The Story of the Nigeria Igbo Catholic Community Ottawa-Gatineau (NICCO)
In the late summer of 2008, a group of young Igbo Catholic Carleton University students including Adaku Ojiaku (daughter of Mrs. Bernadette Ojiaku) attended the Igbo Catholic Church in Toronto. The event left a huge impression on the students that upon her return to Ottawa, Adaku asked her mother why there was no Igbo Church in Ottawa.
At the next meeting of the Igbo Association in Ottawa-Gatineau, Mrs.Ojiaku posed the same question to the members present. The President at the time Mr. Chidi Boniface Obiorah, assigned her and Sir Emmanual Ukwu the task of carrying out a feasibility study to the effect. This became the catalyst to the birth of the Igbo Church in Ottawa.
A few months after, a divine encounter brought Mrs. Ojiaku and Fr. Paul Nwaeze (associate priest at Divine Infant Catholic Church Orleans at the time) together. Following a series of events, a meeting was organized at Sir Emmanual Ukwu’s residence to discuss the viability of an Igbo Catholic Church in Ottawa. In attendance was Fr. Paul, Mrs. Ifeoma Chinwuba (Deputy High Commissioner at the Nigeria High Commission at the time) and Fr. Emeka Adibe (a student at St. Paul’s university Ottawa at the time) and Mrs. Nkechi Ukwu. They were all in agreement that an Igbo Catholic Church should be formed in Ottawa. Modalities for the launch of the Igbo Catholic church was discussed. Following this meeting, Sir Ukwu a knight of Columbus and active member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel catholic Church on St. Laurent Blvd., Ottawa met with the Parish Council of the Church and approval was obtained from the Presiding priest to hold the mass at 1.30pm every last Sunday of the month in the church, making this location the original residence of the church. The first mass was said on February 28th, 2010. The presiding priest was Fr. Paul Nwaeze.
Subsequently a core group of members emerged who acted in multiple capacities as executive members, Church council members and financial backers of the church. They included Sir Ik Nnebe Coordinator; (who took over from Sir Ukwu – the first coordinator), Mrs. Ogochukwu Nnebe- Choir mistress, Mrs. Nwanneka Ejiofor – Secretary, Mr. Fidelis Ifedi Treasurer who took over from Mrs. Nkiru Ifedi (first Treasurer); Mrs Ojiaku – Vice President/Social Secretary and Fr. Paul Nwaeze – Chaplain. Other core members who played key supporting role in the early formation of the church include Mr. Gregory Ejiofor, Mr. Andrew Ofili and Mrs. Bridget Ofili; and Mrs. Anne Uzoagba.
The Church followed the example of the early Church. Members made donations in cash and kind to support the fledging church. There were selfless sacrifices made by members. Sometimes members donated their homes for choir practice, Fr. Paul brought back some cultural instruments from Nigeria, Fr. Tony Mary brought a suitcase full of Altar server vestments. Mr. Donatus Nnorom donated two twin drums. Mrs. Akujobi (a member of the church) on request by Mrs. Ojiaku brought the Christian Mother wrappers. Core members tasked themselves a mandatory monthly payment of $25 for reoccurring church expenses. This was used to offset the rent of $200, $60 stipend paid the presiding priest. A onetime donation of $300 was made by Mrs. Patricia Ikejiani (a friend of the church). Communal sharing of food after church was also established. Core members doubled up as choir members and assisted in maintaining the cleanliness of the church.
The Church was blessed on its first anniversary by His Grace Archbishop Terrence Prendergast – the Emeritus Archbishop of Ottawa. The Honor guard of the Knight of Columbus of Our Lady of Mount Carmel added to the pump and pageantry of the occasion. The first baptism was the Nwakanma family’s two children. Many other baptisms followed thereafter. The Church has celebrated many notable events including the 80th birthday of Mr. Mike Adibe; 60th marriage anniversary of Mr. and Mrs Nkemdirim. There have been also many funeral celebrations. Mrs. Ogochukwu Nnebe suggested the church be named Blessed Fr. Iwene Tansi. This was universally accepted.
Some of the founding members called to glory include Dr. Julius Uzoagba and Mr. Fidelis Ifedi. They shall always be remembered for their tireless contributions to the growth of the church.
Some founding priests have also left the church and moved on to other assignments. They include Fr. Tony Ibeazor, Fr. Emeka Adibe, Fr. Albanus and Fr. Chilaka. The church also shall not forget the contributions of our early pianists – Engr. Nonso Amaechi and Engr. Jullian Chukwu. The coordinators by historical order are – Sir Emmanuel Ukwu, Sir Ik Nnebe, Sir, Ben Muoka and the present coordinator Sir John Anoliefo. The current choir mistress is Mrs. Chioma Iheozor. The pianist is Mr. Solomon Agu. On October 17, 2021, the Igbo Catholic Women’s League was inaugurated. Its President is Mrs. Bernadette Ojiaku.
Past & Present Coordinators
2022 – present: Sir John Anoliefo
2019 – 2022: Sir Ben Muoka
2012 – 2019: Sir Ike Nnebe
2010 – 2012: Sir. Emmanuel Ukwu