Saturday, February 13, 2021, was a milestone for the parishioners of SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Jakande Low Cost Housing Estate, Oke Afa, Ejigbo, Lagos. It was the day the Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos, Most. Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, dedicated the newly remodeled SS. Peter and Paul church edifice. The Eucharist celebration and dedication ceremony, attended by over 50 priests, dozens of Reverend Sisters and at least two thousand lay faithful, was a solemn ceremony, conducted under strict observance of the COVID-19 regulations. Both the cleric and the lay faithful were awe-struck by the edifice of SS. Peter & Paul, whose stately architecture earned it a place in the pantheon of iconic Catholic Cathedrals, not only within the Ejigbo-Isolo axis, but in Lagos at large. From afar, its magnificence beckons: its roof, adorned with statues of Angels bearing various musical instrumentsdescribed as a “Choir of Nine Angels” is visible on the Oke-Afa skyline from all directions.
At close quarter, the structure is riveting: its main entrance is graced by statues of Saints including the Patron saints of the Church, Saints Peter and Paul. Due to its massive sizebigger than some Catholic Churches in highbrow parts of Lagos, Lekki, Ikoyi and Victoria Islandmany Catholics did not shy away from calling the edifice a basilica of some sort. What is today a masterpiece of a Catholic church had a modest beginning in 1986. At the time, Catholic faithful from various parts of Lagos State, particular parishioners of Regina Mundi, Mushin, who had relocated to a new State Government Low Cost Housing Estate in Isolo, found themselves in need of a place of worship. On August 2, eight of the faithful started a Basic Christian Community prayer meeting in the residence of Pa Christopher and Martha Asenuga, at Flat 1, Block 214 of the estate.
They erected a small shed on the farmland of the Asenuga’s, a place earmarked for recreational activities by the state government. A signpost carried the message: ¨Catholic Basic Christian Community Prayer Meeting holds every 2nd and 4th Thursdays of every month…¨ These little steps gave way to giant strides: an administrative body set up to build a “befitting Catholic Church” in the estate; an inaugural meeting of a Committee of Elders on March 2, 1988; contact with Regina Mundi and the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Phillip Hoteyin who visited on Friday, March 27; celebration of the first Mass by a visiting Ghanaian priest, Rev. Fr Nyanki during Easter tide in 1988. The shed was replaced with a small hall, while efforts were ongoing to acquire the place from the state government. In 1990, the name of the Church was settled at the meeting of the Committee of Elders.
They had written and folded names of various saints, placed them in a small bag, and after prayer to God for guidance, asked a two-year-old girl, Constance Olere Egbenya, to dip her hand into the bag and bring out one of the folded papers. Saints Peter and Paul was what was on the paper. Thus was the parish named after the two great Saints. By October 1996, the acquisition of the old site was formalized with a part payment of N40,000 towards securing the land and later the balance of N800,000. The intervention of His Grace, Cardinal (Dr.) Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, the then Archbishop of the Lagos Metropolitan See, was instrumental to the acquisition of the present site. When St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Isolo, became a parish under the Oblates of St. Joseph in 1996, SS. Peter and Paul became its first outstation. Eleven years later, on Sunday, July 22, 2007, SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church was formally elevated to a Parish by His Eminence, Archbishop Okogie. A few years later, the parishioners had mooted the idea of renovating the Church building due to structural defects.
The suggestion later escalated to ¨remodeling¨ and ¨replacement¨ by the Archbishop and Chancery, paving way for the demolition of the old Church in 2019. And two years later, an ultra-modern edifice befitting of the Catholic Church stands in its place. Members of the building committee had worked under the leadership of Parish Priest, Rev. Father Leo Onyekachi Ukwuani, OSJ, to bring to life what is now one of the Archdiocese’s iconic edifices. The dedication of the committee and the Parish Priest to the task was a reflection of the Oblates of St Joseph, known for doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways. This can be seen in how they had used the presence of Saints and Angels to add grandeur to the outlook of the Church edifice. Statues of six saints are stationed on either sides of the main entrance. On the right wing are St Joseph, SS Peter and Paul (paired) and Blessed Iwene Tansi, a Saint from Nigeria. The left wing has St Padre Pio, St Rita of Cascia and St Anthony, saints associated with miracles.
The interior is filled with religious arts that are piety-evoking. The most conspicuous is the imposing image of resurrected Christ on the altar, flanked by paintings of the Holy Family and Mother of Sorrow. On the altar also are The Transfiguration and the Assumption of Mary. Murals that depict the Mysteries of Christ Annunciation, Ascension, Baptism, Transfiguration, The Last Supper graced interior of the Church. The upper part of the hall is festooned with paintings of the Mysteries of the Rosary portrayals that help worshippers to push out mundane thoughts out of their minds and focus on the essence of being in the Church. The premises also housed other edifices that have also been recently rebuilt: dual Grotto with statues of Our Lady of Mediatrix of all Graces and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, two-storey Parish Office, two-storey halls, ultra-modern Adoration Chapel, Fountain of Divine Mercy, and convenience facility. Officially, capable of accommodating 3,000 people, the magnificent Church is at present limited to 2,500, owing to the COVID-19 protocol. A masterpiece of a basilica of a sort as many choose to call it, SS. Peter and Paul is a big boost to the Archdiocese of Lagos as it is set to. It has automatically become the venue for most Archdiocesan events, especially the Archbishop´s liturgies within Isolo and Iba deaneries.