Pankshin: Nigeria’s 56th diocese is born

In a News Report published by FIDES – the News Agency for the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, we learnt that Pope Francis has erected the new Diocese of Pankshin, in Nigeria, with territory taken from the Archdiocese of Jos and the Diocese of Shendam, making it a suffragan of the metropolitan of Jos. The date of its erection is 18 March 2014.

It is the 56th ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Nigeria (9 Archdioceses, 44 dioceses, 2 Apostolic Vicariates and the Maronite Catholic Apostolic Exarchate). Shendam was the first stop for the missionaries who began the work of evangelization in this part of Nigeria on 12 February 1907.

On February 12th, after six days of struggle through elephant grass, rough bush, swamps and having crossed the Shemanker River six times, they had their first look at Shendam, built on a slope on the other side of the river. It was a small walled town of one street to which they were welcomed by the Long Goemai and his people – poor people who gave a great welcome to the strangers, including some of their huts until the missionaries could have their own accommodation.” Read more about the start of the Catholic Church in Shendam.

The Pope appointed Fr. Michael Gobal Gokum of the clergy of Jos, Administrator of the Pro-Cathedral Our Lady Queen of Nigeria, in the Archdiocese of Abuja as first Bishop of Pankshin.

Fr. Michael Gobal Gokum, was born on February 18, 1964, in Kadyis, Pankshin Local Government Area in Plateau State, Archdiocese of Jos. After attending local schools, in 1978 he entered the St. Augustine Major Seminary, in Jos, where he studied Philosophy and Theology (1984-1991). He was ordained a priest on November 16, 1991 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Fatima, and incardinated in the Archdiocese of Jos.

In 1995, at the request of the Archbishop of Abuja, he was transferred to the archdiocese as fidei donum priest. Since his ordination he has served in a number of pastoral, administrative and academic roles:

1991-1994: Pastor of St. Mary’s Tafawa Balewa, Bauchi State;
1995-1996: Pastor of St. Theresa’s Parish, Bwari, Abuja;
1996-2002: Pastor of Murumba Parish, Igu, Abuja; President of the catechetical Commission of the Archdiocese and Chaplain of the Catholic Women Association;
2002-2004: Studies for a Licentiate in Ecumenism at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome;
2005-2006: Pastor of the Immaculate Conception parish, Abuja;
2006-2012: Pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul parish, Nyanya, Abuja;
since 2012: Administrator of the Pro-Cathedral in Abuja Our Lady Queen of Nigeria, Dean of the Deanery of Garki, archdiocesan Director for the teaching of Catechism and Chaplain for the youth of the archdiocese.

The new diocese of Pankshin is composed of five Civil districts of Pankshin, Kanke, Bokkos, Mangu and Kanam. It is a suffragan of the ecclesiastical province of Jos. The Holy Cross is the Cathedral church of Pankshin, whose liturgical feast falls on 14 September.

Read a report on Shendam’s Centenary celebrations in 2007.