THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA, GUSAU, NIGERIA
The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Gusau, Nigeria, trace her roots in the Church to several sources: the person of St. Dominic de Guzman and the Dominican Communities of Regensburg (Ratisbon), Germany; Amtyville (Brooklyn) New York; and the Great Bend, Kansas, USA.
In 1956, following the invitation to the Great Bend Dominican Sisters by the Dominican Fathers and Brothers who worked in the then Sokoto Prefecture, three Dominican Sisters of Great Bend, Kansas, arrived Gusau to respond to the need for a Christian presence in the Muslim dominated North of Nigeria and to carry out the most needed work of Evangelization, Healthcare and Education in the then Sokoto Prefecture. More Dominican Sisters of Great Bend later joined them. They established clinics/maternity in Gusau, Malumfashi, and Yelwa-Yauri (now Kontagora prefecture).
After many years of strictly engaging in evangelization, medical and educational ministries, the Sisters saw the need to start an indigenous foundation of Dominican Sisters to assist them and to continue the ministries when they return to the United States of America. In 1973, two young women were received as postulants.
There was the question of seeking legal recognition from the Diocese. This process took many long meetings of the founding Sisters with the then Bishop of the Diocese, Bishop Michael J. Dempsey, O.P., of happy memory. The process which began in 1976 came to a favourable conclusion on December 8, 1981, when the entity was raised to the status of a “Pious Union” (presently known as “Association of the Christian Faithful”). This is transitory stage of any religious group with the intention of attaining a Diocesan or Papal status.
In 1977 the Community had the first profession of its members. Growth came in trickles at that early stage in that first professions were not had every year. However, from 1982 things took a different turn. There were first professions yearly, sometimes even twice a year.
One of the historic events in this Congregation was the first final Profession of five of her members on September 23rd 1989 – Srs. Josephine Ottah, O.P., Martha Offor, O.P., Magdalene Okorie, O.P., Joan Ofuokwu, O.P. and Carol Chilaka, O.P. The occasion drew crowds from far and near and beyond continental frontiers.
Another historic event which took place in this Congregation was the first General Chapters of Elections and Affairs, which was held in September 1 – 14, 1997. Here, for the first time, the leadership team was elected by the Nigerian Dominican Membership with Sr. Francisca Igweilo,OP emerging as the first Nigerian Prioress General. The Chapter was a sure march towards autonomy. In January of 1998, the last and remaining founding member directly involved in the foundation returned to the USA.
In October 1998, the Congregation celebrated a landmark in the history of its existence – the twenty-fifth (25th) anniversary of its foundation. On January 27, 2007 the Congregation celebrated another landmark in her history, the erection of the entity to a Diocesan status. This Congregation remains grateful to his Lordship Most Rev. Kevin J. Aje, through whom this came about. The granting of the recognition came after approximately twenty-six (26) years from the time it was accepted by the church as a “Pious Union”.
The growth of the Congregation is evident in the presence the Congregation has registered in other Dioceses and Archdioceses within Nigeria and beyond-Sokoto. Abuja, Jos, Issele-uku and Makurdi and Kontogora Vicariate; the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Denver USA; the Diocese of St George’s, Grenada and the Diocese of Konongo-Mampong, Ghana. In these different ecclesiastical jurisdictions, the Sisters minister the love of Christ to all through Pastoral/grassroots evangelisation, Education, Health and Social work apostolates.
To God be the glory!