Wednesday May 10th: Jesus, the true vine
May 10, 2023
A symphony of many
May 10, 2023

The Ghana Experience

Q: Archbishop J, what did you learn from Ghana?

Of all the national Churches that I have been privileged to see up close and minister to, Ghana is the most intriguing to me. I use the word intriguing because there is so much that is recognisable, so much that is familiar and yet so much that is different culturally to our Church in the Caribbean.



In 1981, the Church in Ghana was experiencing the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR). It was in its infancy stage, and they needed help. They wrote to Rome, to the office for Charismatic Renewal to seek help for the fledgling movement. The office in Rome wrote back to the leadership of the Renewal in Ghana advising them that they should approach the Renewal in Trinidad and Tobago for assistance.

In 1982, a team of four persons came from the Caribbean to begin a mission in Ghana—Ursula (Babsie) Bleasdell, Br Bill John-Lewis, Fr Mike Kosak and Deborah de Rosia (Sister Debbie). The Caribbean team set about to form prayer groups and their leaders in the charismatic dimension of the Church. The strategy was simple—form leaders to begin prayer groups in every parish. Sister Debbie has been to Ghana eight times, offering continuing formation to the leaders and members of the Renewal.

Some 40 years later, the seed planted back then has flowered into a mighty tree where all the birds of the air can take shelter. Over the four days that we gathered, I met a vibrant Church, ready to learn, ready to make sacrifice with a humility and openness that is phenomenal.

On the first two days, a bishop with 140 priests gathered for ongoing formation. Then 250 lay leaders from all regions and dioceses of Ghana gathered in the Renewal headquarters in Kumasi, a massive five-storey building that can accommodate 120 people with 20 single rooms and a conference room holding 300 people.


Early missionary

These are not the first missionaries that the Caribbean sent to Ghana. Bishop Joseph Oliver Bowers, a native of Dominica, was consecrated bishop of Accra in 1953. According to Wikipedia: “He is credited with having tripled the Catholic population and parishes in Ghana and for substantially increasing the number of Catholic priests, religious and laity in the Diocese of Accra.”

The Caribbean had thus significantly impacted the Church in Ghana, 30 years before the CCR missionaries. Then, there was also Trinidadian George Padmore who came to assist Ghana’s first Prime Minister  Kwame Nkrumah and many African nations set up the structures for governance after independence. They met through an introduction by CLR James. In Ghana, Padmore is a hero.



What is phenomenal, is that a seed planted 40 years ago by missionaries from the Caribbean has blossomed in such a fruitful way. The priests come from all the dioceses of Ghana and are chaplains of the Renewal in their dioceses and members of the Renewal. For them CCR gives much needed ongoing support and formation.

It begins in the seminary where CCR is one of the largest groups. Other groups like the Society of St Vincent de Paul and Legion of Mary also serve to deepen the spirituality of the seminarian in smaller clusters.

The CCR here in Ghana fosters these vocations through their work with the young, who they point to priesthood. They also foster these vocations through annual gatherings of seminarians during the vacation period.

I visited two seminaries in Ghana. The first in Accra had 290 seminarians and the second, in Kumasi, 220 seminarians. In the first, I celebrated Sunday Mass and in the second, I gave a spiritual conference to all the seminarians and then met with the seminarians of the Renewal.

It is awesome to be in a chapel with over 200 young men giving their lives to God and His Church. The liturgy was outstanding. Their sense of time is so different; they take a leisurely pace with a lot of pauses and much reverence. About one-third of the seminarians belong to CCR. An older priest recounted to me that when he was a seminarian, they hid to do a Life in the Spirit Seminar. What change a few years have made.

Vibrant music, energetic dancing and full participation accompanied the formation session with the priests and the gathering of lay leaders. The sessions went from 6.30 a.m. to 8.30 p.m. There is a hunger for learning, a humility in service, extraordinary hospitality, and a youthfulness to the Church.

A significant number of the priests were younger. Among the lay persons, 60 per cent were men and a high percentage were young, in their 20s and 30s. These are leaders of prayer groups. Yes, leaders!

When the music begins there is dancing in the aisles and at the front, a Congo line that could rival any Soca fete with hands in the air and rags waving. There is a kindred spirit.



In the CCR centre as many young people volunteer for these days of formation. They meet you, greet you, carry your iPad or books, make sure you have what you need. Over 30 of them in different roles, and in each role they are attentive to the needs of the participants. This is a culture focused outwards to the other.

It is common for a bishop to have a young priest as his personal secretary and his major-domo (chief steward). I had meals with three bishops. The young priest serves the guest at table and ensures the guests have what they need. There is a humility in this.

During the day, the young priest will represent the bishop in some meetings, speak on his behalf and manage things for him. But his first role is chief steward, ensuring order and hospitality through humble service.



In the first church I went into, St James, a beautiful icon of Mary and Child stands on the outside. Both mother and child were clearly African. Inside, the stained-glass windows were all European figures. Inculturation here, like at home, is a work in progress.

The music was clearly African, and reverence and piety were palpable. Here, there is a reverence and respect we have lost. What is most amazing is that the church was fully digital. Every liturgy is live-streamed, there are monitors for the words of song and text of the Mass and digital communication is an established ministry. They are in the 21st century.

The Ashanti Empire was a major political, economic, and military force in Ghana and beyond. Like England that took 1000 years to write the Magna Carta, the Ashanti people evolved from about 1000 AD till it flourished in a major empire by the late 1600s.

This is the Gold Coast, and British greed with guns eventually prevailed after many failed attempts. Another eminent Caribbean scholar Walter Rodney reflects on this in his critical work: How Europe underdeveloped Africa. For all the gold, the underdevelopment is visible. Large rural pockets of poverty remain despite the large amounts of gold they have mined.

Hundreds of years ago, the Caribbean received many people from Ghana as slaves. During the last 70 years the Caribbean has impacted Ghana—Church and State—in significant ways. We are an interconnected global village.


Key Message:

There has been a relationship between Ghana and the Caribbean that spans many centuries. More recently we have made major contributions to them just as we have received in former times.

Action Step:

Consider how you could be a missionary or help the missions. Why not put aside money every month for the mission collection in October?

Scripture Reading:

Mt 28:19