Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Let's Celebrate

A pleasant surprise greeted me upon my return to Damongo from my vacation.  Wow! There were new babies in town.

Meet the newest additions to my Damongo Family.

Meet Terrance, the son of Eric Dery and Benedicta and Emmanuelar, daughter of Irrenus Saana and Mildred.  Terrance was born on the 4th of November 2023 and Emmanuellar on the 29th of December 2023.  Welcome little ones!

Eric Dery is the driver of the Secretariat.  He has always been there for me from Day 1 bringing me home from Tamale to SAGISS, my first home.  He has been a constant companion for my work commute, travels to Tamale for my Ghana documentation requirements and also to out-of-town travels.  But Eric is more than just a driver assigned to me.  He is my family here in Damongo.  He was with me when I moved and set up my new home in the Canteen area of Damongo, helping me with plumbing, electrical and handy man issues I experienced in my new home. He taught me and helped me set up my small home farm which provided me with the lettuce, cucumbers and other vegetables for the kitchen.  Truly, Eric is family, and I am proud to be called Grandma Josie by Terrance.


Irrenus is the Bishop’s Driver.  He was also with me from Day 1, picking me up from the airport and bringing me to the Catholic Guesthouse in Tamale for lunch with the Bishop.  On occasion, he would be the one to drive me around when Eric was unavailable.  Though the interactions with Irrenus is not as often because of his work, I feel a close bond with him.  He trusted me with the story of his life in Nigeria before coming back home to Ghana.  I am most honored to have shared this with him. He too is my family in Damongo, and it would be my pleasure to be a grandma to Emmanuellar.


But wait, don’t we always say that the best things come in threes.  Well, we are expecting another baby by June, this time from Cynthia Aazelinibe, our Secretariat cleaner.  Last year, in late October, I learned that Cynthia was engaged and already wearing an engagement ring.  In November, I was told that the dowry has been paid by Bruno and that in all respects in the Ghanaian culture this means they are already married.  Cynthia’s pregnancy is a welcome news for the couple and Cynthia’s son, Gregory.  Congratulations Cynthia, Bruno and Gregory.  We can’t wait to meet your new bundle of joy.


So, what’s next?  I’ll let you in on our secret.  I am thrilled to learn that there will be a quadruple sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church before the end of the year.  I am eagerly anticipating this event for Evans and Vivian, Eric and Benedicta, Irrenus and Mildred and Cynthia and Bruno. Keep them in your prayers.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Reflection On Mission At Mid-way Point

The Catholic Diocese of Damongo is comprised of 13 Parishes and has a number of institutions which the diocese takes care of. I am assigned to work at the Diocesan Secretariat as a Finance and Administrative Assistant.

As a lay missionary for the Diocese,  I contribute whatever skills I have specially in helping the Diocese achieve all or part of the Diocesan Strategic Plan for 2021 – 2026 specially in the area of transparency and accountability. 


It has been a special moment for me to know, listen to the people I work with, ask, encourage, motivate, and mentor them in ways to ensure proper accounting practices that will help improve systems for the Diocese. 

Again, fulfilling one’s life mission on earth is an essential part of living for God’s glory. This is where the mission called, it is where it is necessary to stay as a missionary and give our life. So, beside my official duties in the accounts office I took time out to visit some parishes to experience their worship and parish activities and sometimes to unofficially offer some advice on parish finance management.

Spending time in the villages and listening to the local people share their experiences made me realize how wounded our world is today and the need for us to be missionaries of hope even in our frailty. In as much as there are great positives, there are also negatives in this time of mission, something disappointing is the issue of parishes not having proper resources to work with (Computers, proper accounting set ups) records for parish finance management, the parish staff and finance committee’s inadequate knowledge of EXCEL among others. which would have made for a more efficient and effective financial management of the parishes/institutions.

Nevertheless, the financial audit of the parishes and diocesan institutions unearthed some of these inadequacies and appropriate recommendation given has brought changes to some degree and I hope to see more changes in the not far future. I think it is not impossible to achieve this and with my hand in heart, I tell you we can find alternative ways to resolve this situation.

As I have experienced so far, life mission is both shared and specific, one part of it is a responsibility you share with every other Christian and the other part is an assignment that is unique to you.  As a lay missionary of the Lay Mission Helpers, I am very grateful for this missionary experience. The joy on people’s faces will remain indelible in my heart.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Buipe , Savannah Region – A Grand Birthday Celebration

Birthdays are a very special day in everybody’s life.  More so for a revered paramount chief in Gonjaland, His Royal Majesty Buipewura Abdulai Mahama Jinapor II.   It is an important occasion to celebrate the life and achievements of an esteemed chief. The Chief is recognized for his sterling leadership as traditional ruler and for promoting the customs and tradition of the chiefs and people of Gonja.  Born on April 6, 1948, the Buipewura is a Ghanaian traditional ruler.

