Outlines in the History of the Diocese

Standing at the threshold of forty years of existence as a local church in the catholic world, the diocese could take many trajectories in recounting its story. Here the story of the diocese could be divided into three stages, namely, the planting of Christianity or the Christianisation of the area by the missionaries; the creation of the diocese and laying the foundations of the local church (principally defined by the episcopacies of Albert Obiefuna and Simon Okafor); and the laying of foundations for a more self-reliant church in the present times.

Though the creation of the diocese seemed unexpected, it was very much welcomed. It was a welcome development, as the creation of the diocese translated into a true coming of age of the missionary work in the old Awka District – a task that was principally piloted, dominated and controlled by the presence of the self-sacrificing missionaries and their close African collaborators in the old Adazi parish. It is fair assessment to call Awka Diocese the maturation of the missionary work in the old Adazi parish. True enough, the old Adazi parish was by far, bigger than the presently constituted Awka Diocese. However, in all counts, the old Awka District could be seen as the hub of that old Adazi parish.

At the creation of the diocese, the area that makes it up had only just eighteen parishes, with Adazi as the oldest. But today, some forty years after the creation, the diocese has a record number of one hundred and eighty-four parishes (and chaplaincies with parish status). Significant in this growth is the existence of multi-parish towns – towns whose oneness or unity seemed to have been disturbed or destroyed, but which in essence has been given the opportunity to have deeper penetration of the word and sacraments as unction to their unity and sense of being. Greater understanding and growth have been recorded socio-politically, physically and spiritually in the making of the parishes in the diocese.

Alongside this growth in the number of parishes, is a marching increase in vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. At the creation of the Diocese, only about forty-four priests trod the length and breadth of the diocese, ministering to the flock of Christ. Today, the record of growth is phenomenal. The diocese has recorded an increase in the number of priests to some six hundred and forty-eight priests (ever ordained for the apostolate in the diocese). In much the same ratio, vocations to the religious life have thrived.

The indigenes of the diocese swell the number and ranks of many dioceses of the catholic world and the local and international congregations. Internally, convents and fraternities exist; their numbers increase yearly and help in the diocesan apostolate. In general, the phenomenal growth would not have been possible at all without the fundamental, corresponding growth of the catholic families and communities that make up the parishes. The Catholic families beget vocations and communities; and parishes are only the visible signs of this foundational growth. As of the last count of the catholic population of the diocese, the number has risen from around 193,143 at the beginnings of the diocese to about 1,714,608 in the present times.

A question could be asked, how come these significant changes and indices of growth were possible? The answer tells much about the people. However, it must be said that the answer lies not just with the people, but more with the hands and heads of those who piloted and managed the affairs of the diocese. These leaders and their immediate associates have managed to turn the available human and material resources to very good effect – seen in the manifestations of physical, intellectual and spiritual growth of the diocese and their society. Putting it in a word, what could have turned into good effect a situation that has been vividly described in the following terms,

Bishop A. K. Obiefuna started the new diocese with practically nothing in place. He had no house, no office building, no money and only a few priests. To add to his troubles the roof of St Patrick’s parish church which served as his Cathedral was blown off by a strong tornado that ravaged Awka and its environs soon after the installation of the new bishop. Moreover, Awka at that time had many social and religious problems ranging from ignorance of faith and practices alien to the catholic faith to outright hostility to the church. But the young bishop was undaunted and set out to build the diocese relying mainly on his deep faith in God and the grace of God.1

In sum, the growth recorded in the first two episcopacies of diocese had been possible, thanks to the administrative and managerial ingenuity of its first two bishops, the co-operation of the priests and religious and the good will of the laity. The following infrastructural developments came through during the leadership of the first two bishops: St. Dominic Savio’s Seminary, Akpu; St John Bosco’s Seminary, Isuaniocha; the Retreat, Pastoral and Conference Centre, Okpuno; C.W.O Cana House, Awka, the Regina Caeli Hospital, Awka; the Holy Family Spiritual Year Centre, Okpuno; St. Patrick’s podium or mini stadium; and the construction and the dedication of a gigantic ultramodern Cathedral of St. Patrick, etc. Compared to its humble beginnings, the rate, size and quality of infrastructural growth, within the time-frame and the means employed for the accomplishment, the record is simply amazing and remarkable, to say the least.

