Brief History of St. John Catholic Parish Rumuokwurusi
St. John’s Catholic Church Rumuokwurusi, Port Harcourt, is located in an ancient community of Rumuokwurusi, in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, the Southern part of Nigeria. In 1920, the community of Rumuokwurusi witnessed the advent of Catholicism. But then, the first Holy Mass was celebrated in St. John’s Catholic Parish Rumuokwurusi in the year 1948 in a small thatched house, and was given the name St. John’s Catholic Church, located behind the then Evo Micro Finance Bank Rumuokwurusi with mud molded seats. The mass was celebrated by Rev. Fr. Darcy (an Irish Priest). The church was elevated to parish level in 1955, and the first Parish Priest was Fr. O’Connor.
The pioneer members at the time were;
- Late Mr. Simon Ukachukwu (Ihiala)
- Late Mr. Cyprian Ohiaeri (Orlu)
- Late Mr. John Nwabasi (Anambra)
- Late Mr. James Amaobi (Orlu)
- Late Mr. Dominic Uzowaku (Orlu)
- Late Mr. P.N. Udoh (Ogidi)
- Late Mr. Jeremiah Worgu (Rumuokwurusi).
These members, their families and a few families of Worgu and Ihunwo from Rumuokurusi, formed the initial members of St. Catholic Church Rumuokwurusi, being dominated by non natives before the coming of the Shell expatriate staff led by late Chief Victor Echeruo. Rev. Fr. Dowels was the priest overseeing St, John and St. Mary Aggrey Road.
In the early 1940s, a primary school was introduced and this was known as St. John’s Primary School, which had only standard one to four. Rev. Fr. Dolyn was the visiting priest in-charge, but left in 1943, because of the 2nd world war of 1939-1945. Before his departure he described St. John as a mustard seed that will grow and develop. Looking at the size of St. John’s today, his prophesy has come to be manifest. The church and school used the same building for worship and classes, as school operate from Monday to Friday, while masses were only on Sundays.The early worshippers of St. John’s were able to build the teachers quarters as well as dormitory for pupils with mud and thatch and this was located where we have the Sisters’ of the Handmaid convent. They also built a room with thatched and mud house where the visiting priest kept his things during the mass, since they were all expatriate priests and they were coming from St. Mary’s Port Harcourt.
In 1949, the foundation of the church building was laid under Rev. Frs. Ring and O’Connor who were alternating with Bishop Whelan overseeing all while P.N. Udoh was supervising the construction of the building. The new church building was a modern burnt brick building with corrugated iron roof which stands till date and is currently used as one of the class rooms for community primary school II Rumuokurusi. The building project was through community labour. But now our church is handled by building engineers through contract negotiations. Our plan to sustain church structures in our parish is demonstrated by the following:
Surveying and registering them with government ministry of land and housing. By the use of long lasting materials-iron aluminum roofs, iron rods, cement, etc.
In 1955, P.N. Udoh, Chief Echeruo, Mr. Ambrose Allagoa (later His Royal Highness Minigi XII of Nembe) and late Jeremiah O. Worgu a native met with late Bishop John Mary Okoye of the blessed memory and requested that St. John’s Church be upgraded to a parish. Their request was granted, and Rev.Fr. Flen an Irish Priest was made the Parish Priest. When he left, Rev.Fr. Darcy took over the parish and served till the out-break of Nigerian civil war in 1967.
In 1962, the foundation of the present day church building was laid by Bishop Okoye, the then Bishop of Port Harcourt, with the contributions of the then outstations; St. Pius X Iriebe, St. Patrick Elelenwo, Mater Misericordiae Rumuomasi, St. Augustine Umuebulu, St. Paul’s Oyibo and the Shell Darcy staff. Then, in 1965, late Bishop Okoye dedicated the church to St John the Apostle. Shell Darcy authority made provision of all the pews in the church which are still in use till date. It will be interested to note that the building and the pews of the church was not vandalized as was the case of the then outstations
At the end of the Nigerian civil war, precisely in 1970, the church and parishioners were rehabilitated by Rev.Fr. Crowley an Irish priest who took over the nurturing of the infant parish. He evangelised the few natives and won many souls for Christ. At that time also, Rev.Fr. Joseph Kabari came from Sacred Heart Seminary to help in celebrating masses from time to time. When Fr. Crowley left, Fr. Longworth took over the administration of the parish. He made spiritual effort for the spiritual growth of the church, by appointing some natives like M.T. Wodi and Anthony Worgu as narrators during the Eucharistic celebration to help the natives understand things about the mass.
