As the world every year mark the United Nations International Day of Charity on September 5, Caritas Ghana, the Development Agency of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference is credited to have undertaken numerous charitable activities aimed at bringing smiles to the faces of the indigent poor.
A resolution adopted on December 17, 2012 by the UN General Assembly established the Day which expressly mentions Mother Teresa as a model of love for those in need who indeed had a life totally dedicated to serving the poor amongst the poorest.
The example of Mother Teresa of Calcutta never stops attracting people all over the world including Ghana, believers and non-believers alike and such gesture has also been espoused by the Department of Human Development at the National Catholic Secretariat and Caritas Ghana for many years and during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Caritas Ghana was established in 1971 by the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Throughout Ghana, there are twenty dioceses and four Directorates: Social Development, Education and Religious Education, Health and Governance, Justice and Peace. It works in the following thematic areas: Social Development, Livelihood promotion, Social services, Promotion of Social and Environmental Justice, Public Policy Advocacy, Promotion of Pro-poor policies and Action
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference through its Charity organisation has over the years committed to the review and reform all current structures for the Service of Charity in line with the Motu Proprio (Intima Ecclesiae Natura). More specifically, it has adopted the Caritas model for the Service of charity so that the management standards and code of ethics can be better applied. Also, to better integrate the Service of Charity in the Church’s Pastoral Planning.
As part of a restructuring process, a Department of Human Development (DHD) was established with a Medium-Term Programme 2012-2016 as the Department’s framework for programme development, whose focus is ‘Integrated and Holistic Human Centered Development’.
Among its most relevant service delivery projects within the country, Caritas Ghana’s work includes promoting self-help projects in agricultural development, rural health and micro-credit for small businesses. It also coordinates relief operations after emergencies.
Working on public policy advocacy on behalf of the poor and the promotion of the common good has become central to the Department of Human Development. One example is its effort to include the ‘Right to Health’ in the new national constitution.
On June 2, 2016, the Most Rev. Gabriel A.A. Mante, Bishop of Jasikan and Episcopal Chairman of the Department of Human Development at the National Catholic Secretariat said during the outdooring of the institutional framework for Caritas Ghana that “ This does not change the social services that the Church has always rendered to humanity in the areas of health, education, livelihood, relief and incomes but it does introduce significant changes in standard and quality of those services.”
“We are taking our achievements to another level by establishing legal and
institutional framework for our service of charity, which includes socioeconomic development and public policy advocacy for the common good,” the Bishop said.
In the words of the Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, Bishop of Konongo-Mampong and the current Episcopal Chairman of Caritas Ghana, “it is within good practices of organizational development for the Department of Human Development to have codified the experiences of rebuilding our services of charity along caritas model.”
“As Episcopal Chairman for Caritas in Ghana, I am greatly delighted that the Church in Ghana is following a road-map well laid out for the institutional development of Caritas for a well-organized service of charity,” the Bishop said.
This feat could not have been successful without the mention of the Catholic Relief Services in Ghana which helped in forging a strategic partnership with the department of Human Development to pursue the cause of institutional development along the Caritas model.
Some Caritas Ghana partnerships include the Christian Council of Ghana, Office of the National Chief Imam, STAR-Ghana, UNHCR and members from the Caritas confederation.
According to Pope Francis, a “Church without Charity does not exist” and Caritas is the “caress of the Mother Church to her children, her tenderness and closeness.” This therefore encourages Caritas Ghana to share in the mission of the Church as an ordered service to the community. Inspired by Gospel values and the Catholic Social Teaching, Caritas responds to disasters, promotes integral human development and advocates on the causes of poverty and conflict.
Caritas is organised at local (parish), diocesan, national, regional and international levels. National Caritas organisations are each autonomous under their bishops, but they combine as part of the Caritas Internationalis confederation, which is a body of the Universal Church.
Over the last months within the COVID-19 era, Caritas Ghana has been collaborating with other Faith-Based Organizations under an interfaith alliance initiative in eight out of the 16 Political Regions of Ghana while supporting all 20 Diocesan Caritas Organizations. Caritas Ghana has focused on three broad area as follows: Improved access to accurate, reliable and timely information for citizens using the Interfaith Alliance network (FAITH in Ghana), improved access to emergency and relief support services by COVID-19 lockdown induced vulnerable populations and Enhanced accountability and responsiveness of government and its agencies on COVID-19 actions to citizens.
Caritas Ghana has adopted a nine- month Emergency Response Plan provided by the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference to ensure that the poor and vulnerable receive critical and essential services during this challenging time of pandemic.
As part of its charitable acts, Caritas donated relief items and token to victims of a fire outbreak demolitions at Agbogbloshie, a slummy area located in the heart of Accra this year and as well as boxes of packaged food items to Caritas Offices in the Accra, Cape Coast, Kumasi and Tamale Archdioceses for onward distribution to families and households.
The most recent intervention by Caritas Ghana is the rolling out a GHc1million project aimed at tackling the economic impact of Pandemic with employment and market stabilization measures as well as mitigating the humanitarian consequences of the pandemic focusing on sustainable economic development measures.
In order to be more responsive to the signs of the time; especially following the mind of Pope Francis, the Church’s Integral Human Development interventions had place greater emphasis on Migration, Justice and Peace, Poverty eradication, and “Care for Our Common Home” (Environment).
Service of Charity
Pope Francis’ call for professionalism in the Service of Charity has indeed encouraged Caritas Ghana to do more to increase the competencies of its Development Staff; especially at the Diocesan level.
On the celebration of the UN International Charity Day, Mr. Akologo reflected on His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, President of the Caritas Internationalis’ theological message which he describes as profound, saying that “Two special quotes I liked: What kind of persons are we forming in our youth?" Also "More than ever, we need today authentic charity from authentic persons".
*As the day, September 5 also marks the Memorial Day of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, one of the dedicated Saints of the Caritas Confederation, Mr. Akologo described her as also a Saint whose spirituality and recourse, “I seek refuge constantly,” adding, “She became a global icon and Nobel Laureate for her service of charity to the poor.”*
According to the Vatican Media, one tangible sign of this “transversal” strength of the “Saint of the Neediest” is the fact that Saturday, the anniversary of her death on September 5, 1997 and the liturgical memorial in her honour, the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Charity.
Hence, on the occasion of the feast of St. Teresa of Calcutta, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the President of Caritas Internationalis, shared with Vatican media a reflection on the “Mother of the Poor” and how her example of charity can help us to confront the pandemic.
In his 2013 Lenten message, Pope Benedict XVI reminded Catholics that Faith and Charity can never be separated nor opposed to each other, just as faith by itself is not genuine without charity.
"It would be too one-sided to place a strong emphasis on the priority and decisiveness of faith and to undervalue and almost despise concrete works of charity, reducing them to a vague humanitarianism," Pope Benedict said. "It is equally unhelpful to overstate the primacy of charity and the activity it generates, as if works could take the place of faith."
With the marking of UN International of Charity on September 5, it is the hope that dialogue and building strategic partnerships on behalf of the poor in Ghana will be enhanced. This could involve Government, Other Civil Society Organizations and the Private Sector.