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Ordinations with an African flavour

Fr Ashton Pierre (left), Bishop Gerard County (second from left), Fr Gabriel Yao Nyamah (third from right) and newly ordained deacons. Photos: Courtney Billizard

by Norma St Rose and Maria Samad

On Sunday July 22 approximately 18 Trinbagonians including Fr Gregory Augustine CSSp Holy Ghost Provincial; Fr Ashton Pierre CSSp and Sr Philip Geofroy SJC left Piarco Airport via New York for a connecting flight to our destination Ghana, West Africa.

We were on a unique pilgrimage: to witness the ordination to the order of presbyter of two deacons, Rev Gabriel Yao Nyamah and Rev Clifford Mainooh. Both belong to the Holy Spirit Congregation (Spiritans) and served the last three years in Holy Trinity Parish, Arouca.

In New York three more pilgrims joined the contingent and on Monday 23 we boarded a Delta airline for a ten-hour flight to Kotoka International Airport, Accra. Accra is four hours ahead of Trinidad time and we arrived at approximately 8.15 a.m. local time.

We went to the Spiritans Provincial House in Adenta Accra where we were generously provided with accommodation and transport for our two-day stay there. By the time we were ready to leave Accra, the group had grown by an additional four persons who came in from England, together with Bishop Gérard County CSSp of Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and one of his parishioners whom we met there. Our total contingent was now 27 persons.

On Wednesday 25 we left Accra and were driven on a four-hour journey to the Spiritan University College in Ejisu Kumasi Ashanti (Asanti) region. This was the venue of the ordination and it was here that we would spend most of the time while in Ghana meeting seminarians from other parts of Africa who were on vacation and remained in Ghana, and resident Spiritans.

A celebration

When the Church in Ghana celebrates the Eucharist the emphasis is on celebrate and there is no haste to do so. We got a foretaste of this on July 27 when three seminarians took their final vows at the St Joseph, Onwe Church in preparation for their ordination to the diaconate the following day.

In addition to the congregational participation in the singing, worshippers were expected to dance to the altar as they placed their offerings in the collection basket. This was our first experience and some of us timidly took part. This Mass was more than two hours long and prepared us for what was to come.

The Ordination Mass on Saturday 28 began 9 a.m. with an impressive entrance procession that included a generous number of priests, Bishop Joseph Osei Bonsu, the main celebrant, Bishop County, retired Bishop Peter Kwesi Sarpong ‘Grandpa’, and two Spiritan Provincial Superiors, Fr Daniel Osei Yeboah and Fr Augustine.

The ordination of the deacons and priests was for most of us, an unforgettable experience witnessing the sacredness and splendour of the rituals celebrated as is done in the universal Catholic Church but with the tasteful flavour of Africa added.

The Offertory procession was beauty and generosity in motion. The varied gifts carried to the altar made real the words of the Eucharistic prayer: “fruit of the earth and work of human hands”.  The blessings by the newly ordained of the bishops, provincial superiors, priests, parents and dignitaries which included our entire contingent was a joyous climax for us at the end of the four-hour ceremony.

On Sunday, July 29, we journeyed from Ejisu to Achiase, Ashanti region to celebrate Fr Clifford’s first Mass in his hometown. A number of clergy including newly ordained Fr Gabriel attended to lend support and to continue his mentoring. People came from throughout the village to celebrate the return of a son as a spiritual king. The incorporating of the traditional rituals and the rites of the liturgy was very evident with the people engaged in their participation. The brass band heralded the Offertory.

The presence of the elders, and the chief of the Ashanti region in all his pomp highlighted the importance and recognition of the meaning of the event to all. The celebration continued after the Mass with a delicious meal hosted by Fr Clifford’s family.

We left Ejisu and returned to Accra and on Sunday, August 5 we left Accra at 4 a.m. accompanied by a visiting Spiritan priest Fr Vincent Akpabi from the Provincial House in Accra; Deacon Alfred Ofori who travelled with us from Kumasi as our ‘special’ tour guide for the rest of our time in Ghana, and a guide from the Volta area to direct us to Fr Gabriel’s first Mass in his hometown in Liati-Volta region.

It was a six-hour journey but by the grace of God and the skill of our very knowledgeable driver we arrived safely. His village celebrated Fr Gabriel’s return as a king returning home and the presence of ‘palace girls’ at the front of the altar gave witness to this. We shared in a sumptuous meal and left Fr Gabriel, who we were not going to see again for maybe a long time as he goes to Mexico to serve mother church.

Between the liturgies we had dinner at the residence of retired Bishop Sarpong who had us serenaded by his band and called individually from bishop to the last person on the pilgrimage to do a dance which was replicated by a member of the band. What fun seeing our unique repertoires!

We then visited the historic sites where the slaves had their last bath before they were sold; and went to Cape Coast and Elmina Castle, the famed port from where African peoples were shipped to the Americas to be enslaved—a truly unforgettable and emotional experience for most people who connected with the experience of their ancestors.

From there we journeyed to Sekondi Takoradi in the West Region to visit the home of Bishop Kowfie CSSp, where we were treated to another sumptuous feast and live music.

Our last night in Accra at the Provincial House was spent celebrating with the parishioners who worship at the house. We shared a meal and gifts were presented to us as was done by the families at all Masses.

Our experience of the celebrating of the liturgy in Ghana and the generosity of the Spiritans and people we met will always hold a special place in our memories, as they too expressed with joy, the history we made in visiting Ghana in such large numbers to support sons of the soil.

Fr Clifford has since returned to Trinidad as he was appointed Assistant Parish Priest to Fr Gregory Mc Lawrence CSSp in Holy Trinity Parish, Arouca.