On 28th August 2014, the Nigerian Augustinians gathered together to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the presence of the Order in Nigeria...
In 1936, a decision was taken at the Irish Provincial Chapter to apply to Rome for a mission territory in Africa. On 12th October1938, Fathers Redmond, Dalton and Broder (two Irish and an English) set out from Liverpool and arrived Jos on 2nd November 1938. Since then, the presence of the Augustinians has been established in the four corners of Nigeria.
On 28th August 2014, the Nigerian Augustinians gathered together to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the presence of the Order in Nigeria. This celebration brought together friends of the Order from the Northern, Western, Southern and Eastern parts of Nigeria. The Mass was presided by the Archbishop of Jos and the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, Most Rev Dr Ignatius A. Kaigama. Concelebrating bishops were Most Rev John Niyiring, OSA, Most Rev James Daman, OSA and Most Rev Matthew Ndangoso, Charles Hammawa of the dioceses of Kano, Shendam, Kaduna and Jalingo respectively. There were 76 Augustinian Priests present alongside students in formation. During the Mass, three awards were given to the Provinces of Ireland, England and Scotland and Italy for their contributions to the growth of the Province of Nigerian. Three other awards were given to Fathers Francis Aherne, Raymond Hickey and Richard Hughes for their contributions towards the growth of the Province. After the Mass, a Secondary school was commissioned in honour of Fathers Redmond, Dalton and Broder.
As the Province of Nigeria celebrates 75 years of the presence of the Order in Nigeria, it marks the end of an episode and yet the beginning of an era that is full of hope. Long live the Order of St Augustine!!! Long live the Province of Nigeria!!!!!
Fr. Edward Daleng OSA
The Order of Saint Augustine remembered the first 75 years of its presence in Nigeria with a solemn Eucharistic celebration on the feast of its spiritual father, St. Augustine, in Jos, in the Plateau State. The Mass was presided by Bishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, president of the Nigerian Episcopal Conference. Bishop Kaigama, at the end of the Eucharist, joined by thousands of faithful and Augustinian leaders from various circumscriptions, inaugurated a new High School, St. Monica Academy, which was constructed by the Order.
The Augustinian presence in this great African nation began in 1938 when three Irish Friars, arrived to evangelize the zone of Adamawa in the prefecture of Jos. The Irish Friars learned over the years to begin new diocese and to form native vocations and their presence progressively dropped from the 50 present still in the 1970's to a small unit, compared with the near 80 Nigerian Friars who today work in this Province of the Order. Father John Abubakar, as Prior Provincial, guides the local Augustinian community which works in ministry of the formation of priests, the major seminary which is in the north of Nigeria is the work of the Augustinians. They also work in parishes and in schools. To live as Christians and to preach the Gospel is not always easy, Fr. John explains: " To travel around the area in our religious habit is not easy but it depends on the zone: in Jos, it is not a problem because there are more Christians compared to Kano and Maiduguri, where, in our church of St. Augustine, it is difficult to celebrate Holy Mass without the presence of soldiers: this church was destroyed but then rebuilt two times thanks to the help of the Order. In Kaduna, the church of St. Rita, another Augustinian church, has seen a terrible terroristic attack. These are difficult times for pastoral work." It is not the same in the rest of the country where there are churches, for example in Abuja, where more than 10,000 are present in church every Sunday.
Regarding the reason for such violence, Fr. John offers some explanation: I am Nigerian with Muslim roots, I grew up in Kaduna, which is a prevalent Muslim place. My experience with the Muslims was good before Boko Haram... my opinion is that we cannot say that all Muslims are terrorists because there are many good Muslims in Nigeria and we live in peace with each other. I think that the Government has to do more to protect the population and buy the necessary things to do it, because in the North, where we have this problem, it is the poorest zone in the country and where they lack schools." Father John is hopeful: "We have to work together, Christians and Muslims, so that we can try to understand what these terrorists want to have: to divide the country between the north and the south, but this is impossible because also in the north there are Christians and they can't displace them. The terrorists look to create problems, it is possible that they have killed more Muslims than Christians. It is not a problem of religious character. This is a new reality that is not part of Nigerian Muslims. One thing that I like is that, despite this problem, faith is growing, we are not discouraged."
Father Edward Daleng, a Nigerian, is the first African Assistant General of the Order. He states: "For me, to be an assistant general as an African is an evident sign that the Order is growing in Nigeria and also in Africa where we are present in Congo, Tanzania, and Kenya. This is a sign that the Order has a heart in the African continent and especially in Nigeria where there is an abundance of vocations. The Order is growing here and thanks to the efforts of various circumscriptions, through the General Curia, we have reconstructed the churches destroyed in the attacks." Father Daleng emphasized the importance of Saint Augustine, as a point of reference for the coexistence of different faiths and cultures: African by birth and Roman trained, Augustine is the bridge between various cultures. The construction of a center where Christians and Muslims can study together is a sign of hope. This center, in Jos, inaugurated in the presence of the former Italian Ambassador in Nigeria and the local Imam is intended for Muslim and Christian women.