The Order of Preachers and its Foundation in Nigeria and Ghana
The Order of Preachers more commonly known as the Dominican Order is a Roman Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic de Guzman in France, and approved by Pope Honorius III on December 22, 1216. The Order was founded basically for preaching and the salvation of souls. The Order is famed for its intellectual tradition, having produced many leading theologians and philosophers.
Dominic inspired his followers with loyalty to learning and virtue, a deep recognition of the spiritual power of worldly deprivation and the religious state, and a highly developed governmental structure. At the same time, Dominic inspired the members of his Order to develop a "mixed" spirituality or a fine blend of contemplation and action. They were both active in preaching, and contemplative in study, prayer and meditation.
Although very few in numbers, Dominic dispersed his brothers to various cities in Europe where there were centers of learning. And within a short time, the Order spread to the major cities of Europe. From Europe, it spread to other parts of the world.
Foundations in Nigeria & Ghana
In 1946, the Apostolic Delegate to English speaking East and West Africa, Archbishop David Matthew, whose headquarters was at Mombasa, invited the Dominicans to West Africa. His brother was an English Dominican. In 1949, he followed up his earlier 1946 invitation to the Dominicans with a more specific request. He wrote to the Provincial of St. Albert the Great Province in Chicago, Fr. Edward Hughes, requesting for Dominicans to come and serve in the mission field in Nigeria. In January 1950, the Provincial Council unanimously approved the Lagos foundation. Archbishop David Matthew, also asked the Dominicans to undertake evangelization in the North-West of the country especially in the proposed Prefecture of Sokoto and Katsina.
Dominicans in Sokoto
The Dominicans accepted the responsibility which led to the appointment of Monsignor Edward Thaddeus Lawton, OP, as Prefect Apostolic of Sokoto Prefecture in 1954. In 1955 Gusau which was an out-station of Zaria Mission became a Parish due largely to the efforts of Monsignor Edward Thaddeus Lawton, OP, who worked hard to see that it materialized because he saw Gusau as his headquarters. In 1956 Father Louis Nadeau, OP, became the first resident Priest in Sokoto. Under Bishop Dempsey, O.P., rebuilt Sokoto Diocese from the odds and ends leftover after the civil war. Young men were sent to the seminary and ordained. He opened the Catechetical Training School at Malumfashi now known as St. Joseph Mukasa Catechetical Training Centre to train Catechists for the whole of Northern Nigeria. Bishop Dempsey made considerable efforts to have good relations with Muslims and ecumenical cooperation with other Christian Churches.
Foundation in Lagos
The Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Leo H. Taylor, through a formal letter, invited them to take the responsibility of the then new Yaba mission that was not a Parish yet. On March 4, 1951 at 4:00pm, three friars of the Province of St. Albert the Great, USA accompanied by their Provincial, Fr. Hughes, arrived in Lagos to assume responsibility of the new mission. There were: Michael James Dempsey, Edward T. Lawton, and Arthur Leo Kinsella. Almost immediately after they arrived, the Rosary Confraternity and the Angelic Warfare Confraternity were established. The Thomistic Institute was inaugurated and the Third Order of St. Dominic was introduced. To crown it all, in January 1954, “St. Patrick Catholic Mission” was raised to the dignity of a “Parish”, and renamed “St. Dominic’s Parish”, and Fr. Michael J. Dempsey named its first Parish Priest. Several others succeeded him. Today, there are several Dominican run parishes, chaplaincy and other establishments in Lagos Archdiocese.
Growth of the Dominicans
The Nigerian mission became a Vice Province in 1985 and in 1993, it was erected a Province. Now, it has 203 friars (1 Bishop, 118 priest, 8 deacons, 3 Cooperator Brothers, 16 clerical brothers and 62 in formation). At the moment, only one of the friars of the Province of St Albert the Great is still working in Nigeria. The Dominican Province of St Joseph the Worker, Nigeria and Ghana is the only province of the Order on the African continent.
There have been some transformation from the then Lagos foundation in 1951 to the full-fleshed Province in 1993. Frs. Michael Dempsey, Nadeau, Klapperich, Bert Ebben, Windbacher and Callistus Iheme served as vicars at various times. In May, 1985, Fr Callistus Iheme became the first Vice Provincial. Fr Gilbert Thesing succeeded him in 1989. When the petition for the elevation of the Vice Province to a Province was granted, Fr Chris Angelo Otuibe became its first Provincial in May, 1993. Fr Thomas McDermott succeeded him in July 1997. After him, Fr Cletus Nwabuzo took on the baton, after which Fr Ignatius Madumere succeeded him. Fr Charles Ukwe took over from Fr Ignatius in 2009. The current Provincial is Very Rev. Fr. Richard Ogedengbe, O.P. He assumed office in 2017.
We exercise our preaching ministry among other apostolates in the administration of parishes, schools and chaplaincies. We are present in parishes across Nigeria and Ghana and run the Dominican Institute which has since been awarded a license to be a full-fledged university, the Dominican University, first of its kind in Africa. There is a noticeable presence of Dominicans from the province on social media as well.