The history of the MSP in the United Kingdom was borne out of the initial call of Pope Paul V1 in Kampala, Uganda in 1969 for Africa to be missionary. The call of Pope Paul V1 inspired Cardinal Dominic Ekandem to initiate the founding of the Missionary Society of St Paul and the Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria established the Missionary Society of St Paul in 1977. The Conference entrusted the Seminary formation of the young congregation to the St Patrick's Missionary Society. On Mission Sunday of 1986, the Congregation sent the first missionaries to Africa and The United States of America.
The Founding Fathers created the office of the Vocations/Promotions, and appointed Very Rev James Sherrin of St Patrick's Society, who was serving in Abakaliki Diocese as Director. He joined the Seminary staff in 1980 and led the awareness campaign within and outside Nigeria until 1993. As an experienced missionary and campaigner, Fr Sherrin covered the length and breadth of Nigeria, other parts of Africa, Europe and America where he engaged with bishops and conferences of bishops on the need to support the new congregation. Fr Sherrin had a successful campaign and completed his assignment in 1993.
On completing his assignment with the MSP, Fr Sherrin was assigned to England by his Superior General to fundraise for his congregation. During his appeal programmes for his congregation, he also created awareness of the young Missionary Society of St Paul. While he arranged mission appeals, he invited MSP priests to join him to talk about the congregation. He also secured supply places for the MSP priests on studies and on holiday. In 1997/98, Frs. Moses Amune, who was a student in Ireland and Emmanuel Efodigbue who was serving in Liberia were one of those MSP priests who came under the auspices of Fr Sherrin. While Fr Moses helped the Parish of Liechfield in Birmingham Archdiocese, Fr Emmanuel helped at St Bernard’s Parish Shirehampton, Bristol in Clifton Diocese. Both of them, and other MSP priests had the charisma that drew the attention of the priests and laity, who wanted them to remain and work in the UK. This window of opportunity inspired Fr Sherrin to approach the Archbishop of Birmingham, Bishop of Clifton and Archbishop of Southwark for the pastoral presence of the Missionary Society of St Paul.
The contacts made by Fr Sherrin yielded fruit, and in 2000, The Rt. Rev. Mervyn Alexander (Bishop of Clifton) and The Most Rev. Michael Bowen (Archbishop of Southwark) formally invited the Missionary Society of St Paul to their respective diocese.
Very Rev. Fr. Felix Elosi, MSP (Superior General) received the invitation of the two bishops with joy and in the same year assigned Rev Cosmas Ikirodah to Clifton Diocese and appointed him the Local Superior; and Rev Addison Okpeh to Southwark Archdiocese. Frs. Cosmas and Addison arrived in February and June of 2000 respectively. While Fr Cosmas was appointed to St Nicholas’ Parish; Tolintino Bristol to assist Fr McKay, Fr Addison was appointed to St George’s Cathedral, Southwark to assist Canon James Cronin the parish priest. Mgr. Richard Moth (Vicar General of Southwark), Fr McKay and Canon Cronin were all handy in supporting them to adapt and integrate into the English culture. The MSP spirit guided them to build up the MSP Community despite the distance that separated them, so that through fraternal charity that was inspired by true community life and brotherhood they reached each other for support.
They also received the support of Fr. Anthony Adaji (now Bishop) who was on studies at the time and Fr Augustine Ogar another student in Rome on supply.
In 2002, Archbishop Michael Bowen made further request for more priests. The Superior General, Very Rev. Hyacinth Egbebo (now Bishop) responded by appointing Rev Eustace Durugbo and Rev Casmir Dike, who arrived in August and October 2002 respectively to join Fr Addison Okpeh. Fr Eustace Durugbo was initially assigned to St. Simon of Stock Parish, Putney. He received tremendous support from Canon Richard Quinlan. In 2003, he was appointed assistant priest and assistant Chaplain to St. Boniface’s Parish Tooting and St George’s Hospital Chaplaincy, Tooting respectively. Fr Casmir Dike was appointed assistant priest to Canon Joe Collins at St Mary’s Parish, Croydon. The MSP history in United Kingdom will be incomplete without Fr Tom Ryan SPS, who was Spiritual Director at the MSP Formation House and Seminary. He gave us the necessary support, and made available to us the St Patrick’s Community House at East Molesley, which became a second home to us.
In 2003, Bishop Declan Lang appointed Fr Cosmas Ikirodah as parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish Lawrence Weston, Bristol. In 2005, The Most Rev Kevin McDonald (Archbishop of Southwark) entrusted two parishes to the Missionary Society of St Paul and appointed Very Rev Eustace Durugbo as parish priest and Fr Casmir Dike as assistant of Our lady of the Assumption Deptford; and appointed Fr Addison Okpeh as parish priest of St Gertrude Parish, Bermondsey.
Like the early apostles of Jesus who ventured out into open to preach after the Resurrection of Jesus, the four pioneers reached out to other dioceses to tell the stories about the work and mission of the Congregation. Their story resonated in seven other dioceses of England and Wales and Scotland. Leeds (2005), Northampton (2005), Westminster (2006), Portsmouth (2008), Wrexham (2008), Birmingham (2012) and Scotland, Dunkeld (2014). The Congregation is actively present in ten dioceses of England and Wales and Scotland.
The MSP UK Region has witnessed a steady growth in the number of personnel. In the last 15 years, the Region has recorded thirty-nine priests. However, over the period, six priests have been transferred out of the Mission. Currently there are 33 priests of the Congregation engaged in parish-based, school and hospital apostolates in the United Kingdom.