Solidarity with Sokoto


In June, the OLA Sisters received a call from the people of the Diocese of Sokoto in the extreme Northwest of Nigeria. They were in great need of rosaries for an upcoming campaign and to assist them in their faith journey. Sr. Julie Doran co-ordinated the response from Ireland. On August 4th, 5,500 rosaries along with 400 miraculous medals were received in Nigeria by Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto Diocese. Here we tell the story of rosary appeal and what life is like on the ground for the faithful of Sokoto Diocese.

IMG_6420_0.jpg

A scene from a rosary rally in the Diocese of Sokoto which took place on August 15 - the Feast of the Assumption. Image courtesy of www.catholicdiocese-sokoto.org.

 

In June, the OLA Sisters received a call from the people of the Diocese of Sokoto in the extreme Northwest of Nigeria. They were in great need of rosaries for an upcoming campaign and to assist them in their faith journey. Sr. Julie Doran co-ordinated the response from Ireland. On August 4th, 5,500 rosaries along with 400 miraculous medals were received in Nigeria by Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto Diocese. Here we tell the story of rosary appeal and what life is like on the ground for the faithful of Sokoto Diocese.

The Diocese of Sokoto is made up of four of the modern-day states of Nigeria: Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfra and Sokoto. At 68,000 square kilometres, the land area of this sprawling diocese is almost the equivalent to the entire land area of the Republic of Ireland (70,000 square kilometres). The Diocese was formed in 1964. It straddles the border with Niger and the Republic of Benin. The Sokoto River give symmetry to the Diocese. Rising in Katsina State, the Sokoto River then travels west through Zamfara and Sokoto States before taking a 90 degree turn and veering south to Kebbi where to joins the great Niger River.

 Nigeria_political.png

Map of Nigeria showing the four states in the North-West which form the Diocese of Sokoto.

 

According to the gcatholic.org website, the Diocese was formed in 1964 and currently has 27 parishes across the four vast states which have a population of 15.2 million people. It reports that there are 38,000 Catholics among the 15.2 million population, the vast majority of whom are Muslim.

Fr. Paul Kangkai is a native of Nigeria. Fr. Paul is currently completing his studies in Maynooth and is attached to Kinnegad Parish during his time here. He added that the north western state is the seat of Islam in Nigeria. He also noted that despite the differing faiths and the religious tensions elsewhere in Nigeria, both Christians and Muslims across the north west region live side by side in a quite harmonious existence. Even though just 0.3% are Catholic they are fervent followers of the faith and now have turned to Our Lady of Fatima for continued inspiration.

St Edward Church 2012.jpg St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Illela_0.jpg

Some of the recently built and refurbished churches in the Diocese: St. Edward's Church, Zamfara State (left) and St. Patrick's Church, Illela. Image courtesy of www.catholicdiocese-sokoto.org.

 

In honour of the centenary celebrations of Our Lady of Fatima, the Church in Nigeria decided to hold mass Rosary Rallies across the country. Rosary beads for these rallies were requested last June and the OLA Sisters in Ireland put out a special appeal.  Through their shared involvement in promoting interfaith dialogue, the OLA Provincial Leader, Sr. Kathleen McGarvey, had in the past worked with the current Bishop of Sokoto, the very Reverend Matthew Hassan Kukah.

According to Sr. Julie Doran, the response was staggering.

“We never imagined such a return with 5,500 rosary beads crossing from hands in Ireland and England to praying hands in Nigeria.”

“Support came from all quarters. The Sisters in the OLA convents across Ireland put out a call in their own communities. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) donated 400 rosaries. A further 2,000 came from apostolic workers with many parishes from the four corners of Ireland also responding to our appeal. We even had handmade rosaries come from England.”

400 miraculous medals were also donated and sent to Nigeria with the rosaries.

Rosary Beads.jpg

 Some of the rosaries which were donated for the special appeal. Image courtesy of Sr. Julie Doran.

 

The precious cargo was carefully gathered, packed and mailed from the OLA Convent in Ardfoyle. All arrived safely in the Diocese of Sokoto for the commencement of celebrations to mark the beginning of the celebrations on the Feast of the Assumption. The Marian celebrations in the Diocese will conclude on September 8th – the birthday of Mary.

They rosaries were received by Bishop Kukah who expressed thanks to the people of Ireland and England who assisted with the appeal.

“I write to thank you very much for the wonderful and beautiful gift of the rosaries that came today in two cartons.

“We are doing this as part of our local celebrations along with the universal Church of the centenary of the Fatima apparition. Our own celebrations at a Deanery level take place on the feast of the Assumption on August 15th, 2017 while the final celebrations will be on September 8, 2017, the birthday of our blessed Mother. These rosaries will go a long way to encourage our people and hopefully turn greater attention to our blessed Mother. Giving them out will definitely add great colour to the celebrations.

“Let me extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the good people who made these great sacrifices to get the Rosaries. Please be assured that you will be very specially prayed for along with all our benefactors. God bless you.”

 Bishop Matthew Kukah receives the rosaries in Abuja.jpg

Bishop Kukah receiving the rosaries in Abuja, Nigeria. Image courtesy of Sr. Julie Doran.

 

The beads have brought joy to Catholics 5,500 miles away, forging connections between people of two different cultures who share a common faith.

The Virginia Pilot newspaper in the United States last month reported on a similar initiative which saw 200 rosaries sent from a parish in the state to the people of Jattu, Nigeria. The following remark by Anslem Bak Omogbai sums up how those in the Diocese of Sokoto may feel.

“One could buy a rosary anywhere but that some people thought of people they don’t know at all was very well felt.”

The life of Catholics in the Diocese of Sokoto is juxtaposed by the nearby Sahara desert. The Diocese sits of the cusp of one of the most baron stretches of land on earth yet the faith is flourishing among the followers of Christ in north-west Nigeria. The number of parishes in the Diocese continues to grow, churches are been built, refurbished and expanded. Acts of prayerful solidarity such as the response to the rosaries appeal are the droplets that nourish the fledgling seeds of faith in Sokoto and surrounds.

More scenes from rosary rallies in the Diocese of Sokoto which took place on August 15 - the Feast of the Assumption. Images courtesy of www.catholicdiocese-sokoto.org.

 IMG-20170816-WA0015_0.jpg

IMG_6342_3.jpg


  • Anyone who still wishes to help with the appeal may send rosary beads directly to: Sr. Julie Doran, Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, 70 B Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
  • Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah founded the Kukah Centre which aims to increase citizen engagement. Interfaith dialogue is at the core of the centre’s work. Click here to visit the Kukah Centre website.
  • Click here to visit the website of the Nigerian OLA Province.