The story of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Isolo, Lagos dates back to 1963, when Priests from Regina Mundi Catholic Church, Mushin, began celebrating Masses for a handful of the lay faithful in a man’s sitting-room at 2, Shonibare Street, Isolo, Lagos.that man was Pa Famakinwa and the priests, Rev. Frs. Fitzgerald and D. Murphy, SMA As time went on, Pa Famakinwa’s sitting room could no longer accommodate the worshippers, who kept growing in number and it became necessary to move the venue, for Mass in 1971, to a primary school at Ile-Iwe-Meta, Isolo. They later relocated to Metropolitan College, Isolo. That same year, Pa Famakinwa handed over the chairmanship band to Late Pa Rowland Oatah. By late 1979, when the then Lagos State Governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande barred religious groups from using Government Schools in Lagos State as worship centres, the Mass Centre again moved to the nearby Gideon Secondary School, with the help of Pa Oatah, a teacher at the school. As the Church made steady progress, it became difficult for priests from Regina Mundi, Mushin to go to Isolo.
Some Rev. Sisters, as well as lay faithful, such as late Pa Olofinkua and Sir Ajayi Joseph took turns to conduct communion Masses at the new out-station. Between 1980 and 1981, despite initial challenges, the land on which the present Church is built at Ire-Akari Estate Road was acquired. Within this period, a shed built with plywood and aluminum roofing was constructed, marking the cessation of worship at the Gideon Secondary School, and a new beginning for the parish. In 1981, the then Parish Priest of Regina Mundi Catholic Church, Late Rev. Fr. Jeremiah Coakley, SMA christened the budding parish, Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, and by 1982, the Church held her first harvest and bazaar. In August of 1985, His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, the then Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos Archdiocese paid a pastoral visit to Regina Mundi Catholic Church, and seized the opportunity to visit St. Mary’s Catholic Church. During this visit, on Sunday August 11, 1985, His Eminence, assisted by Rev. Fr. Murphy, performed the turning of the sod of the present Church, while the blessing, laying of blocks and relics of saints at the cornerstones and altar plaque was performed by Rev. Fr. Philip Hoteyin, on June, 1986.
At the anniversary celebration of the Parish, tagged,“Celebrating God’s goodness” (1 Tim. 6:18-19), Very Rev. Fr. Ethelbert Arua,OSJ, Provincial Superior, Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Province urged Nigerians not to lose hope in the face of difficulties and challenges confronting the country, He advised Nigerians to continue to pray for God’s intervention in the affairs of their country According to Fr. Arua, when St Mary became a parish in 1996, nobody knew that on this day, they will be gathering to celebrate. He said: “When we came here, it was only the uncompleted Church and the Parish House that was there, thank God, today, here we are. So, it is a journey of faith, even though things are difficult, socially, politically, economically, and otherwise, let us not lose hope. Let us continue to pray that God will renew each and every one of us, and at the same time, renew our country, and the face of the earth.
“As part of the jubilee, which is renewal, consolidation and so many good things, we are praying for the renewal of our country. This renewal beginning with us as individuals; as Christians, that we are renewed, so that we can assist the Holy Spirit in renewing the face of the earth. Speaking on the plans of the Oblates of St. Joseph when the parish was handed over to them 25 years ago, and how far that plan has been actualsed in terms of growing the women, the men, and the youths, he said:“Going by our Charism as Oblates of St. Joseph, which is to seek and work for the interest of Jesus, our apostolate includes youth apostolate and parish apostolate, and then, helping the local clergy. So, when the Oblates of St. Joseph came here, we took over from what is in our constitution, charism and apostolate and developed that.
That’s why all through the years, we have been particular about youth apostolate, assisting the youth, helping them to grow to full mature human persons, and then, in a special way, Christians, developing their personality as human beings, and then, becoming genuine and authentic Christians. “We have done that through seminars and conferences. We have also done that through empowerment of the youth, then, through the parish also, and through the congregation.We have been able to train so many youths. There are also so many children that are from poor families, who we have taken up to train. An example is one that was trained through secondary school to university level that won the Africa Magic Award twice. He was trained by the CWO here, under the auspices of the parish.
So, there are so many of them that have really benefited educationally and otherwise. So, it’s our charism and apostolate. So, the long plan is that whatever we are as Oblates of St. Joseph, this apostolate is very much indicated in our pastoral life. .For Rev. Fr. Phillip Eguniwe OSJ, Parish Priest, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, it is a joyful experience, as he recounts the Joy of the people when they became a Parish 25 years ago. He said: “The first day they came, the key missionaries, then one just finished SS 3, and came to Lagos. The Joy that filled the people that day for becoming a Parish, from there, the parish started growing, under the pastoral guidance of Oblates of St. Joseph, a religious congregation, founded by St. Joseph Marello. “Since then, they have been working here.
With this joyful moment, we pray for the repose of the first Parish Priest, Fr. Mario Cueto, OSJ, who passed on last year. We pray also for the three assistants who worked here, who have died, Fr. John Marchiaro, OSJ, Fr. Joseph Ntuakpaoyi, OSJ, and Fr. Cyril Nwamu, OSJ. And also, we pray for the healing of Fr. Dorit Sylvester, OSJ, the second Parish Priest, who is currently sick. We thank God for the journey of the parish so far, for what God is doing, have done, and is still doing in the life of the parishioners and in the life of the parish. “It’s a joyful feeling, a happy feeling, a feeling of gratitude and gratefulness to God, for the opportunity of being part of this celebration.” According to Fr. Egbuniwe, they are celebrating a jubilee, and itemized the fruits of a jubilee celebration, which includes, abundance, inheritance, protection, deliverance, blessing, and other fruits noted in the book of Leviticus 25.
“So, the parishioners are celebrating the seven fruits of the jubilee, thanking God for the opportunity, and because of the joy of these moment, we also brought back old members of the parish who have relocated or transferred from this place. They are all gathered to rejoice with us, and for us. And all of us are very happy for the journey so far. Delivering his homily on the occasion, Rev. Fr. Bonaventure Asibi, noted that a true disciple, a child of God should trust and obey God, aswell as entrust all situations to God, as he assured that that being the case, the people are not going to be assailed or overcome by difficulties. He noted that jubilee moments are moments of personal freedom, and that the concept of jubilee was meant to liberate people from everything that separates them from God.