In 1992, Rev.Fr. (Dr). Cyprian Onwuli took over the parish from Fr. Noel McGenneey and contributed immensely towards the development and expansion of the parish by carving out many parishes. Before the Nigerian civil war, St. Paul’s Oyibo and St. Augustine Umuebulu were both outstations of St. John’s parish Rumuokwurusi in the Diocese of Port Harcourt. Later, the parish gave birth to St. James Eneka, Mater Misericordiae Rumuomasi, St. Pius X Iriebe, St. Joseph Igbo-Etche, St. Jude Rumuokoro, Holy Family Woji, SS. Peter & Paul Elelenwo, Chapel of Annunciation Uniport Choba, Church of Nativity Oroigwe, Church of Assumption Igbo-Etche Housing Estate, Church of Visitation Atali, and Blessed Tansi Church New Rumuokwurusi Pipeline.
As initially mentioned, Anthony Worgu and Ihunwo families were the only catholic families in the community that was predominantly Anglican. The church continued to grow from strength to strength, and the population of the worshipping community exploded to over 7,000 persons which resulted to the need of having a new church building. The foundation laying ceremony of the new church building took place on the 16th day of October, 2004. This was preceded by a robust and well organized new church building launching. However, the completion of this building project was stalled following two unforeseen incidences. There was a demand by Rumuejiminehwu clan, landlords of St. John’s parish and the indigenes of Rumuokwurusi asking that the parish vacate the landed property, following the expiration of the ninety-nine/ one hundred year lease agreement between the Catholic Diocese of Port Harcourt and the Rumuejiminehwu clan of Rumuokwurusi, the land owners of the present day St. John’s Catholic Church Rumuokurusi. Consequently, the parishioners had to dialogue with the landlords and negotiated for outright purchase of the said premises. The parishioners braised up, girded their loins, tied their sandals and each family/person proceeded to buy up the land space per square metre and many, if not all, at least purchased a square meter for Christ. This is one of the greatest achievements of the Pastor and Parishioners among so many at that time.
Other priests that have worked in the Parish as Parish Priests include:
- Rev. Fr. Doley
- Rev. Fr. Knight
- Rev. Fr. Murphy
- Rev. Msgr. Peter Ohochukwu
- Rev. Fr. Dumphy
- Rev. Fr Frank Kirwan
- Rev. Fr. Brianngen
- Rev. Fr. M. Crowley CM
- Rev. Fr. W. Clarke CM
- Rev. Fr. Longworth
- Rev. Fr. Browne
- Rev. Fr. Charles Oferemba
- Rev. Fr. Noel McGeeney
- Rev. Msgr. Cyprian Onwuli (1992-2010)
- Rev. Fr. Clement Dekoo (2010-2017)
- Rev. Fr. Martin Amadi (2017, till date)
Assistant Parish Priests include:
- Rev. Fr. Livinus Nagbi
- Rev. Fr. Eric Bien
- Rev. Fr. Charles Berebon
- Rev. Fr. Kelvin Agbakolom
- Rev. Fr. Felix Bornwin
- Rev. Fr. Magnus Kinika
- Rev. Fr. Gabriel Anagbaoso
- Rev. Fr Patrick Vareba
- Rev. Fr. Godspower Amele
- Rev. Fr. Aloysius Ugoh
- Rev. Fr. Jonah Eluke
- Rev. Fr. Simeon Ayaraekpe (2017, till date)
The former Catechists include:
- Late Mr. Anyanwu
- Late Mr. Jude Okoro
- Late Mr. Damian Ugwumba
- Mr. Verissimo Anthony
The present Catechists include:
- Mr. Onyewuche Erasmus Okey
- Mr. John C. Ukor
- Mr. Martin Ogueri
The Lay Associations/Societies
The Lay Associations/Societies of the Parish are; CMO, CWO, CYON, CBIU, ASH, LECTORS, BLESSED FR. TANSI, HOLY FAMILY, GUILD OF ST. ANTHONY, ST. VINCENT DE PAUL, LEGION OF MARY, INFANT JESUS, MOTHER OF PERPETUAL HELP, BLOCK ROSARY, ST. JUDE, PURGATORIAN, JDPCC, CHILREN HELPING CHILDREN, CCRN, CHOIR (ST. CECILIA, YOUTH AND CHILDREN), DAUGHTERS OF MERCY, CHURCH WARDENS, MOD, CULTURAL COMMUNITIES/ GROUPS, DISCIPLES OF MERCY, ALTER SERVERS ASSOCIATION, LEAGUE OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS.
Actualizing the dreams of the both past and present priests of the parish and that of the parishioners, the church now has a church building, whose foundation was laid on the 16th day of October, 2004.
The parish, through a witness committee was able to create over thirteen Basic Christian Communities, also known as the BBC Zones. The BBC Zones serves as a forum for evangelization, learning more about our faith and church, and also uniting parishioners in love. On the 24th of November, 2014, three of the BBC Zones were raised to Mass centres. They are; Mother of Perpetual Help Rumuibekwe, St. Jude Thaddeus Elelenwo, St. Anthony East-West Road Rumuodara. The parish is known for her slogan: ST. JOHN’S FAMILY: FOR LOVE OF GOD AND NEIGHBOR.
Parish Priest, Assistant Parish Priest and some parishioners