A life serving the Dagombas in Ghana
Interview of our confrere Olivier Lecestre by KTO (French Catholic Television)
A look at the small Christian communities in the North of this West African country. Father Olivier Lecestre, Missionary of Africa, spent almost 50 years there, in the footsteps of the first White Fathers who arrived in Ghana in 1906. He was in Tamale, in the North, and had a parish ministry among the Dagombas, an ethnic group with a Muslim majority. He was involved in a long process of translating the Sunday readings into the Dagombas’ language, Dagbani, to train lay leaders in the villages. The Church has also developed schools, agricultural projects, and works for inter-religious dialogue, a factor for peace in the region. Father Lecestre was delighted to see a small church blossom over the years.
Bapuoh Pascal, M.Afr. – Taken from Ghana-Nigeria Link of November 2020
Nobody knows tomorrow. Who could believe that the year 2020 was going to be destabilised by a deadly disease called coronavirus? Who could believe that people were going to experience social distancing and self-quarantine? Who could believe that in 2020 countries were going to experience a total or partial lockdown? Who could believe that in this year churches, markets, social gathers and airports were going to be closed down, and the movement of people restricted for many months? Who could believe that wearing of face masks was going to be introduced as part of our dress code in 2020? For the younger generation in the 21st century, this is an experience that has never been thought possible. For others, the year 2020 is a sinister year when the wickedness of some people led to the destruction of vital lives, households, enterprises, countries and livelihood. Yet for others, the controversy of 2020 sends a signal that human beings should assume their rightful places as human beings, and leave God in his rightful place. Man is not God neither thinks for Him.
Prior to leaving for Congo, I stayed back at home for about six months without having an active interaction with people. I watched information on the television on how Covid-19 was devastating the world, I listened to the cry of families who were being destroyed by the Covid-19 pandemic and I watched the number of people being buried every day due to coronavirus pandemic… And so, I asked myself what life was all about. I asked myself what else could life be. I asked myself what the essence of life is all about.
The coronavirus pandemic imposes a deep reflection on the essence of life. Life is a precious entity received graciously from God, it is very precious and sacred. And therefore one needs to take care of it. Yes, Covid-19 has destroyed any joy in the year 2020. Indeed it has been a natural massacre where lives, properties and economy have been annihilated. It has been a time when we needed the words of Psalm 121:1-2 to comfort the broken-hearted; “I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”. That cry from the psalmist has been the hopeful prayer of the broken-hearted, the desperate and the less privileged who could not receive full medical attention. That has been the prayer of many presidents, religious leaders, medical personnel and other social activists whose professional interventions were not yielding them the desired outcome. That has been the prayer coming from the depth of children’s hearts who witnessed their parents dying. That has been the prayer of family members who had to bury their relatives, loved ones and friends in terrible conditions. That has been the prayer of many people who had lost hope in their lives, who had lost almost all their relatives. That is a prayer that makes many people go on their knees and cry out from their hearts.
As coronavirus imposed a natural suffering, other people worsened the suffering of people by manipulating the prices of the things they were selling. Some merchants fell in the fraudulent merchandising practices that the prophet Amos condemned in his book (Amos 8:5-6) where merchants, in a great eagerness to profit from the situation, cheated on their unfortunate customers with bad products and dishonest scales. The poor had to comply with the unjust rise of the cost of products so as to survive. Some other people enriched themselves from the deplorable situation of the poor. False coronavirus medicines were fabricated and sold at high costs. In the name of the poor and those affected with Covid-19, many projects were written and are now being sponsored. Countries and individuals received funds to help alleviate the situation of those who were affected, but how many of these poor people and Covid-19 affected people were helped, especially in Africa? Maybe, a handful. Personal Protective Equipment destined for fighting against Covid-19 has been sold out illegally by hospitals and in health centres. Projects that have been written and sponsored for the purpose of helping a given community to fight against coronavirus remain a utopia. Beneficiaries do not even know that their deplorable situation had been used by some people to search for money to enrich themselves.
As people with a good heart tried to help fight against this pandemic, others with a thirst of enriching themselves thwarted the efforts of these well-intended people. Coronavirus controversy. As cases of affected people keep on rising, that twists the hearts of many people to ask a litany of questions.
Is coronavirus (though real) a political propaganda? Are some individuals and countries using the relieve aid for their own political rallies and personal propaganda?
Will a country be honest enough to publish to its citizens the total aid received from people and groups, and indicate clearly and truthfully how this aid has been utilised? Will it be a paper narration or an evidence that everyone can see? Covid19 has not only called us to show solidarity, but it has equally called our political leaders to be serious with the citizens of their countries, especially to enhance the health facilities in their countries. The year 2020 will be unforgettable. It is a revolutionary year. It has opened another phase in world history. There is a reason for everything. May God welcome the departed souls due to Covid-19 into his kingdom, and implant in the heart of the living, the spirit of sincere solidarity.
