(The Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan: A Historical Survey ( 1884-2008 ): Fr Peter Odetoyinbo (Ed): Claverianum Centre, Ibadan: 2008: 978-38384-6-6.)
“The labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain…” we sing/recite in the Nigerian National Anthem. There is an inherent tendency in man to trace his past, in order to be able to appreciate his present. The Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan: A Historical Survey ( 1884-2008 ) recounts the history of the Catholic Church in the ancient city of Ibadan. It also gives an insight to the courage of many missionaries who left the comfort of their home countries to come and die in Nigeria. Unfortunately, these unsung heroes are hardly acknowledged in the history of our nation, in spite of their selfless sacrifices.
The dogmatic constitution of the Catholic Church, Lumen Gentium, states that: “the Church on earth is by its very nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, it has its origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit”. Thus the book is much more than a historical survey, it is a manifestation of the history of salvation in this territorial circumscription; the Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan. It is obvious that Fr Odetoyinbo et al went through an intense research to chronicle the “truth of the Gospel story that was written with such blood, sweat and tears” (pg 7) in Ibadan.
It would not be an exaggeration to state that the early history of the Catholic Church in Ibadan is synonymous with the evangelising zeal of the Society of African Missions (SMA). This was the focus of Chapter three of the book. The first attempt to set up a Catholic Mission in the city took place in 1884. This first contact proved unsuccessful. In a later attempt, Frs. Pied, Barbaglia, Klaus and Friess (all SMA’s) were reluctantly offered a piece of land in Oke Are by the Baale of Ibadan. Oke Are was “an impenetrable bush that covered the hill. People were reluctant to pass the place at night as it was regarded as the abode of spirits and certain worshippers offered sacrifice there” (pg 123).
Like the mustard seed, the Church in Ibadan grew rapidly from an Apostolic Prefecture, a Diocese, to its present status as an Archdiocese. The first Apostolic Prefect and later Diocesan Bishop was Msgr Richard Finn, SMA. He handed over to a Nigerian, Most Rev. Dr Felix Alaba Job. The evangelistic impact is seen in Chapter four, which outlines the parishes of the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese has also experienced quantum leaps in the number of priest, religious and lay faithful. This was treated in Chapter five.
Since the Archdiocese is in Ibadan and bearing in mind that evangelisation is directed at the people, it’s no surprise that the Church was able to cater for the Ibadan people in various capacities. In chapter 7, the book outlines various health and educational institutions that have blossomed under its inspiration. Those who hurl mud on the Church for not taking care of the poor would have a rethink after reading this chapter.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan: A Historical Survey ( 1884-2008 ) is a testimony of God’s wonders, mercies and love. It is also an acknowledgement of the labours of our past heroes. Consequently, I bear no hesitation in cogitating that this book will fulfil the intellectual appetite of secular and ecclesiastical historians, theologians, and other scholars. It will also serve as a worthy general reading book for Christians, non-Christians and people of no religious persuasions.
However, it is a pity that a work of this magnitude lacks the finesse that characterises a good book. It looks as if the publisher must have been asleep while working on it. The cover design needs to be retouched. Also the preliminary pages were all muddled up, the headings which were supposed to start on odd pages, did not. Apart from that, the book has no blurb (synopsis at the back cover). There are also some editorial flaws within the main text. I hope these blemishes would be corrected in subsequent editions.
I must commend Fr Odetoyinbo and co. for a thorough work. I also wish to felicitate with the Metropolitan Archbishop, Most Rev Dr Felix Alaba Job, the clergy and the faithful of the Ibadan Metropolitan See, for fencing the history of their Particular Church in The Catholic Archdiocese of Ibadan: A Historical Survey ( 1884-2008 ). What better way of commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Ibadan Diocese, years of living the Gospel values according to the mind of the Universal Church.
Nwachukwu Egbunike is the Editor of Feathersproject.