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FEATURES: From Mustard Seed to the Greatest Shrub BY REV FR JOHN LAIKEI(Communications’ Directorate, Diocese of Jalingo)
May 07, 2012








JIALINGO -
Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, Shavo-Mile Six, Jalingo, became the Cathedral of the Catholic Diocese of Jalingo following its dedication on 30th March 2012. The diocese of Jalingo was carved out of former Yola Diocese on 3 February, 1995. Its boundary was defined according to that of Taraba State which had been created four years earlier (27 August 1991) out of former Gongola State.
 
The ordination and installation of Most Rev. Dr. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama on 23 April 1995 marked the beginning of the history of Jalingo as a Diocese. Being a largely rural diocese with high level of illiteracy, Bishop Kaigama knew that the task ahead required a lot of sacrifice and total dedication of one and all. The realization of this fact must have informed his choice of per crucem ad Dei gloriae (that is, through the cross to the glory of God) as his Episcopal motto. With limited resources and inadequate personnel, he began his pastoral strategies based on a clear vision and insight.
 
The conception and eventual construction of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church was part of Bishop Kaigama’s aggressive evangelization programme for Jalingo town and its environs. Thus, three years after his Episcopal ordination, precisely in 1998, Bishop Kaigama disclosed his intention to build a new Cathedral. The priests, religious and the lay faithful of the diocese received this news with joy. The diocesan Pastoral Council agreed that every Catholic faithful in the diocese should contribute a cement block each towards the project.
 
The priests, catechists/animators, members of Parish Pastoral Councils and Church leaders embarked on a serious mobilization campaign, moving from one village to another, on the payment of the Cathedral levy. The response was overwhelming. Registers were opened. The names of all those who contributed the Cathedral levy were recorded for posterity. It concluded with a launching/fund-raising, with Vice Admiral Mike Akhigbe, the then Chief of General Staff, as the Chief Launcher.
 
In February 2000, Most Rev. Dr. Ayo Maria Atoyebi, Bishop of Ilorin Diocese, who was in the diocese to direct the year’s annual retreat for the clergy of the diocese, blessed the site for the new Cathedral with all the priests in attendance. Shortly after the blessing, the Contractor, Mr. Angelo Landoni, mobilized his men to site and work on the construction of the new cathedral started. It is interesting to note that the site where we now have the cathedral is very close to St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, Shavo. And with the erection of the Cathedral Church there, the members of St. Andrew’s automatically became the foundation members of the worshipping community.
 
Under the personal supervision of the Bishop, work progressed steadily and by the end of the year 2000, the magnificent Cathedral Church had been built and roofed. This year, the newly completed edifice was the venue for the ordination ceremony of nine (9) deacons, seven (7) for the diocese of Jalingo and two (2) for the Order of St. Augustine (OSA).
 
Every stage of work on the cathedral was the collective responsibility of the bishop in collaboration with the entire faithful of the diocese. Thus, when the church was to be named, the people were duly consulted to make suggestions. This list was considered by the bishop and his Board of Consultors and after a prayerful session, the name Our lady Queen of Peace was chosen.
 
The change of baton of leadership in February 14th 2001, saw Most Rev. Dr. James Daman, OSA, as the second Bishop of Jalingo Diocese. He continued with the work on the Cathedral. But, a few months after his installation, the new Cathedral, in October 2001, to be precise was “converted to a refugee camp” for the internally displaced people who trooped to the diocesan centre following the 2001 Jukun/Fulani-Tiv crisis.
 
In 2003, Bishop Daman, OSA, permitted that Sunday Masses be said for the worshipping community in Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, after constructing an altar area and the doors and windows fixed. The first group of parishioners worshipping at the new Cathedral were few and were pastorally administered by the Bishop. It began with only one Mass on Sundays, and of course, regular daily masses, with Rev. Fr. Mark Nzukwein and Rev. Fr. Abraham Sambo coming from the Junior Seminary in Jauro Yinu to assist, owing to the busy schedule of the Bishop. Mr. Eugene Agbaru was appointed the pioneer Catechist in January 2004, and Chief Patrick Maduka (KSJ) was the first Chairman of the Church Council. Later on, St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Mile Six, along the highway, which had been an outstation of St. Patrick’s Parish, Kona, was closed down on the directive of the Bishop.
 
Following the closure, the worshippers there were asked to join the community at the Church. This new development accelerated the pace of growth within the young Christian community owing to the fact that St. Paul’s Catholic Church came along with already established and well organized pious associations and organizations such as the Choir, the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), Catholic Women Organization (CWO), the Legion of Mary, Sacred Heart, the Charismatic Renewal, etc.
 
Gradually, the Christian community in the new Cathedral Church began to be counted and recognized in the diocese at both deanery and diocesan levels. With the appointment of Rev. Fr. Charles Nyameh as the first Priest-in-Charge in August 30 2007, Our Lady Queen of Peace Church was officially listed among the parishes and pastoral areas in the diocese and placed under Group D.
 
When Most Rev. Dr. Charles Michael Hammawa became the 3rd Bishop of Jalingo Diocese on 4th July 2008, he indicated his intention and determination to complete the new Cathedral Church and have it dedicated as soon as possible. Thus, he set up a planning committee headed by Hon. Anthony H. Jellason. As a result of the hard work of this committee, coupled with the overwhelming support of the priests, religious and the laity of the diocese, both within and outside the diocese, a N50 million Cathedral Launching/Fund-Raising was successfully held in March 2009, under the distinguished Chairmanship of Bar. Damian Dodo, SAN. The uncommon zeal and dedication demonstrated by the priests, religious and the laity of the diocese was a clear indication of their desire to see the new Cathedral completed and dedicated. The outstanding contribution of Bar. Daman Dodo, SAN, towards the success of the launching was quite remarkable.
 
The story our Lady Queen of Peace Cathedral can therefore be likened to the biblical mustard seed, which though is smaller than other seeds grew to become the greatest
 
Thus to the glory of God and joy of the faithful, Our Lady Queen of peace Cathedral was dedicated at a colourful ceremony attended by dignitaries from all walks of life, from different parts of the country and the neighbouring country of Cameroon . Among those in attendance were: Archbishops Ignatius Kaigama, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria and Metropolitan of Jos and Matthew Ndagoso of Kaduna. Others were: Bishops Oliver Doeme of Maiduguri diocese; Malachy Goltok John of Bauchi; James Daman of Shendam; Stephen Dami Mamza of Yola; George, Kombo(Cameroun); William Avenya, Auxilliary of Makurdi and Charles Hammawa the host bishop who was also the chief celebrant at the dedication/thanksgiving Mass. Also in attendance were: priests, religious and laity of the diocese and representatives of other dioceses in the country. It was indeed a memorable day to the greater glory of God and enhancement of evangelization in the area

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