YISA MA MARIAMA PARISH, SAVELUGU
1. The Parish
Yisa Ma Mariama Parish in Savelugu was founded by Fr. Olivier Lecestre in October 1999. “Yisa Ma Mariama” means in Dagbanle “Mary Mother of Jesus”. It is made up of 5 main outstations: Pong Tamale, Savelugu, Diare, Malgunaayili and Zongchani. It begun in Pong Tamale, situated about 8km from Savelugu on the Tamale-Bolgatanga Road inside the Veterinary College in the 1930’s as an Outstation of Holy Cross Parish in Tamale. A few years later, Savelugu, situated about 25km from Tamale (Capital City of the Northern Region) also on the Tamale-Bolgatanga Road, became an outstation and took over the seat from Pong Tamale when it became the seat of Savelugu-Nanton District with its melting pot population. Yisa Ma Mariama Parish boundaries are the same as the Savelugu-Nanton District’s territory. According to the Parish baptismal registries, there are around 650 Catholics, most of them are civil servants, traders and students.
2. The District and the Town
Savelugu-Nanton District as it indicates, covers two towns namely, Savelugu and Nanton as its territory. The town of Savelugu is in the northern part that goes from Tamale to Pong-Tamale. According to the 2010 Population and Housing Census, Savelugu-Nanton District covers an area of 1790.7 Km² and the population is 139,283.
Savelugu is a Muslim stronghold (91.9%) and the indigenous are the ‘dagbanba’ (plural) and ‘dagbana’ (singular). The language spoken is ‘dagbanli’’. African Traditional Religions (2.8%) and Christians (4.8%) are also present in Savelugu though a Muslim stronghold.
3. The Community of the Missionaries of Africa
Our community is located at about 2 km away from the town-Centre. It is known as Fara yiil (Father’s House) or Mango Farm. There, we have the presbytery, a mango farm, a sheep pen and a Multipurpose Hall in a land of about 22 acres.
Our Community members are: Fr Pierre Songre, Fr Norendro Nayak and Fr Christopher Nkandu.
We have our morning Mass combined with morning prayers (Lauds) from Monday to Thursday and Saturday in a chapel inside the presbytery at 6: 45 am. Friday evening we have Mass at 5:00 pm in the Multipurpose Hall where Sunday Mass is celebrated as well at 8: 00 am by a priest.
On Sundays, we have Eucharistic Celebration in Savelugu as well as in Pong Tamale and from time to time we go to the other outstations. We have two trained catechists (John Yamusa in Diare and Vida Akuribire in Pong Tamale) and two prayer leaders who are helping us on Sundays for the worship. The second year stagiaire also is engaged in teaching catechesis and in conducting Sunday services without a priest.
Being in a Muslim stronghold, we are also involved in the Dialogue with Islam in our daily life. We visit our friends; we socialize with them especially during a naming ceremony or a wedding. It is important to highlight that here in Dagbon (dagonba land) the family bond is more important than the religious bond, meaning that people from the same family can belong to various religious denominations without any problem. However, there are some trends of Islam who find it difficult to accept the diversity of cult and worship.
4. The Outstations:
- As previously mentioned, Savelugu is the seat of the Parish. The majority of people worshiping in Savelugu Multipurpose Hall are civil servants, students and traders. Very few are settled parishioners.
- Pong-Tamale is the oldest of all our outstations. It seems a SVD priest started it and it was an outstation of Tamale Cathedral and in the 1930’s it became an outstation of Holy Cross Parish. When Savelugu was carved out of Holy Cross Parish in Tamale as a parish, Pong-Tamale outstation was handed over to Savelugu. It is 10 kms away from the presbytery on the way to Bolgatanga city. The presence of students in Pong Tamale makes the community lively and vibrant. There is a multipurpose Hall combined with the residence of the catechist.
- Maligunaayili. This is a small village situated at 25 kms from Savelugu eastward among the rice fields on the road to Karaga town. We have an increasing number of Christians there. They are mainly the FraFra people from the Upper East Region of Ghana who have settled in the area for farming. A new church structure built with cement blocks has been put up by Fr William James Curran in 2017. We celebrate in Dagbanli there, though most of them are FraFras.
- Diare, is 32 kms from Savelugu on the road to Bolgatanga. It was started in 1995 by Reverend Sister Paulette from the St Gildas’ Sisters and catechist Michael Baba. It is the first church structure built with modern materials. Next to the church we have the catechist house. The population of the Catholic community consists of mainly the catechist and his family and a few teachers and traders.
- Zoncheδni is a small village of FraFras, Dagombas and Mossi near the White Volta River, northwest of Savelugu. Only the FraFra who migrated from Tongo in 1992 constitutes the Catholic community. The Eucharistic celebration is held under a mango tree. We hope to set up a church structure for them as they are increasing in number.
Author: Pierre Songre M.Afr.