, 20 May, 2020 / 1:36 AM
At the celebration marking 140 years since the arrival of the first missionaries belonging to the Society of African Missions (SMA) in Ghana, members of the Society of Apostolic life in the west African country are looking at the moments as an opportunity to continue their evangelization mission and “rekindle the fire of faith.”
“Today, we have the willingness to continue the work of God and rekindle the fire of faith 140 years on. The mission must be rekindled since the gift of faith is the greatest gift we can give to another…if only you knew the gift of God,” the Provincial Superior of SMA in the Province of Ghana, Fr. Paul Ennin said Sunday, May 17.
Fr. Paul who was addressing SMA members during a commemorative Mass to mark the Anniversary at the St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Ghana’s capital Accra said, “Like Philip who brought much joy to the Samaria town, may we be found worthy to be true and faithful so God’s work continues.”
Referring to the Society’s mission statement, he reminded SMA members that “each one of us is called to be a missionary from the bottom of his heart and to contribute to the spread of the Good News.”
“As Missionaries, we have a duty to contribute and participate in the spread of the Gospel,” Fr Paul told the congregation of clergy, religious, and laity during the Sunday Holy Mass.
Fr. Paul also recalled the contributions of some lay faithful who facilitated the arrival of SMA Priests in Ghana adding that “today, we can do the same by contributing to the training of SMA missionaries who continue to preach the Good News in mostly difficult and poor areas.”
On May 18, 1880 two SMA Priests, Fr. Auguste Moreau and Fr. Eugene Morat arrived in Gold Coast, as Ghana was previously known, to begin the work of evangelization.
Speaking about the fruits of evangelization in Ghana, Fr. Paul said the Religious Order has constructed many Catholic Schools, Teacher Training Colleges, hospitals and Nursing training schools.
Speaking to ACI Africa correspondent on the sidelines of the anniversary celebration, Fr. Nimorious Kwabena Domanzing, an SMA Priest of the St. Francis of Assisi Parish Accra expressed gratitude to God for the work of SMA missionaries in Ghana.
“Over the past 140 years, the Church in Ghana, like the Biblical mustard seed, has grown from humble beginnings to what it has become today and today as we celebrate the 140th anniversary of the arrival of the first two SMA Fathers, we are called to bring to memory the selfless sacrifices they and many others missionaries made and to make ours the thoughts and hopes that led them to this land,” Fr Nimorious said.
He added, “We pray for all missionaries all over the world that we may have the love and zeal that animated our fathers in the faith to continue the mission, which began many years ago.”
Also speaking to ACI Africa, Cornelius Dordunu, an Accra-based Catechist who has worked closely with members of SMA for nearly three decades called on Ghanaians to be part of the joyful missionary family of SMA in Ghana.
“I encourage the young ones to give their life to the service of God as an SMA missionary Priest or OLA missionary Sister. I urge Catholics to also join the friends of the SMA or become mission partners as individuals or as a family,” the Catechist said.
Meanwhile, presiding at a virtual private Thanksgiving Holy Mass to mark the anniversary on Monday, May 18, Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said, “It is the mission they (SMA members) started that has given rise today to the Catholic Church in Ghana, together with later mission of the White Fathers in Navrongo in 1905.”
“Let us never forget them (Fr. Moreau and Fr. Murat) in our prayers and especially when we offer Holy Mass, for it is through their prayers and presence that God has blessed our works of evangelization,” the Ghanaian Prelate said.
“Today, as we commemorate these two missionaries and others who followed them, some of whom died within a few weeks of their arrival here notoriously known as ‘the white man’s grave’, let us pray for the advocate, the Holy Spirit of Truth to empower us also in times of difficulties and challenges of the COVID-19,” the Local Ordinary of Ghana’s Cape Coast Archdiocese, the first and the oldest Ecclesiastical circumscription in the country, said.
Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ban on public gatherings in Ghana, the 140th Anniversary celebration was marked with a private commemorative Mass. Other activities to mark the anniversary celebration have been postponed to next year.
“We had lined up programs to commemorate the day of the 140th Anniversary itself, however man proposes and God has disposed. Yes, our God has disposed that we postpone this celebration to next year May 18, 2021,” said Archbishop Palmer-Buckle in his letter dated May 15.
In the letter, the 69-year-old Prelate requests “all Parish Priests, Religious Priests, Sisters and Brothers in all Religious Houses in the Cape Coast Archdiocese to have commemorative Thanksgiving Masses at a time convenient and in due respect of the State COVID-19 protocols.”
In an earlier Online discussion live streamed on Zoom Webinar, the Archbishop called on Catholics in his country not to allow the challenges posed by COVID-19 to diminish their faith.
“The worldwide coronavirus pandemic that has hit our country Ghana should not allow the faith of Catholics to diminish,” Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said during the May 14 Online discussion conducted under the topic, “Sustaining Our Catholic Faith in Difficult Times.”
“COVID-19 is a fire that has come to put our faith to test, which should purify our understanding of faith and advance the depth of our faith, love and service,” he said, encouraging Catholics “not to let our hearts be troubled because of COVID-19; we need to place our trust in God and into His care and we shall overcome COVID-19.”
“It is very challenging for me to talk of virtual Holy Mass, which cannot replace the Mass,” the Archbishop further said and advised the faithful “not to get used to the virtual Mass but avail ourselves for the physical Mass anytime Church activities resume.”
He said the ban on public gathering and the partial lockdown “had brought families together as a domestic Church,” a situation that gives the opportunity to families to “stay, pray and study the Word of God together.”
“God is a spirit and can be worshipped anywhere in spirit and truth; the virtual Holy mass and teachings in the era of COVID-19 is good but the Spirit unites us together. In difficult times of not being able to have the Sacrament, we are to enhance our faith by praying and reading the Word of God,” Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa