History of St. Martins Masaka
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like this: A man takes a mustard seed and sows it in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows up, it is the biggest of all plants. It becomes a tree, so that birds come and make their nests in its branches.” Matt. 13:31-32.
This passage of scripture best describes the faith experience of St. Martin’s Quasi Parish located in Masaka Karu Local government area of Nasarawa State. The church really had humble beginnings. It began most probably in 1962 at the present day St. Martin’s primary school, a Local Government managed school in Masaka. The school is located opposite ECWA church, Area I, Masaka. Settlers from southern Kaduan had located Masaka as a viable place to stay. They soon established a school for their children to learn, but they had a problem. Most of them were already Catholic converts and the Gbagis who were the original inhabitants of Masaka were evanglised by ECWA and they already had a comparatively thriving ecclesia community. The settlers therefore decided to use one of the hots constructed as a classroom for worship on Sundays. As more people migrated to Masaka, the little church grew in population. Contact was made with Keffi which already had missionary priests of the SMA working there and Masaka promptly became an outstation of St. Peter’s Keffi.
In 1973, the faithful elected for themselves a leader by name Mr. Leonard Bayero. He moved the church from the primary school to a structure constructed at his house and there the church was sited for sometime. They soon saw the need for a “real church building” and so they moved towards the roadside near Mr. Aribis comppound at what is today called “Angwa Jaba” where they built a small church and a catechist’s house. Mr. Basil Abdul became the first Catechist of St. Martin’s Msaka. All these happened in the year 1974. As the church grew i faith and size, the faithful decided to build a new church o a relatively more expansive piece of land. The settled for the present location of the the Church after attempts at oother areas failed. Rev. Fr. Donal Fennessy, the parish priest at keffi then, gave them the funds with which the acquired the piece of land.
The church continued to make slow but steady progress until 2001, when Lafia Diocese was created. With the erection of Lafia as a diocese on 31st March, 2001, the Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Ishaya Audu proclaimed St. Martin’s Masaka as an independent catholic mission on 11th June 2001 with the surrounding churches as outstations. Fr. Peter Genger was appointed priest-in-charge and as a pioneer made a lot of sacrifices for the survival and growth of the new mission. He was transferred in 2003 and replaced by fr. Marcellinus Saaondo who also gave his best to improve on what he met. He created more outstations and the central church began to have two masses each Sunday druing his time.
In 2005 Fr. Peter Asan was appointed parish priest of St. Martin’s. He created five(5) new outstations and the faith greww in Masaka. The demolition of illigal structures in Abuja by the FCT administration which was like a scorge to many in Abuja became a blessing in disguise to the church in Lafia diocese with Masaka in particular receiving thousands of people displaced by the demolitions. These people soon settled in Masaka and suddenly, St. Martin’s became a densely populated parish. Fr. Asan then saw the need and requested for an assistant priest to help care for the thousands that had relocated to Masaka. The Bishop granted his request and Fr. Lawrence Anyembugu was sent to become the first assistant priest at St. Martin’s Masaka.
In March 2009, Fr. Asan was transferred and replaced by Fr. Francis Kusah. He served as parish priest for four years four months. During his pastorship, the aprish witnessed tremendous growth. New stations emerged, Sunday masses were spread around the outstation and some outstations had their churches built.
At the parish centre, the Holy Eucharist was and is still celebrated in the morning and evening daily. He also began weeday masses at chruch of Assuption twice a week. Obviously, the workload became too much for two priests and so the parish requested for a their priest. our request was granted when on 4th August 2010, Rev Fr. Manasseh Iorchir of the Via Christi society was posted to Masaka by the Bishop as a 2nd assistant priest.
On January 8th 2011, Masaka had her first domiciled priest Fr. Bitrus Wazamda ordained for the Diocese of Lafia. He was well received and provided for to begin his mission. The parish now focused on preparation for the creation of Holy Trinity Uke as an independent mission. To the glory of God and for the growth of His church on earth the Bishop rising from the first diocesan synod elevated Holy Trinity Uke to the status of an independent mission and appointed Very Rev. Fr. Anthony Allana as its first priest-in-charge Uke Mission had to go with some of our outstations namely: Saka, Zaku, Ende, Gidan maiganga, Angwan Tofa, Uke Bus-stop, Gora, Kodape, Auta-Balaifi and Rafin Kwara.
On the same day, the Bishop created among others, St. Sylvester’s Independent Mission New-Nayanya from Holy Emmanuel Parish New- karu and appointed Our then Assistant priest, Fr. Lawerence Anyembugu as the First Priest-in-charge. This created a vacuum in our pastoral team and on 1st March 2012, Fr. Fabian C. Nwokocha was appointed assistant preist to replace Fr. Lawrence. Under the leadership of Fr. Kusah, the parish began the construction of a new church building, the foundation of the new chruch was completed before he was transfered in July 2013.
On July 22nd, 2013, Rev. Fr. Jude Maigari was appointed the new pairsh prest of St. Martin’s Masaka. Fr. Jude has constituted the parish Pastoral council and the parish now has 10 outstations namely: Kuchikau I Kuchikau II, GSS, Riverside, Jeun, Jankanwa, Luvu, Upmarket, Akwanga Junction and Saina.
To the Glory of God we can now say with St. Paul, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God made the growth.” (1Cor. 3:6) For it is the story of St. Martin’s Masaka.