The MSP presence in the United States started as a partnership with the American St. Joseph’s Society of the Sacred Heart (the Josephites), a community of priests and brothers established in 1871 to serve the African American Catholic Community. It all began in 1981 with a letter of appeal from the Late Fr. James Sheerin, SPS, the then Vocations/Promotion Director of the National Missionary Seminary of St Paul to the Josephites. In the letter he enclosed news clipping of the origins of the National Missionary Seminary of St. Paul that was just four years old. Fr John Filipelli, the Superior General of the- Josephites (1979-1987) responded by sending a donation to help renovate the seminary Chapel. Being conscious of the decline of vocations in his community, Fr. Filipelli wrote: "I would be very interested in the possibility of, some of your missionaries in the future helping us in our apostolate among the Blacks in America."
After series of discussions between the two groups, the Missionary Society of St. Paul eventually made a commitment to send missionaries to the United States. The Josephites, sent Fr Peter Hogan to our seminary in Nigeria in 1985 to give a workshop on the African American Apostolate in America. This was a good way of preparing our candidates for the priesthood for mission in the United States.
The first three MSP priests, Frs. Anthony Afangide, Felix Elosi and Vincent Inametti arrived in Baltimore on October 19, 1986. They had an orientation, and were assigned to Josephites' parishes in Houston on November 8, 1986. Priests of the Missionary Society of St. Paul initially worked only in Josephites’ parishes. The first parish handed over to the Missionary Society of St. Paul was St. Martin de Porres, Barrett Station in the Archdiocese of Galveston/Houston on October 1, 1992.
The Missionary Society of St. Paul which came at the invitation of the Josephite Fathers initially for the African American Apostolate, today, has extended its ministry also to some predominantly White (Caucasian) and Hispanic churches in the United States. At present there are, officially, 45 priests of the Society working in eighteen dioceses in the United States in parish ministries, university and hospital chaplaincies
For easy coordination of the MSP activities in the United States, the Superior General of the Missionary Society of St. Paul and his Council appoints a local superior for the mission. The following are the local superiors of MSP in the United States since 1986:
Fr. Anthony Afangide, MSP - 1986 – 1994
Fr. Felix Elosi, MSP - 1994 - 1995
Fr. Paul Ofoha, MSP - 1995 – 2001
Fr. Raphael Asika, MSP - 2001 – 2007
Fr. Desmond Ohankwere, MSP - 2007 - 2011
In October 2011 the American Region of the Missionary Society of St Paul was Created with Fr Desmond Ohankwere, MSP as its first Regional Superior.Fr Desmond Ohankwere, MSP - 2011 - 2014
We are a young missionary community in the church. Without the prayers, friendship and material support of dedicated men and women where we work, our success story would not be complete. These lay Catholic men and women whom we call Associate Missionaries of St. Paul are our worthy collaborators. Even though many of these friends have been with us since we began ministry in the United States, it was not until January 25, 2007 that the first group of friends took their Solemn Admission as Associate Missionaries of St. Paul at St. Peter the Apostle in Houston, Texas.
We have formally inaugurated the Associate Missionaries of St. Paul in the following parishes in the Archdiocese of Galveston/Houston: St. Peter the Apostle, St. Martin de Porres, St. Philip Neri, St. Nicholas, St. Anne de Beaupre, and St. Francis of Assisi. We also have the Associates in St. Benedict the Moor (Savannah diocese); Sacred Heart/St. Mary Parish, Port Arthur (Beaumont Diocese), St. Catherine of Siena in Donaldsonville, LA, and St. Benedict the Moor in Napoleonville, LA (both in Baton Rouge diocese), St Bartholomew Yonkers, NY. These associates pray for our priests and our missions. They make financial contributions to support our work in the missions and to sponsor our seminarians preparing for the missionary priesthood. Some of them have even gone on mission trips to Nigeria and will be making trips to other places where the Missionary Society of St. Paul priests are working in the near future.
In order to help raise awareness of our involvement in the missionary work of the church in the United States, our Mission Development Office (MDO) was created in 1994. The office started at St. Martin de Porres Church in Barrett Station with Fr. Joseph Uko, MSP as director. It was moved to its present location in Houston on October 1, 1997. Fr. Matthias Selemobri, MSP became director of the office in 1999 until June 30, 2009. Fr. Felix Ilesanmi Osasona, MSP, became the director from 1999-2017 and on November 1, 2015, Fr Aloysius Nzekwe, MSP become the director of the office till present. The MDO also coordinates the activities of the Associate Missionaries of St. Paul in America.
Part of the mission awareness program is done in collaboration with the office of the Propagation of the Faith of various dioceses in the country in a program called the Mission Cooperative Plan. During the summer, we visit churches assigned to us by willing dioceses and talk about our missionary activities and the needs of our missionaries especially in Africa. Donations received through this program support our pastoral activities, the training of seminarians in our seminary in Nigeria, caring for orphans, victims of war, and also in educating children in our missions.
We are grateful to God for the early missionaries He sent to Nigeria in the 1800s to sow the seed of faith. We are privileged to be missionaries from Nigeria now sharing the faith with our brothers and sisters around the world. We are particularly thankful for these 30 years of ministry in the United States of America. Together with our lay associates, faithful parishioners and friends, the Missionary Society of St. Paul will continue to bring the message of Christ to the ends of the world as Jesus commanded.