To celebrate his 75th birthday, there was a Christian prayer session for him at his palace on Thursday, April 6 led by the Catholic Archbishop of Tamale, Most Rev. Philip Naameh, Catholic Bishop of Damongo, Most Rev. Peter Paul Angkyier and members of the Buipe local council of Churches.

Then on Friday, the 7th, the Imams of Buipe led Islamic prayers for him at 5pm. The highlight of his 75TH birthday celebrations was observed on Saturday, April 8 with a dinner and the Tamale Police Band providing entertainment at his residence.

It was no wonder that the preparations for the program prepared by the outgoing parish priest Fr. Hilary Anadu was intense. The practice of the choir, one of two of the best in the Diocese was also intense.  Fr. Michael, the incoming parish priest supervised the rehearsal making sure that everyone swayed in the same direction and that the clapping was in sync. I was privileged to join the choir for the prayer service celebration. I am grateful for the invitation to be part of said group.

On the day of the Christian Prayer service, the Archbishop surprised everyone by addressing the Chief by his Christian name, Michael.  Unknown to a lot of people, the Chief was a baptized and confirmed Catholic but because of his title and social norms he uses his traditional name. 

Bishop Peter Paul for his part praised the Chief for raising children with a heart for service.  Prominent among his children are his two sons representing two constituencies from Gonjaland on the ticket of two different political parties.  The elder brother, John Abdulai Jinapor is the NDC MP for the Yapei-Kusawgu.  The younger brother, Samuel Abu Jinapor is the NPP MP for the Damongo constituency.  Not to be outdone are their siblings who serves in various capacities of the government and private sector.

After the prayer service guests were invited to one of the residences where we were honored with an array of local food and drinks.  Everybody was welcomed and guests continued to come as we were leaving for home.

Once again I am grateful and truly blessed to have another cultural experience – the celebration of a  paramount chief’s special day. 

To the Buipewura, Happy 75th Birthday and may the good Lord continue to shower you with His blessings as you continue to lead and serve the people of Gonjaland!

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

A Look Back (Part II)

After Christmas, I had the chance to visit my OMI priests and brother classmates at TICCS and Fr. Phanuel’s family (Executive Director of TICCS) for a New Year Celebration in the Volta Region of Ghana.

The Volta is located at the eastern part of Ghana. It is bordered on the East by Togo, on the West by the Volta River and Lake, Atlantic Ocean on the South, and Oti region to the North.

In order to reduce travel time, we took an alternative route to Kpando in Ho, Volta by taking a ferry from the Dambai Ferry Site.  The ferry is closer and has less traffic compared to the Tamale-Accra Road (12 hours land trip). The cost was also cheaper to cross the Oti River to Ho/Kpando. The loading and unloading of several cargo trucks into the ferry boat was a sight to behold.

Our Lady of the Grotto – Our Lady of Lourdes in Agbenoxoe in the Diocese of Ho

The first stop on our Volta excursion is in Agbenoxoe where the Our Lady of the Grotto – Our Lady of Lourdes is located. It is here on the largest artificial lake in the world - Lake Wolta in a small village named Agbenoxoe meaning “a place to live” in the local Ewe language that my OMI TICCS co-learners will serve the local Catholic community and look after one of the few Marian Shrines in Ghana.

This is a wonderful place.  One can immediately feel peace as soon as one enters its compound.  Truly a great place to meditate. The human size statues portraying the Stations of the Cross is worth the trip to this serene garden of peace.  There is also a larger-than-life statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Bernadette. We had a great time there.  The parish priest and the OMIs were gracious hosts.

Among the highlights of our stay in Agbenoxoe is a visit to a fishing village and a ride in a canoe around the lake and the midnight New Year’s Eve Mass at one of the parish’s outstation where a few children had their First Communion.  The joy of the people was palpable all throughout the celebration.

Wli/Agumatsa Falls

From Agbenoxoe, we moved to Fodome, Fr. Phanuel’s hometown. As expected, the family greeted us warmly and were most hospitable.  The 90-year-old patriarch of the family was a gracious host to us.