When Bishop Obiefuna handed over the reins of leadership of the diocese and its realms to Bishop Okafor, the transition was seamless. In using the words of St. Paul, “Paul did the planting and Appolos did the watering,” Bishop Okafor indicated his willingness to carry on the development of the diocese with the plan or line of action as already laid down by his predecessor-bishop.2In the history of his stewardship of the diocese, we find many indices of this singular decision and action that is uncommon in leadership in Africa. Before Bishop Obiefuna left the diocese for Onitsha Archdiocese, the spiritual life in the diocese had a great boost – in his introduction of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in the parishes of the diocese.

It was not mere eye service, he enlisted the hands of all priests and faithful of the diocese to imbibe the spirit and put it into effect. With his leadership example and creation of a director for the pastoral initiative, parish after parish began to move beyond mere monthly or weekly communal Eucharistic adoration. There began to arise edifices or transformation of the chapels within presbyteries for purposes of the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration all over the diocese. After Obiefuna, the practice reached its ultimal level of development, as much as could be conducive to the diocesan environment. This quest for deeper spiritual life has had the effect of initiating and sustaining the efforts of creation of parishes and the provision of befitting places of worship and tabernacles for perpetual adoration of the Eucharist.

Statistics in the Growth of Parishes, Deaneries and Regions

In reaching out to the people, the diocese has found the pathway in the creation of parishes. In creating the parishes, the diocese found the people and people found the church. This meeting has


1 J. P. C. Nzomiwu, “His Grace Archbishop A. K. Obiefuna and His Pioneering Work in Awka Diocese as the First Bishop (1978-1994),” in B. Emebo, ed., Stuff of a Saint: Archbishop A. K. Obiefuna 1930-2011, 41-42. Records show the the tornado referred to above happened in March 1980.

2 M. N. Obi, The Graceful Footprints of a True Shepherd: A Reflection on the Life of Bishop Simon Akwali Okafor, 12.

abundantly garnered in for the church great numbers of people and communities. While it is true that the population in recent times is indicative of the increased membership of the church, it is the increasing number of parishes and chaplaincies that show amply the unceasing efforts of the church to find and evangelise the children of God.

It was in 1985 that Bishop Obiefuna decided to create multi-parish out of a town and to give a people or community a parish without pre-conditions, but purely based on the church’s desire to evangelise and reach the people where they are. This came out to be a momentous decision, and that has kept deepening and transforming the evangelical landscape of the diocese. Communities were tasked to stretch themselves to any elasticity and to grow into forms that make for holistic development.

The parishes build up infrastructure necessary for their existence and operation; and the parishes assume the central hub in the life and activities of the communities. What could have completed the transformation of the built churches of the parishes as the centre of the parish communities’ prayer life and liturgy is the recitation of the prayers of the church in the people’s language – a practice that had begun under Msgr. Cyril Ezenduka when he was in the oldest parish of the diocese. This practice seems to have died out after Msgr. Ezenduka’s demise, but needs to regain its place of honour and pride for the transformation of the diocese. Hence, the diocese from its premier bishop down to the present has been making the best of the creation of parishes, as the table here below illustrates.


