Billiri Mission, called St Andrew’s Parish in Bauchi State, Nigeria was founded by SMA’s in 1953. It was the first parish established in an area that would later become part of Bauchi Diocese, whose first Bishop was the late and much missed, John Moore SMA. This year the Parish is 70 years old and in addition to the main Mission located in Kalmai there are 12 out-station churches. Back in the 1950’s Billiri Mission covered a much larger area but since then the church has grown and in the intervening years what was one Parish has now divided into four.
The parish is in a predominantly an agricultural area, with the population of around 2,500 Catholics. We have other Christian denominations like ECWA, Living Faith, Methodist Church, Anglican Church, Assemblies of God Church, Lutheran Church, Redeem Christian Church, just to mention but a few.
Help from our Friends: Recently, thanks to a grant from the Irish SMA Province we were, as shown in the photograph, able to install a 5KVA solar light that powers the rectory and the Church for our worship. Another important blessing the Solar system brought to us was on the aspect of security, we now have security lights around the house and the parish. Again, before now, we practically would live in the dark at night. More so, with the advent of light around the parish, we have activities in the evening into the night. After parishioners come home from their daily work in the farm, market or at school they can come to the Mission and engage in Church activities. For young people it is also a boon – students come to study, learn, practice and pray in their different youth groups and Church societies.
Before this project came about, we rarely had a mains supply electricity in the area. Instead we relied on generators, powered by expensive diesel fuel for a few hours each night. We also had to maintain the equipment and this, along with the cost of fuel, was a drain on our resources. With the advent of the Solar system, we have been saved from the task of buying fuel, the noise pollution, air pollution, and the cost of maintenance every week. We are grateful to the Irish Province and to friends in Ireland whose donations provided this important resource for our Parish.
Helping Ourselves: We also raise our own resources to support parish activities. One project is growing Ground Nuts, also known as Peanuts. We can do this because of the sandy nature of the land here, and also because groundnuts can thrive without fertilizer, which we cannot afford. Parishioners provide the labour to do the planting, weeding and harvesting. Then they come together to shell the peanuts and prepare them for selling in the Market. The proceeds supplement the Parish income and help to cover running costs. In addition, on Thanksgiving Sundays, families also support the Church with other produce like corn, beans, soya beans, rice and yams. This communal work and collaboration reflect our Parish Motto: One Big Happy Family.
In these ways – by our faith, with help from friends and by working together to help ourselves the Parish begun by Irish SMA’s long ago continues to flourish today.
In conclusion, we so grateful to God for the great support we got from the Irish Province. We ask him to continue to bless the work of your hands especially our benefactors and benefactresses. We equally thank him for the gift our faith, strength and family spirit he’s given us in the parish to be able to cultivate and harvest something to build his house. May the name of the Lord be praised both now and forever.
Our thanks to Fr Sam Ebute SMA, the Parish Priest of St Andrews Parish for the information and photographs in this article.
If you would like to help the SMA Irish Province support similar parish projects in Africa you can do so via the donation button on the Homepage by contributing to the General Donation Fund.