Our History

In the year 2012, St. Patrick's Missionary Society celebrated 80 years since her inception. It is a time for looking back and giving thanks to God for all that has happened. The year 1932 may have been the year that St. Patrick's Missionary Society officially began but our history dates back to the early 1920s when our founder, Fr. P.J. Whitney came out to Nigeria as a volunteer with the Spiritans. Bishop Shanahan had made an appeal for volunteers in Maynooth National Seminary, Ireland and Fr. Whitney was one of those who agreed to come to Nigeria. It was while he was in Nigeria that he had the idea of having a separate society of missionary priests who would work in Nigeria supported by a well-established structure back in Ireland. Eventually, his dream came true on St. Patrick's day in 1932 when St. Patrick's Missionary Society was formally established.

After the establishment, the society was initially offered territories in which to evangelize: Calabar and Ogoja. Calabar at that time comprised the present Dioceses of Calabar, Uyo and Ikot Ekpene while Ogoja comprised the present Dioceses of Ogoja and Abakiliki. The Society began its good work in these territories and it spread immensely afterward.

Education was the primary contact that the society had with the people. Most of the catechumens came from schools built and run by the society. The second world war (1939-1945) and the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970) were very difficult times for the society, however, they persevered with hard work and faith and made it through the wars. During the civil war in Nigeria, the society decided that they could not abandon the people they were evangelizing. They provided food for the hungry and medical treatment for the injured. With great support from the local Irish churches, St Patrick's Society continued to train its own students and seek for volunteers to work on missions.

Meanwhile, the church in Nigeria was helped to establish its own local vocations and hierarchy. This began with the ordination of Fr. Dominic Ekandem in 1947, who later became a bishop and a cardinal.

As for the new Christians, they played leading roles in church life such as catechists, local committee members and members of catholic associations such as The Legion of Mary. By the end of the 1940s, they were so firmly rooted in the faith, that they started producing priests of their own. The young church had come of age.