Fr. Bapuoh Paschal
Community experience of Covid-19 in Katakwi (Uganda)
The experience of Covid-19 can be compared with that at the time of Noah, or that of Sodom and Gomorrah, where people were eating and drinking and going about their own things. This may sound as if we were also only going about eating and drinking and committing sins, but on the contrary, we were making our own plans and drawing up our own programme of activities, how best to move things forward in the year 2020.
As a community we had already planned that Remi would go on holiday in June and come back probably in September and then Josephat would go. Our Stagiaire Yannick was everywhere singing the songs of Burkina, because he knew that soon he would be renewing his Declaration of Intent and say bye to Katakwi. Our Deacon was preparing himself so that, when he is called, he would go home for ordination.
That notwithstanding, our pastoral programme was planned from February up to April, each one knew which outstation he would visit on such or such a date, etc. Our bigger pastoral projects were well planned and execution commenced: the construction of the church, the fund-raising, the youth apostolate programme, the school building and a whole lot of goings and comings. At the diocesan level, the pastoral programme was rolled out.
In this agenda, the Bishop made it clear that we should all join hands to build the new cathedral and to strengthen the pastoral work at the grass roots, by bringing the sacraments close to the people. Consequently, this would protect our Christians from being misled by Christians of other sects. Then all of a sudden, we started hearing of a sickness which had started in China and was spreading like village rumour. Within a twinkle of an eye, we started hearing that this sickness was in Spain, Italy, France and Germany. At first, we thought to ourselves that this was a European sickness, and it would not reach us here. All this while we were still moving about doing good, and I am sure our plans and projects were still on. However, in a surprise and frightening turn of events, it looked as if the world was coming to an end or a standstill, as all activities were put on hold in Uganda and all our neighbouring countries.
I had gone to Soroti to go shopping. There, an Indian shop keeper showed me a message on WhatsApp which was very frightening. The information from the message was that the virus was in Uganda and the cases were much higher than what we had heard on TV, even in the surrounding villages of Soroti. I was scared and got suspicious of everyone I was meeting that day, as if they had Covid-19.
Earlier in the year, we had the locusts’ invasion, which was also scary. I had read about the locust only in biology during my secondary education, and the picture I had of locusts was nothing less than destruction, hunger and poverty. In the words of the commentators I would say: what a year? A year of surprises, a year of disappointments, a year of anxieties, a year of sorrows, yet in another sense a year of reassuring us of God’s constant presence in the journey of humanity.
In spite of all this confusion, we first tried to take precautionary measures, by purchasing enough food and other necessities for the house and also bought some sanitisers and masks to make sure we were protected. We keenly followed the news every day to be updated on the pandemic in Uganda as well as in other countries. We were much concerned with Rome since that is the seat of the Church, and Italy was one of the much-hit countries. And also, because our General Council is there, so many of our confreres study there and generally a lot of priests and religious life in Rome. We also sympathised with one another country. First it was Burkina, then Ghana and finally Malawi in terms of how the Covid cases were recorded. Most of all, we were all faithful to listen to the President of Uganda and his ministers as they guided the country on the lockdown.
These pictures of Katakwi are taken from the Internet and are not directly related to the article.
All hope was not lost as we committed to prayer, asking God to intervene and let corona leave the face of the earth. We also encouraged the families to pray at home. Many of our Christians were saying the lockdown was the work of the devil to stop prayer, but we tried to help them take this as an opportunity to reinforce family prayer which is fast disappearing in many Christian families. We also encouraged them to see this pandemic as an opportunity to build the family bond and unity as many of them have not had this opportunity to be together for long.
On our side, we continued with daily Masses in our chapel where, united with all our Christians in spirit, we continued to pray for our Christians in their everyday challenges and especially for the world to defeat Covid. In the same vein, we asked for the wisdom of God to discern what message God has for us amidst this pandemic, so that we can learn and respond positively to God’s call. To reach out to all our Christians we also resorted to radio Masses as well as to give the gospel readings and reflections in Facebook and WhatsApp, in this way continuing to nourish the spiritual life of our Christians.
We continued to visit the sick, and administer the sacraments of anointing of the sick, the viaticum, and of reconciliation, and to give counselling in various degrees for those who came to the parish. I can say our Christians really stayed with us during these trying times, as many of them were very much concerned about our upkeep. They came to greet us and find out how things were going; some came with food items; others with their offertory and tithes, etc. to ensure that the parish would continue to run.
