Ululation and jubilation ringing through St Andrew’s Cathedral of Wa on Saturday 25th August 2018 expressed the meaning of the priestly ordination of our two confreres Francis Xavier Angkosaala and Peter Claver Kogh together with five other ordinands for the diocese of Wa. This was the joy of the Christian Community to have these seven men responding joyfully to the call of God to proclaim the Gospel of joy to all nations. It was raining cats and dogs and yet people came in their numbers that the latecomers struggled to find a place to sit.
It was didactic to see in the sacristy how our two deacons took the time to help each other to dress up. Once a deacon always a deacon, priesthood does not suppress the Diakonia! It was our confrere, the local ordinary of Wa, Bishop Richard Kuuia Baawobr who ordained the seven deacons to the priesthood. He was joined by his predecessor, Bishop emeritus of Wa, Paul Bemile, the Bishop of Damango diocese, Peter Paul Yelezuome Angyier, together with the many priests who came to support and welcome their younger brothers into the priesthood. The liturgy which lasted about five hours was colourful and inviting everybody to participate. Most of the hymns sung in the vernacular portrayed a church thirsting for inculturation. A son of the land later told me that the rhythm of these hymns speaks a lot to any son and daughter of the region: ‘not considering their biblical background, the rhythm of these hymns belongs traditionally to an initiation rite of “priests”, those who have been “caught up by gods” to serve as priests; therefore whoever is passing by the cathedral and hearing these hymns will understand what is going on’.
This thirst for inculturation was strongly felt and moved the whole assembly during the liturgy of the Eucharist. The shepherd of Wa diocese, surrounded with the newly ordained priests together with the local clergy, sang in the vernacular accompanied with the responses of the people from the preparation of the gifts to the Eucharistic prayer. Words cannot express here the harmony, the unison, the beauty, the sacredness of the liturgy at that moment. Indeed, ‘heaven and earth are united during Holy Mass’. Inculturation, a door opened by the Second Vatican Council, remains a challenge to the Church in Africa, episcopate task, on how to really embrace it and walk through it. Let us not close this door with the danger of opening another one to an undesirable and uncontrollable syncretism.
Prior to the breaking of the Bread was the breaking of the Word and the ordination rite. Bishop Richard started his homily by highlighting the fact that this ordination was taking place in a year that is special for both the Missionaries of Africa and the diocese of Wa: the Missionaries of Africa who brought the faith to the diocese of Wa are celebrating 150 years of their foundation together with the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa by Cardinal Lavigerie; the diocese is celebrating 100 years of the birth of Peter Poreku Cardinal Dery, servant of God; also the 50 years of priesthood of Bishop emeritus Paul Bemile; and lastly the diocese celebrated on 11th August 2018 together with the Missionaries of Africa 25 years of priesthood of Father Robert Tebri and 25 years of missionary oath of three Brothers: John Abobo, Patrick Norah and Simon Gornah, all sons of the diocese. The bishop commended the commitment of these elders which gives us the joy to celebrate and pray for the ordinands. He then asked one of them to explain their choice of the readings (1 Samuel 3:1-10; Hebrews 5:1-10; Matthew 10:1-5a). We could summarize him in these words: the Lord does a great favour to those of lowly heart and humble background.
The Bishop continued then by emphasizing that the call is indeed a gift. When parents call their child whom they love, the child appropriately responds with love. A child is loved because of being the fruit of the love of two people and the visible expression of that love. We are the visible expression of the love of God, the bishop underscored. In return, we surrender totally our life to the Lord with our defects and qualities. By responding to God’s call we make choices; what are our choices? Pope Francis gave us the example of the shepherd as the one who feels and knows the smell of the sheep. We cannot know the sheep from a distance insisted the shepherd of Wa. He then imparted that through this ordination the priest will participate in the bishop’s office of teaching, sanctifying and governing. Moreover, he called the attention of his listeners to the three evangelical counsels. As he concluded he reminded them that formation was ongoing and not ending and that they were all missionary disciples of Jesus Christ even in their own diocese.
After Mass, the celebration continued as families received their guests and friends. The next day was the time for the newly ordained priests to preside over the Eucharistic celebration for the first time: Francis Xavier celebrated at Our Lady of Nativity Parish, Ko and Peter Claver at Naa Krista Parish, Duotang. Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this, he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. (Hebrews 5:1-3). Be apostles, nothing but apostles.
Serge Boroto Zihalirwa, MAfr
Our Lady of Hope Parish, Bunkpurugu