M.Afr. Ghana/Nigeria Province

St Monica Parish


ST MONICA’S PARISH-NYANPKALA-TAMALE

Introduction

St Monica’s Parish is located at Nyankpala in the Tolon district of the Northern Region. The membership of the parish Pastoral Council consists of the Parish Priest, the Catechist, and two representatives each of the recognized activity groups in the parish. Every fourth Sunday of the month after Mass the Parish pastoral Council holds its regular meetings. An emergency meeting can be called whenever it is necessary to take decisions concerning the growth, development and effective running of the Parish.

The instituted Councils and Committees in the parish are the Parish Council, the Laity Council, the Financial Committee, the Liturgical Committee and the Development Committee. Meanwhile, the recognized activity groups are the Christian Mothers Association, the Legion of Mary, the St Vincent de Paul, the Youth Organization, the Adult and Youth Choirs, the Ushers and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

St Monica’s Parish has three outstations (Gbulahagu, Chirifoyili, and Tibogunaayili) within its mandate area and also the St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church at UDS Nyankpala campus. The present population of the Parish together with the outstations stands at 596 Parishioners comprising of St Monica’s Church with 250, St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church with about 200, Gbulahagu with 45, Chirifoyili 100 and Tibogunaayili 1 Christian. This one Christian is the famous Peter Naporow, who, for already more than ten years, has held out against Muslim pressure, and goes to church every Sunday for prayer. We visit him regularly to sustain his courage in his battle to witness to the Christian faith within a population that does not welcome that faith.

1. Spiritual life of the Parish

a. Celebration of the Sacraments

The Parish celebrates daily Masses and observes the feast days and holy days of obligations such as Christmas, Ash Wednesday, the Stations of the Cross during the Lenten season, Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter and St Monica’s (our Patron Saint) and all other feast days in accordance with the Liturgical Calendar.  

Parishioners also avail themselves of the sacraments of Communion, Marriage and Reconciliation. We, the pastors, have to explain to them the need of these Sacraments in the Christian life. In this context, we notice that sin and Christian Morals are often put into question and highly relativised in this computerized media world. What is sin or fault for the modern Christian?

During the month of September every year, a Laity Week is organized and launched, by the Laity Council, under the theme “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith’- The Role of Marriage and the Family Apostolate”. The launching and the week-long celebrations are often actively attended by the Parishioners. A Laity Booklet for the event, translated into Dagbani by the Catechist for the benefit of our outstations, is greatly appreciated.

b. Devotions and Adoration

  1. The Blessed Sacrament adoration on Monday evenings.
  2. Parishioners observe the Rosary prayers during the Marian months of May and October at the Parish Grotto with much enthusiasm.
  3. The Parish Youth meet every Thursday evening for Rosary prayers at the Parish Grotto.
  4. The members of the Legion of Mary visit the sick at regular intervals in the morning and in the evening pray the Rosary with them.

c. Evangelisation

Through various programs St Monica’s Parish invites people into the Catholic Church, but not without having to face and overcome many challenges. A full-time Catechist consecrates ample time to the animation of the communities especially in the outstations, through catechism towards Christian initiation, confirmation, Christian marriage He also explains to them the social teachings of the Church, which are based on the Ten Commandments and summarized into the one basic human Law of Love for God and Neighbour. All this may sound very good, but in fact it is not easy at all to live in communities that are going through the process of Inculturation of Religions and Cultures. This is where missionaries are facing daily challenges of real conversion to Christian values.

On the third Sunday of the month, immediately after the announcements, the priest on duty takes those present through some basic living Christian principles so as to remind them and keep alive their Christian faith.

Twice a year, the Youth have a week of interactions either in the Parish or in one of the outstations when some important topics on faith sharing, Bible quiz, and youth development and growth as Christians are treated. The youth of all the outstations are included without exception. This creates a sense of belonging to the same Parish, Church, faith, and the same Nation.

There is a group in the parish, called “the Missionary Childhood”, which aims at inculcating a missionary spirit in all the faithful, encouraging them to share with others valuable human values within and outside the parish wall.

The Charismatic Renewal is active in spirit though not to the liking of all the faithful. They visit the sick etc. and are very regular in their prayer activities and meetings. Things can be very exciting when there is a feeling that the Spirit is at work and has descended on earth to transform it in a radical manner by destroying sin and evil. There is something valuable in that group, but only if they remain firmly anchored within the Christian doctrine of a Trinitarian God. They also can do a lot on the level of self-reliance of the Catholic Church in Africa, which often still has a tendency to depend fully on divine providence, without making any real effort to take care of herself financially. They have the art of getting money out of the pockets of the faithful if allowed to go ahead!!!

We try to imitate the first Christian community through acts of charity. Parishioners donate food items and clothing to the needy in our community and at times to the central prison in Tamale. Though poor themselves, we try to make them realise the blessings we receive from every good deed we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, because we do it to Christ. No help is little as long as the spirit of love of God and neighbour inspires it.

2. Challenges

The Parish is not growing in numbers due to the transitional nature of Parishioners. The membership is composed of a working class:

  1. The UDS students and the youth, who are either in primary or JHS. The majority of the youth leave home for Senior High Schools annually.
  2. Those in the University complete their studies and leave for good.
  3. Some workers go on transfers and retirements and leave the Parish with their families.   
  4. Many Parishioners are attached to Catholic groups and organizations which do not exist in our parish (e.g., Knights International of St John, etc.). They are so attached to these groups that it is not easy to organize meetings and ongoing formation with all the faithful in the Parish.
  5. Parishioners close work and come late or not at all to meetings.
  6. Our parish school sees the number of Christians dwindling due to a higher population of Muslims in our district, so much so that even the school administration has become Islamized and out of control of any Christian doctrine. The consequences are: first, there is very little chance of the transmission of the proper Christian message, secondly, there is an inadequate number of catechism teachers in the school and in the Parish community as a whole and thirdly, the university students are reluctant to join the catechumenate towards Christian initiation because of the number of years the Church asks them to go through.

3. The way forward

  1. To encourage qualified Parishioners to take an active role in teaching catechism.
  2. Institute also in our Parish some of the influential Catholic groups existing elsewhere in the archdiocese.
  3. To intensify evangelization in the outstations, which are completely made up of Dagombas.

Conclusion

If the Lord does not watch the city, the watchman watches in vain… (Ps 127:1)

Author: John Amona, M.Afr.

 

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