Growing up in the university town of Nsukka, Nigeria, in the old Anambra State, it was common to either be a Catholic or Anglican. Those were the two major Christian denominations, which to us looked like two different religions. You were either a catholic or protestant as a Christian. For the traditional religious adherents, we simply called them “pagans”. Little was known of other religions in the region at the time. Then came churches like the Assemblies of God, Deeper Life, and other spiritual, and Pentecostal churches that followed.
Back in the days, as a high school catholic student, we had to trek for miles, from our Aku Road, Ngwuru site of Government Technical College to visit St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in the heart of Nsukka town, along Enugu Road, at least once every month, not just for mass but church cleaning. We participated in stones and sand carrying for a new church building, for a parish and deanery in then Enugu Diocese which was to become a Diocesan headquarters. The recurring structural defect of the new building led to several restarts before Nsukka was elevated to a Diocese on November 19, 1990 by Pope John Paul II, and the church became a Cathedral.
This new status meant a rethink in the design and scope of construction. The first ordinary of the diocese, Bishop Francis Okobo had an onerous task of charting a new course, from redesignating (stations to parishes, parishes to deaneries), to recruiting and training more priests to meet the needs of the church. He sure surmounted many obstacles, but it remained a challenge to complete a Cathedral church that will meet the taste of the predominantly catholic people of Nsukka.
With the retirement of Most Rev. (Dr.) Francis Okobo as Bishop, came the appointment on April 13, 2013, of Most Rev. (Dr.) Godfrey Onah, a charismatic priest who had sojourned on church mission to Europe. His ordination on July 4, 2013, was quite flamboyant and certainly drew some criticism, given the huge estimated amount said to have been spent for the process. However, the flamboyance was to set the pace for a more digitized, modern administration. From setting up the Diocese website (www.nsukkacatholicdiocese.org) to a reinvigorated pursuit for a new cathedral of world standard, the taste of the pudding became in the eating.
Today, in the St. Theresa’s Catholic premises lies an edifice which has seen lots of modifications from the original design, gulped several hundreds of millions in Naira, and foreign currencies, now getting ready for dedication/commissioning on November 19, 2020. Though coming 30 years after its classification as a diocese, it’s been worth the wait, given the quality of work.
It should be noted that the church is both founder and administrator of the famous St. Theresa’s College Nsukka, a school that has made leaders, movers, and shakers of the Nigerian State, as well as renowned intellectuals all over the world.
The Cathedral will certainly be worth a visit on and after November 19, 2020, both for spiritual and tourism purposes.
This in my opinion is a sight to behold and a thing of pride for all Catholics in Nsukka district (Igbo Nsukka).