We were taken to the Wli/Agumatsa Falls the next morning. The Agumatsa Falls is the highest waterfall in Ghana and the tallest in all of West Africa located 20 kms from Hoehoe in the Volta Region. It is known locally as Agoomatsa which means, “Allow Me to Flow. It has a total height of about 80 m.  There are two waterfalls at Wli – the long fall and the short fall and both take different times to get there. To get to the short fall we had to hike for about 1 hour and 30 minutes if the walking pace is not fast and at least one hour if you walk a little quicker. To get to the long fall, we were told would take about 3 hours hike and climbing mountains.  To make the walk manageable, we decided to go for the short fall. The hike itself was exploratory as it was surrounded by rain forest. We got to see many species of butterfly, plants as wells as bats.  Even though the walk was long and the water cold, the falls did not disappoint.  It was beautiful, awesome, and magnificent.

Mount Afadja

Mount Afadja or Mount Afadjato is one of the highest mountains in Ghana standing at an elevation of 885 meters (2,904 ft). ‘Afadja’ is the name of the mountain whereas ‘to’ in the Ewe dialect means mountain therefore, it is called ‘Afadjato’ by the locals.

The story is that when the indigenous people migrated to the area and saw the mountain it looked like the mound in which water yam is planted, water yam being called “Avadze” in Ewe. Moreover, there were some creeping plants on the mountain that resembled the water yam plant; they therefore called it “Avadze-to”. Today the word has been palatalized into “Afadjato”. It is unfortunate that none of us dared to take the mountain climb after the forest walk at Wli Falls.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Shrine at Fodome-Helu, Hoehoe, Volta

The Sacred Heart of Jesus Shrine at Fodome was the last stop on our Volta adventure before coming home to Tamale through Accra.  The Shrine is under the care of the Sacred Heart Parish of Fodome.   The environment is so serene, truly a place for prayer and meditation.  It boasts of giant-sized stations of the cross and of the course the giant statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The statue of Jesus from the ground to the crown is 15 feet long.  The outstretched arms are 8 feet and welcomes the pilgrim to the site, ready to embrace and bestow blessings upon him.  We learned that they used about 56 bags of cement to finish the statue. Other giant statues in the ground are the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Divine Mercy. Truly a wonderful place to visit when in the Volta Region.

The Ghanaian People

Apart from these beautiful tourist spots in Ghana, it is the Ghanaian people’s beauty that stands out.  The claim that Ghana has a warm national character where visitors are welcomed as friends has once again proven to be true in our visit to the Volta region.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

A Look Back

It has been a year since I boarded the plane at LAX bound for Ghana, Africa.  Accompanying me on this trip was Merton’s A Prayer of Unknowing (Blog 2) as a reminder that I do not journey alone.  I travel with Christ and with all the LMH Missionaries past and present through their prayer and support. 

So how has it been?  Is it everything that I thought it would be? As with any long journey, there are challenges and joyful moments.  In my previous blogs, I talked about some facets of the Ghanaian culture and what I have been doing. This time, as I look back on my first year of mission, I would like to share the beauty of Ghana and more importantly its people as I have been blessed to have travelled to the other areas of Ghana.

In July of last year, I was invited to attend the Thanksgiving Mass of the newly ordained priest of the Diocese.  The Thanksgiving Mass was held in Cape Coast, Ghana which is about 342 miles from Damongo where I live through Kumasi (bypassing Accra).  At Cape Coast, I was able to visit Beseasi, the hometown of Fr. Peter Akomanyi Tawiah where the Thanksgiving Mass was held.  Also in attendance was the other young priest ordained together with Fr. Peter, Fr. Fauster Baapele. It was a sight to see these two young priests atop a pick-up truck following a drum and bugle band to the Church.  The liturgy was celebrated mostly in the Fanti language.  As expected, there was much dancing during the liturgy.  

The Castle along with other slave castles in Ghana is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979.  The castle served as a timber and gold trading center for the British until the 19th century when it became the starting point of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The dungeons of the castle housed huge numbers of African slaves destined for travel to North America.

At the museum, it was surprising to learn that the word “Obroni” as we are fondly called here to designate a ‘white person”, or a “foreigner” actually comes from the Akan phrase “abro nipa” meaning wicked person which was what the Ghanaian ancestors generally called the Europeans based on their general behavior back then.  This visit was a humbling experience for everyone including our Ghanaian brothers and sisters from the North.