Number of the Parishes Created

Number of Churches Dedicated

Number of Deaneries Created

Number of the Regions Created

Before diocese 1925-1978





Obiefuna 1978-1994





Okafor 1995-2010





Ezeokafor 2011-date





With the numbers of priests and parishes, there came the need to regulate and order them well for great purposes of the evangelisation in the diocese and the development of the people. When Bishop Okafor came, as an adept for the place of structure in effecting order and development, he saw the need to put the deanery structure into greater use. At the creation of the diocese, there were six of such deaneries. The time of Bishop Obiefuna saw an increase to seven. Okafor increased the number to fifteen and made them count in his administration of the diocese. With time again, Bishop Ezeokafor has increased their number to twenty-three. In effect, the diocese came to run on three significant levels– the parish, the deanery and the diocesan levels.

Bishop Okafor did not stop there. To reduce the suffering of the people and bring his administration still closer to the people, he divided the diocese into regions. At the first attempt, he created Awka and Ekwulobia regions. Subsequently, he brought them up to four, namely, Awka, Adazi, Ekwulobia and Akpu (Orumba). However, he did not give full administrative apparatus to the regions. The regions were only given the administrative office of regional co-ordinators, who are priests. Most of the diocesan celebrations and bi-monthly recollections of priests are done regionally. Recently, with the increasing numbers of attendance to these liturgical activities, Bishop Ezeokafor has increased the number to six, in essence adding two more regions, namely Achina and Nimo regions. A look back in history amply shows that the leadership of the first two bishops of the diocese has been a foundational one.

Growing Self-Reliant Church and Attendant Infrastructural Growth

Before the coming of Bishop Ezeokafor, the diocese took a pause, as the priests of the diocese took a time for some re-evaluation of the evangelistic thrust of the diocese. Hence, with the appointment of Bishop Ezeokafor as the substantive bishop of the diocese on 8 July 2011, and his subsequent installation on 10 September 2011, the diocese turned a new chapter. Here came a bishop who is not pre-Nigeran civil war priest, but one ordained a priest within the first decade of the existence of the diocese.

His arrival at the helm of affairs of the diocese had always received the tacit support and the approval of the presbyteral council and the presbyterium of the diocese. As it is, history cannot run the course of the currency of his leadership with any meaningful interpretation (until it has run its full course). However, the infrastructural development and the maintenance of the basic framework of diocese under his watch could be counted and given initial lines of interpretation.

With the full hand-over of original church schools, both primary and secondary, back to them in 2011, the church in Awka has firmly taken the initiative to launch herself fully into school apostolate. The church has girded her loins and set herself ready for greater future, streamlining or amalgamating her recently founded schools with her former schools now returned to her. The church is tying up the lower levels of education to higher levels of education. The quality of education is being upped to ultimal heights, as the bishop is firing on all cylinders for a greater effect.

The church has not disappointed herself and the society of her habitation – in building up of the schools and setting the pace for proper ordering and running of schools. It is great to see hitherto decadent schools beaming with life once again, brimming with pupils or students eager to learn, and willing to be taught. In the face of these new realities, Bishop Ezeokafor has thought it wise to round up the revival in the school apostolate with a foundation of university education. In his wisdom and calculation, the properly taught primary and secondary pupils and students should have a tertiary institution where they could round up their education well.

In pursuance of this order, the bishop has led the minds and hearts of his flock into undertaking Peter University Onneh/Achina project. To top and round up her efforts in providing quality education had become the undertaking of the church of Awka. It is her ambition to found places for tertiary education for students from her schools such as Holy Child Secondary School Isuofia, Austica Memorial College Nanka, Maduka Comprehensive School Ekwulobia, Madonna Girls Umunze, Girls’ High School Agulu, Bubendorff School Adazi-Nnukwu, St. Michael’s Nimo, St. Mary’s Ifitedunu, St. John of God Awka, Tansi International College, Awka, amongst others. It is a matter of gratifying hope and sight to behold when the students, of such church’s sound secondary schools, occupy their spaces in the proposed Peter University, now far advanced in its construction. Our society could be better off for it – we may have stepped into the threshold of founding the leaven for the transformation of our society. The products of institutions such as this would in future sit not only in industrial firms, business outfits, political offices, civil service, but also in the councils, synods and curial office of the church.

