How Sierra Leone’s First Native Bishop Promoted Country’s Growth of Local Vocations

Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Henry Ganda in an undated photo with members of the Our Lady of Visitation (OLV), congregation he founded that continues to thrive in Sierra Leone. Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh

Tributes to Archbishop Joseph Henry Ganda, Sierra Leone’s first native Catholic Bishop who died on August 9 are still pouring in, with some remembering the late Catholic Church leader for promoting the growth of local vocations in the West African nation.

Archbishop Ganda died aged 91 after serving the Catholic Church in Sierra Leone for over six decades. The Archbishop emeritus of the then Freetown and Bo in Sierra Leone is to be laid to rest on September 15.

The Executive Director of Caritas Freetown who has identified himself as Archbishop Ganda’s “spiritual son” continues to pay homage to the late Archbishop, noting that part of the Archbishop’s legacy lives on in his remarkable efforts to promote local vocations among Sierra Leonean Priests and women and men Religious.

Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh

In a note to ACI Africa Thursday, August 31, Fr. Peter Konteh says about Archbishop Ganda, “His commitment to nurturing and fostering vocations within the community had a profound and lasting impact on the Church in Sierra Leone.”


Fr. Konteh notes that after Ganda’s Priestly ordination in 1961, he opened his heart to the importance of inspiring others to consider the vocation to the Priesthood and Religious Life.

He says that the late Archbishop’s dedication to his own ministry became a source of inspiration and encouragement for many individuals in Sierra Leone who were discerning their own calling.

One of Archbishop Ganda’s significant accomplishments was the establishment of St. Kizito Seminary in the Diocese of Kenema in Sierra Leone, a facility that Fr. Konteh says, provided a nurturing and supportive environment for young men to discern their vocation and receive the necessary formation to become Priests.

“By creating a dedicated space for vocational discernment and education, Archbishop Ganda ensured that local individuals had access to the resources and guidance required to explore their calling,” the Sierra Leonean Catholic Priest further says.

Archbishop Ganda is also said to have sent young men to Augustinian Junior Seminary in Sierra Leone’s Diocese of Bo where they received a comprehensive education and spiritual formation in the early stages of their vocational discernment.

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Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh

In his note to ACI Africa, Fr. Konteh says that by investing in their education and formation at a young age, Archbishop Ganda laid the groundwork for a strong future Catholic Clergy.

He further notes that Archbishop Ganda had a deep conviction in the continuous formation of Catholic Priests.

To support the vision, he played a pivotal role in establishing St. Paul Seminary in Regent, an institution that Fr. Konteh, says, became a hub for ongoing education, pastoral formation, and spiritual growth for the local Clergy.

“By providing access to quality theological education and opportunities for ongoing development, Archbishop Ganda ensured that priests in Sierra Leone had the necessary tools to serve their communities effectively,” the award-winning Catholic Priest says.


Born on 22 March 1932 in Bo District, Archbishop Ganda goes down the history of Catholicism in Sierra Leone as the first native Priest in the country. He proceeded to become the first native Bishop of the Diocese of Kenema in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone.

The late Archbishop is the first fruit of the efforts of early Catholic missionaries who sought to evangelize the West African country amid stiff competition from Protestants.

In a recent tour of Sierra Leone, ACI Africa learned of the important role that Archbishop Ganda played in the growth of the Catholic Church in the country at a time when Protestantism blossomed. 

Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh

Attempts by members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Spiritans/Holy Ghost Fathers/CSSp.), who arrived to evangelize the country in the eighteenth century bore negligible fruits, and in the early years of the nineteenth century, Sierra Leone still did not have a single native Priest. 

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Young Ganda entered Bigard Memorial Seminary in Enugu Nigeria and was ordained a Priest in April 1961, the same month Sierra Leone gained independence.

On 23 November 1980, Ganda was installed as the first native-born Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Freetown and Bo in Sierra Leone. He retired on 2 March 2007 and was succeeded in the Archdiocese of Freetown and Bo by Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles.

In a past interview with ACI Africa, Archbishop Tamba Charles noted that the Catholic Church in Sierra Leone is gradually moving towards a “locally-led” Church, all thanks to the growth of local vocations in the country where the biggest percentage of believers are Muslims.

The Sierra Leonean government estimates that 77 percent of the population is Muslim, and 21.9 percent is Christian. Even then, the impact of the Catholic Church is felt across the country through the charity work of Catholic Priests, women and men Religious, many ordained by Archbishop Ganda.

Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh

Most of the Priests that the late Archbishop ordained, including Fr. Konteh, threw themselves at the forefront of the 11-year Sierra Leonean civil war that ended in 2003. Young Priests at the time were fearless, dodging bullets to deliver food to IDP camps, and burying the dead. They also put their lives on the line when they preached against the junta.

In his August 31 note to ACI Africa Fr. Konteh says that the impact of Archbishop Ganda's promotion of local vocation was profound, and adds, “His efforts led to a significant increase in the number of local vocations, resulting in a stronger and more vibrant local clergy. The local priests and religious who emerged from his initiatives became instrumental in the spiritual development and growth of the Church in Sierra Leone.”

Fr. Konteh says that Archbishop Ganda’s legacy continues to inspire individuals in Sierra Leone to consider the call to Priesthood and Religious Life, “ensuring the continued growth and vitality of the Church in the region.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.