Italian Mission History
MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF ST PAUL OF NIGERIA ITALIAN MISSION
THE DIOCESE OF PADUA
Immigration is a contemporary phenomenon. The thrust of this movement is from the supposed “third world” and is directed towards the perceived “first world,” that is believed to have better prospects for better living. Padua is an industrial town, with a lot of factories that provides job opportunity for immigrants. As at December 2010, Padua has a population of 934.216 immigrants. Out of this, 115.291 are African immigrants. In these figures, 12.580 are Nigerian immigrants. In most recent years this figures are on the increase. Cognizant of this increasing population of the African nationals, the local ordinary, Mons Antonio MATTIAZZO, decided to erect a mission for the African Immigrants to take care of their religious needs. This mission was inaugurated on the 25th March 1997, the day of the Annunciation of the Lord (Missione con cura d’anime per immigrati africani). The pastoral care of this mission was entrusted to the diocesan priest from the Ivory Coast and the sisters of the Notra Dame congregation from the same country. The mission consisted of two communities: the Francophone and the Anglophone communities. The unification of these communities under the umbrella of the African mission was a beautiful idea and vision but it was not practicable for obvious reasons: language barriers and cultural differences. The unification was well accepted by the Francophone who were in the minority and had upper hand in its management. The Anglophone could not fit into the project. They desired to be autonomous and independent. This went on from 1997 until December 2007, when the Bishop invited Fr Benjamin Okon, msp to assist in taking care of the Anglophone Community. Fr Okon, who was at this time doing his last year in his doctoral program in Angelicum, through the consent and approval of the then Superior General, Most Rev Dr Hyacinth Egbebo, accepted to come in to assist. This was how the Bishop and the diocese got to know of the Missionary Society of Paul. Being very impressed with the work of Fr Okon, he decided to invite the MSP, on the 22 July 2008, to collaborate with the diocese in providing pastoral care for the Anglophone Community.
This invitation was accepted by the then Superior General, Most Rev Dr Anselm Umoren, msp on the 3 September 2008. This acceptance was followed by a pastoral visit of the superior to Padua, in Dec 2008, where he met with the Bishop and the community and the terms of the collaborations were spelt out in a contract signed on the 24 march 2010. Consequent upon this contract, Rev Fr Patsilver OKAH, msp was sent to join Fr Okon and he arrived on the June 2010. After his nomination as the auxiliary bishop of Abuja Archdiocese, Most Rev Umoren, msp made a brief visit to the diocese and in 20 December 2011, he requested the permission of the Bishop to erect the MSP mission in Italy with its headquarter in the diocese of Padua. On the 11 January 2012, the Bishop granted this permission and on the 13 February 2012, the Acting Superior, Very Rev Fr Paul OFOHA, MSP erected the MSP mission in Italy with a decree. This erection was followed by the appointment of personnel for the Mission. Fr Benjamin OKON, was appointed the local superior; Fr Patsilver OKAH, the vice local superior; Fr Jerome Eruoghororere, the mission bursar.
MORE ON THE ITALIAN MISSION
The Mission is relatively new. There is still a lot of work to do get the mission grounded. At the moment, we are at the level of foundation-laying. This include creating and setting up a system for administration. The bishop of Padua has decided to relocate us to a parish setting, where we can have the basic facilities to function: accommodation and offices to work. This took effect on the 1st Dec 2012.
Our current address and point of reference is as seen below:
PARROCCHIA SAN CLEMENTE
VIA DELLE GRANZE SUD, 8
House Phone: 39-049718213
We have also registered the Society as a non-profit making organization. With this we have acquired the fiscal code that has enabled us to open a society account so as to be able to differentiate between the society goods and the goods of the church community where we are working. We are also looking forward to the extension of our pastoral commitment beyond the African immigrant to traditional Italian parish communities, even beyond the diocese of Padua. When we would have put the basic things in place at the supposed headquarters, it is our desire to explore other possibilities with other diocese within the Italian soil. The community is very vibrant and active.
THE DIOCESE OF OZIERI
The contact with the diocese of Ozieri was made by the former Superior General, Most Rev Dr Anselm UMOREN, the auxiliary Bishop of Abuja archdiocese. The contact was concretized with the sending of Rev Fr Jerome ERUOGHORORERE, MSP to the diocese in December 2011. In order to further consolidate this arrangement, the local ordinary of the diocese of Ozieri, Mons Sergio PINTOR, on 24 September 2012, wrote to formally invite the MSP to collaborate pastorally in his diocese and granted his permission to the MSP to erect a local community in his diocese. On the 30 September 2012, a decree for the erection of the MSP local community was issued by the Acting Superior, Very Rev Fr Paul OFOHA, MSP and on the 1st October 2012, a formal letter of acceptance to collaborate with the diocese was written. With the letter of acceptance and the decree of the erection of the MSP local community in Ozieri, the local ordinary of Ozieri issued a bull of erection and a decree of recognition of the MSP on the 11 October, 2012. With the erection of a local community, there was need for another MSP to join Fr ERUOGHORORERE in Ozieri. Fr Patsilver OKAH, MSP, who was then in Padua was transferred to Ozieri diocese and he was nominated co-parish priest of the two parishes entrusted to the MSP: Parrocchie Nostra Signora Intermontes in ITTIRREDDU and Sacro Cuore, in CHILIVANI, all in Ozieri diocese.
FIRST MSP PARISH IN ITALY
PARROCCHIA SAN GIOACCHINO OF TORINO (TURIN)
We initiated discussion with the diocese of Torino Italy in early part of the year 2013. After our initial contact an official letter of request for pastoral collaboration with the diocese was written on the 8th Feb 2013 addressed to the Vicar General, Mons Valter Danna. This letter was forwarded to the local ordinary, who in turn discussed it in the presbyteral council and it was approved. Consequent upon the approval, the archbishop, Mons Cesare Nosiglia, wrote officially to invite the MSP into the diocese on the 12th June 2013. In the letter he stated the parish he is giving to the MSP and the reason, why he is giving that parish. He also made a request of three MSP priests for the parish. In that way, they can form a local community in the spirit of the society of apostolic life. This letter was forwarded to the Acting Superior General. After consulting with his council, he made a reply to the archbishop on 22 June 2013, thanking him for the offer. In the letter to the archbishop he also gave names of those he had appointed to initiate the mission in the archdiocese. Fr OKON, MSP was appointed the Pastor of this new parish, while Fr IHEANACHO, MSP was appointed associate pastor. The third MSP missionary is to be posted there next pastoral year.
Fr Okon arrived the Parish of San Gioacchino, Torino, on the 16th October 2013. On the 17th I had a meeting with the Pastoral and Economic Councils and on the 18th I had meeting with all the liturgical groups in the Church. On the 19th the eve of the World Missions Day, we had the service of “La Veglia Missionaria” in the Cathedral. The service was presided over by the archbishop, Mons Cesare Nosiglia. During the ceremony he officially welcomed the MSP into the diocese and expressed appreciation to the African Missionary Society that has accepted to come and evangelize his diocese. The 20th was the day of the official enthronement of the parish priest (Insediamento). It was a very beautiful and solemn ceremony presided over by the Episcopal Vicar for the territory, Don Roberto Gottardo. Two weeks later the assistant parish priest, Rev Fr VALENTINE IHEANACHO arrived and they are working together.
The Italian mission comprises of three dioceses: Padua, Ozieri and Torino, and the MSP students studying in Rome. The MSP priests in this mission are: Frs Benjamin Okon, Patsilver Okah, Jerome Eruoghororere, Valentine Iheanacho, Daniel Ihunia, and Godwin Akpowho.