The bishop has his hands full with many projects. If Peter University is under construction, many projects of the local church of Awka are not. Completed and functional are such projects as petrol and gas filling stations of the diocese in strategic places within its jurisdiction; modernisation and renaming of the Retreat, Pastoral and Conference Centre in Okpuno; modernisation of the junior seminaries of the diocese; modernisation of the diocesan hospitals and their build-up into chaplaincies; hostels for students and hospitality industries. The widening horizons in the diocesan involvement in the affairs other than religious or in spirituality has meant its reach into lending  a

helping hand in the ordering of life, business, education and the society. All these efforts put the church out into the deep for self-reliant existence and holistic development of the human society. The bishop seems set to replicate for the entire diocese the status of self-reliance that he gave to our seminaries, particularly St. Dominic Savio’s Seminary, Akpu, when it was under his charge as its Rector.

While prosecuting vigorously new projects, and maintaining and renovating the infrastructural base of the diocese, Bishop Ezeokafor has kept a steady hand on the proper running of the diocesan administrative parish-deanery-diocese structure. A chart below shows that he has kept on with the tradition of bringing the church ever closer to the people. Gradually, the diocese has come a long way, from dividing towns into quarters as parishes to making parishes out of villages of the towns. The parishes have equally been proving their viability, as more and more parishes meet not only their infrastructural needs but also pursue fervently the dedication of their church building. Awka Diocese seems to be hitting the right keys in making a good and melodious symphony of its creation. The tables below gives some up-to-date information on the creation of parishes and dedication of churches in the diocese.

