Yes, my diocese is my pride; my faith, my heritage! So, which is my Diocese and what is my Faith? Well, my Diocese is Ikot Ekpene and my Faith is the Christian and Catholic Faith. So, what makes these my pride and heritage? To answer this, dear friends, I welcome you to this historical tour and expository journey to the diocese called IKOT EKPENE.
Ikot Ekpene Diocese, located in the South Southern part of Nigeria, Africa, was created in 1963 by Pope John XXIII. Precisely, located in Akwa Ibom State, the diocese is one of the suffragan dioceses of the Ecclesiastical Province of Calabar since 1993. The diocese covers an area of 2, 263 square kilometres with a population of about 1,030,896 inhabitants (as at the 2006 census) of which about 80% are Christians and about 10% are Catholics, that is, about 117,609. The Cathedral Church named Saint Anne Cathedral is located along Cardinal Ekandem Avenue in Ikot Ekpene metropolis. The current Bishop, its third, Most Rev. Camillus Raymond Umoh was consecrated and took possession on October 9, 2010.
The earliest date for the foundation of any mission Church in Ikot Ekpene was in 1914 by the missionary fathers at Anua, St Anne Station, Ifuho, which is now the Cathedral. It was established in 1918 with Rev. Fathers Paul Biéchy, CSSP, and James Moynagh, SPS, as the first resident priests in 1920 and 1930, respectively, under Bishop Joseph Shanahan – the pioneer Holy Ghost Bishop of Southern Nigeria with his headquarters at Onitsha.
Ikot Ekpene has always been associated with Calabar Mission, which was established when Fr. James Moynagh, SPS, was appointed the Prefect Apostolic on July 9, 1934. When the Prefecture was raised to the status of Vicariate Apostolic on June 13, 1947, the Pastoral Care of the entire territory was entrusted to Bishop James Moynagh who became the Bishop of Calabar Diocese on April 18, 1950.
With the appointment of Bishop Moynagh, SPS, the Holy Ghost Fathers were replaced by the St. Patrick Fathers, who thenceforth have been indeed the Founding Fathers of Evangelization in Calabar, Ogoja, Ikot Ekpene, Port Harcourt and Uyo Dioceses.
The first indigenous Bishop of Ikot Ekpene was the Most Rev. Bishop Dominic I. Ekandem. He was ordained a priest on December 7, 1947, in Ifuho. He was consecrated an Auxiliary Bishop on February 7, 1954, by Bishop Moynagh as the consecrating prelate and Bishops Peter Rogan MHM of Buéa and Paul Biéchy of Brazzaville as co-consecrators. On March 1, 1963, following the creation of the diocese, the Most Rev. Bishop Dominic I. Ekandem was appointed the first resident Bishop of Ikot Ekpene Diocese with the then Civil Provinces of Abak and Ikot Ekpene and all of the Annang ethnic extraction under it.
Bishop Dominic Ekandem was the Bishop from 1963 to 1989. On October 31, 1971, Most Rev. Bishop Ephraim S. Obot, who later became the Bishop of Idah Diocese in Kogi State (1971-2010), was appointed Auxiliary to Bishop Dominic Ekandem. Under Bishop Dominic Ekandem, Ikot Ekpene Diocese witnessed a tremendous growth in the ordination of indigenous priests. Creation of parishes, establishment of schools and hospitals. He was a Cardinal on April 27, 1976, and his creation in the Consistory as the first Cardinal in Nigeria on May 24, 1976, by Pope Paul VI.
On the appointment of His Eminence Dominic Cardinal Ekandem to the See of Abuja Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria (FCT) in 1989, Most Bishop Camillus A. Etokudoh who was consecrated the Auxiliary Bishop of Ikot Ekpene Diocese on May 14, 1988 became its second Bishop. He was appointed to the See on September 1, 1989 and installed as its second Bishop on February 3, 1990. Following the appointment of Most Rev. Camillus A. Etokudoh as the Catholic Bishop of Port Harcourt Diocese on May 4, 2009, Msgr. Camillus Raymond Umoh was appointed as the Catholic Bishop of Ikot Ekpene on July 16, 2010, to replace Most Rev. Bishop C. A. Etokudoh. He was ordained on October 9, 2010, as the third Bishop of the diocese.
Over the years, the clergy and lay faithful of the diocese work together for the evangelization of the people of the area. As such there has been a widespread of lay apostolates and evangelism that have seen many converted to the Catholic Faith. In Ikot Ekpene, there is a true, gradual and fruitful inculturation of the Christian Faith into the culture of the people. A diocese created almost along the line of geographic-ethno-politics of the state is predominantly made up of the Annang. The Annang culture is generally a culture of respect, hospitality and creativity. Its people are lively and happy people who are contented with the good gifts nature and God has bestowed on them. They love and appreciate arts, dance, music and foreigners. The Annang is a home for good African delicacies, the palm wine and locally made gin.
Vocation to the catholic priesthood and the religious life has increased over the years. With her catholic schools and the seminaries, there is a well-thought-out formation plan to embrace vocation even from an early age. Still a young diocese with only 56 years of existence she has so much prospects for the future. The collaboration that exists between its clergy and its laity is a beauty to behold and has facilitated its missionary growth over the years.
As a Spiritual hub of the area, Ikot Ekpene Diocese has a Pastoral Centre named Cardinal Ekandem Pastoral Centre where visitors can find solace and comfort. The Diocese is currently embarking on a Retreat Centre Project which promises to be a Pilgrimage Centre open for all in need of a Spiritual tourism, Spiritual refreshment and rekindling. You can as well be a part of that project by contacting the Project coordinators through the Diocesan Website.
Ikot Ekpene Metropolis is not only home to the Cathedral Church of Saint Anne but there are up to four other Catholic Churches (parishes) within the city to include: St. Vincent de Paul Church (Located along Umuahia Road), St Anne Catholic Church (Located along Essien Road), St Dominic Catholic Church, (Located along Cardinal Ekandem Avenue) and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (Located Off Uyo Road). These Faith communities are always very welcoming and will be delighted to have you join them in worship and prayers. The Diocesan Secretariat complex is located within the Cathedral Church premises.
Growing up within the local Church and faith community, attending the various catechism classes and subsequently receiving my baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation as well as working in various capacities in the Diocese as a Seminarian, Deacon and now as a Priest, I have come to appreciate my diocese as my pride, my Catholic Faith as my heritage. In Ikot Ekpene Diocese Faith not only becomes action but faith comes alive. For more information please visit the Diocesan Website @ www.ikotekpenediocese.org
Ikot Ekpene Diocese is a community of Faith and LIFE
Valentine Umoh Priest of the Diocese Ordained 2014.