TORONTO — Canadian missionary institutes have long served the evangelizing mission of the church both at home and abroad. In Nigeria, the church has been blessed by the presence and generosity of the Spiritans, the Christian Brothers, Our Lady’s Missionaries, and others for many years. When these Canadians embarked on their mission to Nigeria, one wonders if they ever imagined that Nigerians would one day be missionaries to Canada.
When he founded the Missionary Society of St. Paul (MSP), Cardinal Dominic Ekandem (1917-1995) believed that the Catholic Church in Nigeria, by virtue of its blossoming vocations, had an evangelizing mandate — not only on the African continent, but further afield. In 1976, Ekandem shared this conviction with the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria, and so began several years of prayerful reflection and conversation.
In 1978, with the endorsement of the Nigerian bishops, the Missionary Society of St. Paul was erected as a Pious Union. In 1994 the Vatican approved the canonical status of the MSP as a Society of Apostolic Life.
The fundamental characteristics of the apostolate include evangelizing and re-evangelizing communities of faith. Missionaries of St. Paul strive to “to be all things to all people” (1 Cor 9:22) in order to proclaim the Gospel and witness to God’s love in every context and locale.
Four decades later, the cardinal’s vision continues to bear fruit, with some 300 Missionaries of St. Paul serving in pastoral ministries in the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, the United States, and Canada.
Today, the missionaries are serving in two Canadian dioceses: Prince Albert, and Peterborough, Ont. Revs. Anthony Afangide, Frederick Akah, Peter Paase, and Peter Nnanga serve in the Prince Albert diocese, while Rev. Dominic Mbah serves the Diocese of Peterborough. These five missionary priests bring to their ministries both their homegrown faith and their experiences from previous work in nations such as Liberia, Malawi, and the United States. They are enriched, in turn, by the faith of the people they serve.
In 2015, the General Council of the Missionary Society of St. Paul created the MSP Canada Mission. MSP priests serving in North America no longer share a common leadership structure based in the United States. MSP Canada has its own leadership and mission office.
Bishop Albert Thévenot, M. Afr., of Prince Albert formally inaugurated MSP Canada at a eucharistic celebration in North Battleford, Sask., on Jan. 25, 2017. The Missionary Society of St. Paul is grateful to the bishop for presiding at this memorable event and for providing an initial base for the MSP Canada Mission office in his diocese. Special thanks are due to the faithful of St. Joseph Calasanctius Parish for hosting the event. The Canada Mission is also indebted to its board of directors, its legal team, and to MSP friends across the country for their service and support.
The Christian faith is a gift to be shared with all peoples. The Missionary Society of St. Paul has come to Canada bearing this precious gift once received from early missionaries. The presence of MSP priests in Canada testifies to this witness of faith and reciprocates the generosity of Canadian missionaries to the Catholic Church in Nigeria.
By responding to the invitation to serve in the dioceses of Prince Albert and Peterborough, the Missionary Society of St. Paul is being true to the vision of its founder and following in the footsteps of its patron, St. Paul, as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor 5:20).
The MSP Canada Mission is thankful to God for its fruitful pastoral ministries in Canada, and looks forward to collaborating with other dioceses in the future, ministering to Canadian Catholics.
Otu is a member of the Missionary Society of St. Paul, and currently residing at the Scarboro Missions central house in Scarborough, Ont., while studying at Regis College, the Jesuit School of Theology at the University of Toronto.