A Table of Parishes Created Since the Episcopacy of Bishop P. C. Ezeokafor


No. Parishes Created

Name of the Parish Created

Mother Parish

Local Govt. Area



Assumption Awka St. Francis’ Awka St. Jude’s Awka

Immaculate Heart Neni

St. Patrick’s Awka St. Patrick’s Awka St. Patrick’s Awka St. John’s Neni

Awka South Awka South Awka South Anaocha



Sacred Heart Adazi-ani St. Martin’s Ifitedunu Queen of Peace Isulo

St. Peter’s Adazi-ani St. Gabriel’s Ifitedunu St. Joseph’s Umunze

Anaocha Dunukofia Orumba South



All Saints’ Adazi-ani

St. Joseph the Worker Adazi-nnukwu St. Joseph’s Nri

Holy Family Chapl. Umunze/Umucheke

St. Peter’s Adazi-ani St. Andrew’s Adazi- nnukwu

St. Mary’s Nri

St. Joseph’s Umunze

Anaocha Anaocha Anaocha Orumba South



St. Patrick’s Adazi-enu

St. Dominic’s Adazi-enu




St. Gregory’s Akwaeze

St. Benedict’s Enugwu-ukwu St. Paul’s Ugwuoba

St. Clement’s Umuchu

St. Joseph’s Chaplaincy Ndikpa St. Paul’s Chaplaincy Ntoko

St. Michael’s Akwaeze

St. Anthony’s Enugu-ukwu St. Peter’s Ugwuoba

Holy Name Umuchu St. Peter’s Ugwuoba St. Peter’s Ugwuoba

Anaocha Njikoka Oji-River Aguata

Awka South Awka South



St. Joseph’s Amawbia Sacred Heart Ngozika Awka St. James’ Neni

Holy Trinity Obeledu St. Patrick’s Ogbunka St. Andrew’s Ufuma

St. Matthew’s Amawbia St. Patrick’s Awka

St.  John’s  Neni St. Paul’s Obeledu

St. Monica’s Ogbunka St. Mary’s Ufuma

Awka South Awka South Anaocha Anaocha Orumba South Orumba North




A Table of Dedicated Churches Since the Episcopacy Bishop P. C. Ezeokafor

Date of Dedication

Name of the Parish Church Dedicated

Local Govt. Area

Name of Principal Celebrant

5 March 2011

St. Anthony’s Church Enugwu-Ukwu


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

15 April 2012

St. Martin’s Church Igbo-ukwu


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

28 October 2012

St. John’s Church Enugwu-Agidi


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

18 November 2012

St. Michael’s Church Akwaeze


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

6 January 2013

St. Edward’s Church Amawbia

Awka South

Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

6 October 2013

St. Mary’s Church Nri


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

21 April 2014

St. John De Baptist Church Ezinifite


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

3 August 2014

St. Patrick Church Umuchu


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

8 August 2014

Our Lady of Fatima Igbo-Ukwu*


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

17 August 2014

St. Dominic Church Mbaukwu

Awka South

Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

14 September 2014

Madonna Assumption Church Agulu


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

16 November 2014

St. Dominic Church Adazi-Enu


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

30 November 2014

St. Mary’s Church Ora-eri


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

14 December 2014

Holy Trinity Church Nanka

Orumba North

Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

21 December 2014

St. Mary’s Church Aguluezechukwu


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

15 August 2015

St. Michael’s Church Nanka

Orumba North

Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

23 December 2015

St. Paul’s Church Ugwuoba


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

3 April 2016

St. Rita Church Ichida


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

10 July 2016

St. Peter’s Church Awka

Awka South

Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

9 October 2016

St. Matthew’s Church Ajalli

Orumba North

Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

23 October 2016

St. James Church Neni


Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor

30 October 2016

SS Peter & Paul Umuchu


Bishop JonasBenson Okoye


Again, in keeping with what has now become a tradition of the diocese, Bishop Ezeokafor did not waste time in requesting for an auxiliary bishop. Thus, in less than three years after his appointment as the substantive bishop of the diocese, he was given an auxiliary. Msgr. Jonas Benson Okoye was announced the auxiliary bishop elect for the diocese on 30 May 2014. Until his appointment, Msgr. Jonas Benson Okoye had been the Judicial Vicar of the diocese (2006-2014). A native of Adazi-Nnukwu, the citadel of the missionary evangelisation of the old Awka District, Msgr. Okoye studied philosophy (1983-1987) and theology (1988-1992) before his priestly ordination.

He exercised pastoral ministry in the Diocese before he went for post-graduate studies in Ottawa (Canada) and Rome (Italy); and he specialised Canon Law with distinction (2005/2006). Hence, well versed in the law of the church, as a canonist of considerable repute, Bishop Okafor trusted and valued his judicious advice in all matters of church law, and made him his judicial vicar (2006). Bishop Ezeokafor upheld this appointment, when he assumed the office of the chief shepherd of the diocese (2011). Following his appointment, he was consecrated a bishop on 29 August 2014 at the new St. Patrick’ Cathedral Church. With his appointment and episcopal ordination, he became the fourth auxiliary bishop for Awka Diocese.

As an able hand in parish administration and law of the church, Bishop Ezeokafor seemed to have divided the diocese into two, making the auxiliary bishop in charge of pastoral matters of the ‘Ekwulobia part’ of the diocese, which has three of the six regions of the diocese. Perhaps, the bishop has his eyes set on the future creation of a new diocese out of Awka Diocese, as envisioned and recommended by the first synod assembly of the diocese (2001).
In a collaborative ministry, the two bishops, each in his own status, abilities and skills, face the arduous task of leading one of the densely populated and outstanding dioceses in the country on the path of order and progress. With every fibre of his natural endowment, training and expertise, Bishop Ezeokafor is piloting the diocesan apostolate and breaking new grounds that could well attain, sooner than later, the status of self-reliant and self- supporting local church – a situation that is anticipated in and by the first synod assembly of the diocese.


Wenceslaus Ofojebe & Fabian Obi (Eds), A Short History of the Catholic Diocese of Awka at Forty, Awka: Fides Communications, 2017