St. Joseph’s Minor Basilica Church is a Roman Catholic Church in Elmina, Cape Coast. It was the first Roman Catholic Church established in Ghana in 1880 by Fr. Maru and Fr. Marat, Dutch Catholic priests who were the first to minister to the Ghanaians.  The place provided a blend of religion and history.  A Catholic museum is also located in the premises.

It is such an interesting place considering the time and place where it was built. It sits high on a hill where one can view the Elmina Castle (another slave trade fort) and bay. It is indeed a very beautiful location and a great reminder of how the faith has been kept and preserved and how from here the Church continues to evangelize to her children in Ghana.

Kakum National Park is located in the southern part of the Central region not too far from the coast.  This park is named after the Kakum river which starts inside the protected area. The landscape is about 90% tropical forest.  It features a canopy walk in the air through trees.  The walkway hits a heigh of 130 feet (40m) as it crosses rivers and ravines.  Some of the tree canopies reach a height of 160 feet (50m).  The trail stretches between 7 trees, cross rivers, and ravines a distance of 1,150 feet(350m).  Most people claim that the walkway is easy.  It is challenging for those who have a fear of height.  That day, I conquered that fear as I exited the trail, I got cheered on and received “high fives” from priests and the Damongo delegation.  Lesson learned:  we can do what we fear if we put our hearts into it and of course when you have no option but to move on.

More than these beautiful places I visited, Ghana’s beauty comes from its people, the welcoming smile, the kindness, ever willing to help and sincere hospitality.  The photos say it all.

In the next blog, I will take you to the South easterly region of Ghana, the Volta Region.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Welcome Mark

The LMH community in Damongo, Ghana officially became three (3) with the arrival of Mark McGraw.

Like every new arrival to the mission field, Mark was eager to immediately work in the Diocese of Damongo.  But as most of the veteran LMHers know, Africa, most specially Ghana moves in a much slower pace than we are accustomed to.

With the scheduled visit of the Bishop of Muenster, Germany, the focus of the Diocese was centered on this event since the Diocese of Muenster is a major partner in projects of the Catholic Diocese of Damongo.  Mark will just have to wait a little longer to find out his assignment.  

This turned out to be a blessing for us.  About 2 days from his arrival, our water pump burst, and he was there to fix. Since then, Mark has installed shelves in the kitchen, his bedroom and my bedroom. He has been busy writing his journal, something he might not find a lot of time to do when the work begins.  For now, Mark is settling in nicely, going for walks to the town center and just enjoying the hospitality of the Ghanaian people.

We are all excited for the contribution Mark will being to the Catholic Diocese of Damongo and the people of Damongo.  Welcome Mark, to your new home!

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Christmas in Damongo

Earlier in August, I was told that there is not really any Christmas celebration happening in Damongo.  The faithful attend the Midnight Mass and the Christmas Day Mass and go home to their regular routine just like any regular day. That day I promised a few Ghanaian friends that we will celebrate Christmas in a special way this year.  We are going to have a Christmas party or gathering in my new home and possibly introduce the “exchange gift” practice we have in the United States

Preparations were tight for the event as I had to leave Damongo in October and upon my return move into the new house.  But I was determined to have the party so my friends and co-workers could experience the joy of a western style Christmas. Karen, the other LMH missionary assigned at the St. Anne’s Girls Senior High School helped a lot by preparing some food for the occasion, bringing the beer, and lending some tables we could use.  My colleagues at work helped me purchased the pork to cure and make the ham and ground pork for spring rolls to serve at the party. Another co-worker friend helped with the arrangements for the canopy, tables, and chairs rental.

Christmas Day lunch was ready after the Christmas Day Mass. Everyone came in their festive best.  The children were also dressed in their Sunday best.  Even the children from within the area of the house came to join the fun.  We had a surprise visitor that day – Chief Joseph, the chieftain of one of the local tribes came with his friend.  After the meal, we played the “elephant game” (thank you Karen for providing some of the gifts).  Goody bags were given to the children who were happy and grateful to receive them.

The highlight of the gathering was at the end when Chief Joseph spoke and thank everyone and said that they have realized that Christmas can be celebrated this way – joyful, united, grateful and with love.  He promised that he will continue to do what has been started and that a new tradition was born.  He even committed to host the next year’s Christmas party in his home.

I am grateful to have celebrated my first Christmas in Damongo with new found friends and to have shared a little piece of how Christmas is celebrated in the other parts of the world.

Let's Celebrate

A pleasant surprise greeted me upon my return to Damongo from my vacation.  Wow! There were new babies in town. Meet the newest additions ...