“Align catechism to lives of people” amid Challenges in West Africa: RECOWA Vice President

Bishop Joseph Kwaku Afrifah-Agyekum of Ghana's Koforidua Diocese. Credit: ACI Africa

The new Vice President of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA) has, in an interview with ACI Africa, emphasized the need to align the teaching of the word of God to the daily challenges people face in West Africa.

In the Friday, May 6 interview on the sidelines of the fourth RECOWA Plenary Assembly, Bishop Joseph Kwaku Afrifah-Agyekum said efforts must be made to make Catholics read and master the Scriptures. 

“Priests and Bishops need to align catechism with the lives of the people, even in suffering. We must also try to align it to our life situations,” the Bishop of Koforidua Diocese in Ghana told ACI Africa. 

Bishop Afrifah-Agyekum added, “Challenges in our sub-region like COVID-19, unemployment, insecurity, failure in exams, family issues, should not deter us from seeking to know God’s word in the Bible.”

“Bishops and Priests are the teachers of the Bible. We are supposed to be the educators of the people in faith and so in spite of all the challenges, I think we should not negate this very important responsibility that the Church has placed upon us,” he said.


Aligning these teachings with the lives of the people, the Ghanaian Catholic Bishop said, will provide consolation to those in suffering and difficulties.

“I think people will be able to link it up and apply them, and say, after all it is not a bad case. Jesus is our Lord and he is there to help me in this situation,” Bishop Afrifah-Agyekum said.

“If we go to the Bible, Jesus himself said if you want to follow me, you have to be ready to carry your cross,” the Ghanaian Catholic Bishop who was elected Vice President of RECOWA on Thursday, May 5 told ACI Africa. 

The May 5 session had members of RECOWA participating in their fourth Plenary Assembly at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Durumi in Abuja elect Bishop Alexis Touably Youlo as their new President. He takes over from Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama who was at the helm of the regional body since 2016. 

RECOWA comprises 154 Catholic Dioceses spread across 11 Catholic Bishops’ Conferences in 16 countries of Anglophone and Francophone Africa. 

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The 16 countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Guinee, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde, Guinee Bissau, and Togo.

In the May 6 interview with ACI Africa, the Vice President of RECOWA said Bishops and Priests need to encourage the people of God under their pastoral care to read the Bible.

“One of the basic needs of all of us as Christians is to be able first and foremost, to know the Bible and to study the Bible well and to make the Bible part and parcel of our lives,” Bishop Afrifah-Agyekum said.

In the sub-region of West Africa, the Ghanaian Catholic Bishop said, “we have been using our catechists because they are the ones who are spread at the outstations and in the main parishes.” 

“The Priests are fewer than the catechists and so we rely heavily on the catechists for this training,” the Local Ordinary of Ghana’s Koforidua Diocese said.


He continued, “But the catechists too need the training, they need formation and they need also the support and the sustenance to be able to do this as the Priests together with their Bishops also add on.” 

“Our Bishops should be able to make the Bible also available to as many people as possible and the Bible must also be affordable,” he further said, and added, “It's not everybody who can buy a Bible, but is it possible to put in place a fund or financial support so that even children and young people can afford it.”

The 67-year-old Catholic Bishop who has been at the helm of Ghana’s Koforidua Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in July 2006 said, “The teaching of the Bible and the teaching of catechism must also be revised so that it becomes lively.”

“Catechism is not just about who is God, but where do you find that in the Bible and how does that reference come to play when it comes to who God is,” Bishop Afrifah-Agyekum told ACI Africa in Abuja May 6.

He called upon the people of God in West Africa to turn to Christ “with our numerous challenges and He will not forsake us.”

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Delegates taking part in the May 2-9 RECOWA Plenary Assembly are deliberating on Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on human fraternity, and social friendship, Fratelli Tutti, as well as challenges facing the region in view of strategizing for “sustainable peace”.

Reflecting on the theme of the Plenary Assembly of RECOWA during the interview with ACI Africa, Bishop Afrifah-Agyekum said, “We are going to try to engage our governments and all the politicians who matter as far as peacebuilding in the West African subregion is concerned.”

He continued, “We continue to ask our brothers through the countries and Churches that they represent that the message of peace, brotherliness, fraternity will eventually come true for our people in the region to be able to enjoy this peace.”

Commenting on his election as Vice President of RECOWA, Bishop Afrifah-Agyekum told ACI Africa that he was “honored and humbled” and expressed his readiness to serve.

“My election came as a surprise,” he said, and added, “Having served as chairperson of the Biblical, Theological and Liturgical commission of RECOWA, I thought my peers would allow me support them from behind; but I’m honored and humbled by their confidence and ready to serve.”

Bishop Afrifah-Agyekum appealed to RECOWA members “to support us, to continue to pray for us so that we really bring the intentions, objectives and goals of this reunion to greater heights.”

“I pray that the Lord will also guide us and help us so that this work will be achieved to the Glory of His name,” he implored.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.