OUR LADY OF HOPE PARISH, BUNKPURUGU, In NAVRONGO-BOLGATANGA DIOCESE
1. Geographical Position
Bunkpurugu is situated in the recently created North East Region of Ghana. It is at 250 kilometres from Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region, and it marks the end of the road from Walewale towards the Togo border at Yembour. To the north, Bolgatanga, the capital of the Upper East Region, is 180 kilometres away. Before it became a separate and independent district, Bunkpurugu had been a sub-district under Gambaga. (Recently, much improvement has been noticed on the state of the road from Walewale to Nalerigu: now entirely tarred, though the quality is questionable!). Bunkpurugu is at 61 kilometres from Nalerigu, the capital of the new North East Region. About 25 kms of the road between these two places is tarred from Nakpanduri to Binde. From Nalerigu to Nankpaduri the road is not tarred and the last 15 kms from Binde to Bunkpurugu have never really been good.
The neighbouring Parishes are Walewale to the west, Garu Parish to the north; to the south, we have Gushegu and Chereponi Parishes, belonging to the Diocese of Yendi. To the east is the Togolese Parish of Bogou, in the Diocese of Dapaauŋ.
The terrain in the Parish is mostly hilly and rocky. The land is still fertile in some few areas. Deforestation continues to pose a great threat to the area. The rain pattern is generally favourable to agriculture, an activity which most of the local people are not only born in but are also in love with.
2. Ethnic Groups
Many years ago, the Mamprusi sparsely populated this part of Ghana. As a consequence of German rule in Togo, the Mɔɔb (often referred to as Bimoba) and Kombas migrated into this area looking for a place to settle. Today these three ethnic groups co-exist in the same district. Still worth mentioning are the migrating herdsmen, the Fulani from Togo and Burkina Faso.
3. A Delicate Area
Our Lady of Hope Parish/Bunkpurugu is a rural milieu and covers a territory which is still described as an area of ‘primary evangelization.’ It is mainly composed of two groups of people, the middle class which comprises of teachers, nurses and petty-traders and those who have farming as their main occupation. Bunkpurugu is faced with the challenge of rural-urban migration. Most young people leave their homes in search of a better life in towns or cities. The irony of it all is that those who leave Bunkpurugu for academic reasons are not willing to come back once graduated. The level of illiteracy is still high.
The inter-tribal and recent intra-tribal conflicts (especially over chieftaincy, in Bunkpurugu) are a sign that Bunkpurugu parish still covers an area which is prone to violence and land disputes.
Fortunately (Thanks be to God!), and with a sustained presence and support of the Church (Diocese, our Province of M.Afr. through confrères who are actively committed on the ground), a number of conflicts have been overcome, as the adversaries have willingly celebrated through swearing their traditional rite of “blood burial”, which prohibits use of violence between the parties.
Christianity has not yet taken root in the heart of people. Strong traditional beliefs and customs prevent most people from embracing the Catholic faith and its values.
4. Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) / Diocese
Ecclesiastically, Bunkpurugu belongs to the Diocese of Navrongo-Bolgatanga. It grew as a result of the Missionaries of Africa primary evangelization efforts in the diocese. Until today the Missionaries of Africa are running the Parish for the local Bishop.
The Catholic faith was not the first to come to this part of Ghana. It is believed that Protestant denominations such as the Assemblies of God and the Apostolic Church were the first ‘Christians’ to come to the area. Today in Bunkpurugu itself, there are 13 Churches or ‘Christian’ denominations. Interestingly, there is a spirit of mutual respect between these Churches, The spirit of tolerance and friendly togetherness extends to the Moslems and Traditionalists.
6.Where it all Began
It has been recorded that from 1961, Fr. Roland Prescott, and later Fr. Michel Baratin, came on regular visits to Nakpanduri, Binde and Bunkpurugu primary and middle schools, as well as other schools in the surrounding area. They used to come from Walewale Parish. Already at that time, the idea to make a parish in this district was on the table… Fortunately, the staff in the young parish of Garu willingly took interest in this Project. Soon they started to trek to and beyond Nakpanduri escarpment. Through the Missionaries’ visits, interest for Catholicism grew among some people of Najoŋ 2. They started gathering as a Catholic community in 1966 with great encouragement from Frs. Jacques MORIN and Charles AKABOTE. As such, this became the first functioning outstation in the current Parish of Bunkpurugu.
In 1967, Mr. Boniface Jatuat Fori, a trained catechist from Lotogou Parish in Togo, was invited to meet a group of inquirers in the area. He first settled at Nakpanduri as a catechist for the Catholic faithful in the whole area. Later on he was moved to Najoŋ 2, before he returned to Togo, his home country…
7. Creation of a New Parish
Following a lot of pastoral commitment from the Missionaries (of Africa mainly) and with the willing participation of some lay people, Bunkpurugu was created a Parish in 1980 by Bishop Rudolph Akanlu, and was dedicated to Our Lady of Hope. Fr. Michel BARATIN (+ 2016) was installed as the first Parish Priest, while Fr. Xavier Plissart (also of blessed memory) was appointed curate. The celebration took place at the newly built Fathers’ House, today called ‘the Old Mission.’ At that time, the Parish counted 84 Outstations! Work on the new Parish church at Bunkpurugu began in 1981.
8. Our Lady of Hope Parish Today
Today, the Parish has 32 Outstations. They are grouped in 4 Zones. Major Feasts/Solemnities of the Liturgy are normally celebrated in these four zones, to allow everybody to have the opportunity to fully participate in the Mystery of Christ being celebrated.
Three Priests are serving in the Parish at present (while a fourth one is to join the Parish later this year): 1. Fr. NAYAK KUMAR Sukanta, M.Afr. (Curate); 2. Fr. JIMENEZ MENDIVIL Maralf, M.Afr. (Curate); 3. Fr. AMANI BULAMBO Dieudonné, M.Afr. (Parish Priest since the 1st of April 2017).
9. Some Projects on Progress in the Parish
a. Our Lady of Hope School Project
With the help of many people in Nottingham, United Kingdom, a cluster of 5 schools of the same place are supporting us build a school in Bunkpurugu: 6 classrooms, 2 offices, 1 store, 1 computer laboratory, and (‘modern’) toilets for staff and for pupils.
The structure below shows the current 3 classroom unit (+ office and store). Next to it is one side of the former Parish Youth Hall (St. Mukasa), which is part of ‘the old Mission.’ We are still using some rooms of ‘the old Mission’ as classrooms.
b. Baratin’s Borehole
Following Fr. Michel Baratin’s last wish to continue to support Bunkpurugu, Our Lady of Hope Parish has received a funding which we have used, with the additional support from our confrère Fr. Damien WATINE, to get this hand pump borehole. It is meant to help the local people, as they often struggle to get water.
c. Parish Conference Hall
We have also received a funding from LES AMIS DES MISSIONNAIRES D’AFRIQUE (France/Paris) for the building of a Parish Conference Hall. Work has begun, as can be seen in the image below.
Author: AMANI BULAMBO Dieudonné, M.Afr.