Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Anyogu, John Cross

Catholic Church

John Cross Anyogu was a Nigerian clergyman who, on 9 June 1957, became the first member of his Igbo community to be consecrated a Roman Catholic bishop. He was also the first Igbo to be ordained a priest in 1930 and the first bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu which was created in 1963, the year of his installation. Through his efforts Enugu became a very important Catholic mission center overseeing several thousand Christians in and around the town. His parish has the largest concentration of Catholics in Nigeria, second only to Owerri parish.

He was born on 11 March 1898 in Onitsha, near an early missions settlement on the bank of the River Niger some 96 kilometers from Enugu. His parents, Jacob and Ama Fatima Anyogu, were prominent worshippers at the Onitsha mission where their contribution to its growth, both as a base for European missionaries arriving in Nigeria as well as a training ground for prospective priests, was well known. Their offspring John was not slow in noticing this dedication for by 1912, when he was only 14 he too had resolved to serve God. “As my new year’s resolution,” he wrote to his father on 1 January 1912, “I want to serve God all my life. I want to be a priest.” His father took the matter up with the European priests at the mission asking whether an African could become a priest. The positive response led to John and his brother Luke being sent to England in March 1913 for training.

John had attended the Holy Trinity School at Onitsha for his elementary education. In 1912 he passed what was then Standard VI as well as the Junior Civil Entrance Examinations, which showed his exemplary brilliance.

In Britain he studied at the Junior Seminary of St. Mary’s in Grange-over-Sands in the industrial Lancashire belt. Five years later, he went to Ireland to read philosophy in Dubin and graduated with distinction.

He returned to Nigeria in 1919 to continue his studies for the priesthood at Onitsha; he was among the first crop of priests to graduate from the Igbariam Seminary. In addition to his studies there John Anyogu taught Latin to junior seminarians, using his own quarters as a makeshift classroom. Also during this period, in 1922, he was sent to Ogoja, some 320 kilometers from Onitsha–a distance he did on foot to spread the gospel. Then on 8 December 1930 he was ordained at Onitsha by Bishop Shanahan, at the age of 32, becoming the first priest from Eastern Nigeria.

Father Anyogu was first assigned to the Adazi parish as a curate. He served there for five years before being relocated to take charge of Nnewi parish. In 1940 he went to Idah, a town in the southern part of northern Nigeria, from whence he was posted to Oguta in 1948. The following year Anyogu was transferred to Nteje where, in addition to other mission duties, he taught the Igbo language to Irish priests.

In 1956 he was he was honoured by the British queen, Elizabeth II, with the Order of the British Empire (OBE). A year later, on 9 June 1957, Father Anyogu was consecrated bishop. Subsequently, he was installed bishop of Enugu on 15 January 1963, the first bishop of the new diocese. Before his death on 5 July 1967, the diocese of Enugu had become an important Catholic center, not only for the eastern region for which it was the administrative headquarters, but also for Nigeria as a whole.


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