A wonderful, beautiful, coincidence has occurred in the history of Church-State relations.
As Mother Ghana celebrates her 50th Anniversary (Golden Jubilee) as an independent nation, a community of religious workers, made up of priests, reverend brothers and reverend sisters, is also marking fifty years of its presence in Ghana. The theme for the year-long celebration is EDUCATING HEARTS AND MINDS.
As we mark the Golden Jubilee of the auspicious event, and recall the work the congregation has been doing in this country, we thank the Good Lord for having kept us alive to see the day He has made. Such occasions call for a sober reflection of what has gone on during the period, to identify the strong points and the pitfalls of the community within the 50 years.
Founded in 1837 in France by Rev. Fr. Basil Anthony Moreau, the Congregation of Holy Cross (CSC) devotes itself to the advancement of both sacred and secular activities. The scope of interest against the backdrop of spirituality includes social work, health care, education and technical support. In Ghana, the members are mainly in the education sector.
The first three brothers of the Holy Cross Congregation arrived in Ghana from the United States of America, on December 2, 1957, at the invitation of the then Catholic Archbishop of Cape Coast, Most Rev. William Thomas Porter, SMA. With missionary zeal and effort, the pioneering Holy Cross Brothers accepted the challenge and ventured into the 'unknown', a land they had never visited before.
The team, made up of Rev. Bro. Rex Hennel, Eduardo Michalik and Donald Allen all of CSA took bold and giant steps in the spirit of their religious vows. Stationed at St. John’s School, Sekondi, then only five years old, the Brothers adjusted to their new socio-cultural environment in a newly-independent Ghana.
Bro. Rex took up the mantle as the Headmaster, and watered the seed planted by the founding Headmasters of St. John’s School, Rev. Fr. John Beenkers, SMA, and Rev. Fr. (later, Dr.) Francis Kwamena Buah, who became a very famous historian and public statesman. The following year, Bros. Raymond Papenfuss, William Gates and Jerome Chandler also arrived.
The Brothers of Holy Cross set themselves to develop the infrastructure they had met and between 1961 and 1962, built a three-storey dormitory block Dolan Hall, was built to accommodate about one-third of the student population. A second dormitory, Archbishop Porter Hall, was also put up. A dinning/assembly hall complex was built, while St. Joseph’s Hall was constructed for students who aspired to join the congregation, all within the five years that followed.
A number of staff bungalows and a playfield were constructed. A large stock of teaching and learning materials was procured. A school chapel changed the landscape to pave way for the spiritual development of the student community which was gradually becoming a boarding school. Other forms of investment, in the area of recruiting qualified and competent staff, contributed towards the improvement of the academic standards at St. John’s beside sports, games and extra-curricular activities.
Another significant phenomenon was the financial assistance given to students from less-endowed communities and families. The funds for bursaries were mobilised through the
congregation’s resourcefulness and made it possible for some needy students to access secondary education.
To date, several hundreds of students who had passed through the doors of institutions run by members of the congregation of Holy Cross have been imbued with strong values based on Christian principles and are making their invaluable contributions to the world.
The resumption of the Headship at St. John’s School, Sekondi, by an Old Saint who is a Brother of Holy Cross, is a further development in the annals of the Congregation. During the last five years in particular, the fifth Holy Cross Headmaster has strenuously revamped the disciplinary tone of St. John’s. This, in turn, has positively reflected on the academic pursuits and results.
The primary focus, however, has been to motivate interested students to respond to the vocation of religion. Within the fifty years, concerned observers have noticed a tremendous improvement. The lull that occurred in the 1980s has fortunately been replaced by an upward trend in enrolment into the congregation. An encouraging number of young Ghanaian men and women have embraced the charism (or Teaching Ministry) of the Congregation of Holy Cross.
The presence of Holy Cross Brothers, Sisters and Fathers in four second-cycle schools (St. John’s, Sekondi; St Augustine’s, Cape Coast and Bogoso; Archbishop Porter Girls, Sekondi/Takoradi) ensures the Catholic imprint on the quality education being given in those schools to generations of young Ghanaians. The brief period (in the 70s) at St. Theresa’s Minor Seminary/Senior Secondary School, Amisano/Elmina, is also a higher point to mention.
The Holy Cross Institute for Continuing Formation (ICF) at the Holy Cross District Centre, Brafuyaw, near Cape Coast, has been serving the local clergy, religious and lay people. The centre is available for ongoing formation courses in spirituality, retreats and other observances. Financial management courses are organised for priests, religious and other church workers in-between the main seasons.
The centre also plays a very important role in youth development, by organising leadership courses for youth groups in three dioceses, namely: Archdiocese of Accra, Cape Coast and of Sekondi/Takoradi.
Sisters of Holy Cross have successfully established themselves in Ghana and are currently doing very satisfactory work in pre-schools and secondary schools in the Cape Coast Archdiocese and Sekondi/Takoradi Diocese.
The Skills Training Centre at Takoradi has been an avenue to equip numerous young people with technical and vocational skills that will guarantee their insertion to the world of work, as they prepare for independent adulthood. The Holy Cross Home of Hope at Anaji is a residential institution for 23 JSS drop-outs to acquire training in carpentry, electrical and auto-mechanics.
Above all, Ghana served as the platform from which the scope of Holy Cross operations was extended to Liberia (West Africa) and Uganda (East Africa).
It is encouraging to learn that the congregation intends to make its presence in other dioceses shortly. We pray that by the next decade or so, we shall find the Congregation of Holy Cross in at least 10 of the current 18 dioceses in Ghana.
Through the instrumentality of one of the past superiors of the congregation, Bro. Michael Amakyi (CSC), groups of Lay men and women who are supportive of the Ministry of the Congregation of Holy Cross have constituted themselves into a family ministry called HOLY CROSS ASSOCIATES. They help promote the work of the Congregation through prayer sessions and other programmes of spiritual development within the family setting.
Our profound gratitude goes to God who inspired the church hierarchy to invite the Congregation of Holy Cross to Ghana. We are equally thankful for the great impact the congregation have made, and continue to make, in the development of the human resource required for national growth and the promotion of the activities of the Church of Ghana and elsewhere in Africa.
Another interesting aspect is that there will be 50 strong men to light a 50-candle anniversary cake, supported and witnessed by their confreres (priests, brothers and sisters from the other religious societies) as well as associates.
Congratulations to these devoted men and women at the service of the Catholic Church and Ghana, as educators and formattors of the youth, influencing positively the moral fibre of future citizens for the nation and the church. May the Lord, who makes waterways in desert areas, pave the way for further extension of the work of the Congregation of Holy Cross, as they enter other parts of Ghana.
Ad Multos Annos! FLOREAT, Congregation Of Holy Cross!
Congregation Of Holy Cross! Long Live The Catholic Church!!!
God Bless Our Homeland, Ghana.
The writer is a member of Holy Cross.