
|Year of Creation||December 14, 2005|
|Canonical Erection||February 25, 2006|
|Area of Territory||2,800 km2|
|Catechetical/Evangelisation Training Centre||2|
|Nursery and Primary Schools||11|
|Male Religious Communities||8|
|Female Religious Communities||8|