Also, we continued with those programmes which were still possible such as the 3-classroom block we were building in Kaikamosing outstation, the construction of the last ring beam of the church, the tiling and other finishing touches of the toilet in the church, etc. More interestingly, we did some farming as a way of encouraging our people that if all other things have come to a stop, farming can go on, as we will still need to eat. Thus, we had a garden of pawpaws, vegetables, matoke, groundnuts, etc. It made as busy and fit enough to fight the virus as we wait in joyful hope to harvest. We also engaged in sports: football, basketball, etc. with our youth to improve the body fitness too.
In addition, we planted some trees and flowers around the house and the new school. And plans are underway to plant trees around the newly constructed church. We give credit to our predecessors who have planted a lot of trees around the parish, which we enjoy today in their absence; maybe if all of us did the same, the world would not suffer Covid-19 today.
In conclusion, we say, though the pandemic has devastated the world, there are so many good things the world can learn.
Mostly, we need to think of the effects of many things we take delight in doing. We pray for all those who have died due to Covid-19 and its affiliated causes. May they rest in peace and may the Lord save the world from this and other pandemics.
Josephat Diyuo (A Missionary of Africa from Ghana, on mission in Uganda)
A word from the Provincial of Ghana-Nigeria
Taken from Ghana-Nigeria Link of November 2020
Have you wondered why some people remain calm in the face of crisis, while others fall to pieces?
Some people are able to go through the ups and downs/difficulties of life and are able to bounce back from crisis. Indeed, Covid-19 caused and is still causing (with the new wave) many setbacks to peoples, institutions, organisations, nations, governments, etc., etc. In our Link of May 2020, a lot was written about Covid19.
A week ago, I was asked to give a recollection to our candidates at St. Martin of Tours formation house in Ejisu, and to celebrate the ceremony to receive the first years. I decided to take a reflection on RESILIENCE in times of crisis. That “capacity to adapt to stressful life changes and to bounce back from hardship”. I knew that like any of us, most of our candidates, if not all, experienced difficulties and disappointments. To encourage them, I looked for examples of courageous women and men in the Bible who demonstrated resilience during difficult times. In fact, the Bible contains many quotations on how to overcome hardship, temptation, and to persevere in the face of trials (James 1:12).
It also gives us many examples of women and men who suffered greatly but continued to follow God’s plan for their lives. Notable among them are Job and St. Paul.
After losing everything, Job was in great agony of soul and body, yet he refused to curse the Lord or give up (Job 1:22). He knew that God was in control, and that knowledge helped him maintain resilience instead of giving in to defeat. His faith resulted in resiliency. Paul showed great resilience after his life changing encounter with Jesus (Acts 9). He was transformed from religious Pharisee to radical Christian. He was beaten, stoned, criticised, jailed, and nearly killed many times (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). In Lystra in Asia Minor, he was stoned, dragged out of town, and left for dead, but, when his enemies left, Paul simply got up and went back into the city (Acts 14:1920). Godly resilience enables us to pursue our mission, regardless of our crisis and suffering.
The key to resiliency is faith in the Lord: “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24). St. Paul tells us, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). As Christians, we keep bouncing back. We keep moving in faith.
One of the amazing things about resilience is that many of us did not realise how resilient we were until we looked back at difficult times in our lives and saw the simple fact that we made it through, that we learnt something and that we had enough faith to keep going. Marking the end of the Liturgical Year and beginning, the new Season of Advent, I wish you the strength to remain positive, keep the faith and continue moving. Blessed time of Advent!
John Aserbire, M.Afr.
Ordination of Paschal Ewuntomah in Damango (Ghana)
Live continues and for our young confreres ready for ordination, it is indeed the beginning of a new live.
Despite the covid-19 pandemic, Deacon Paschal Ewuntomah was ordained a priest by Right Rev. Bishop Peter Paul Angkyier in his Cathedral of Damango Diocese in Ghana on the 5th September 2020.
The mood was rather a festive one, even with the famous masks supposed to prevent the propagation of the virus.
The year 2020 will certainly be remembered for a long time as the year of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Some of our young confreres due for ordination this year will be part of the Generation Covid-19 priests. Richard Abobopuo Dery, from Ghana is one of them. He was ordained on the 8th August by Most Reverend Peter Paul Y. Angkyier, Bishop of Damongo. Here are a few photos from the ordination celebration and from the thanksgiving mass, courtesy of Brother Vitus Abobo, on forced prolonged leave in Ghana.
Gong-Gong News from Ejisu
Supposed to be for sale at the house of formation.