On the 22nd of June 2020, Rev Father Jean Claude HABIMANA celebrated his first priestly anniversary at the Saint Joseph Parish of the Navrongo Bolgatanga Diocese. In an outstanding and colorful manner, the day commenced with a Eucharistic celebration of less than a hundred congregants, in accordance with the Covid-19 protocols to help curb the wide spread of this pandemic.
The celebration begun as the saint Gregory the Great Choir sang the entrance song from Catholic Hymn Book numbered 420 “Priestly people, kingly people, holy people, God’s chosen people, sing praise to the Lord”. Father Jean overwhelmed with joy could not help, but dance graciously to the alter, accompanied by four other priests; Rev Fr Pierre Boro (The parish priest), Rev Fr Erus K. Tirkey, Rev Fr Joseph Giday and Rev Fr Bukuru Venant both from the Bunkurugu parish. The congregation (made of 2 members of each society or community) although not huge in number sang together with the choir; Wide smiles filled the faces of all as they gave thanks to God for the gift of Rev Fr Jean Claude’s life and services.
Father Jean Claude who could not wait to celebrate his big day had been thanking God through mass requests since he arrived in the parish on the sixth month of his ordination till the D-day. He was so enthusiastic and thankful for the chance to serve in the Lord’s vineyard for a year and continued to pray for more years of commitment and dedication. During the mass Rev Fr Bukuru, a friend and Classmate to father Jean Claude read the Gospel for the day taken from Luke 1; 30-37, and also gave a sermon. In his sermon, he extoled father Jean Claude in many ways and described him as a gentleman and a good friend. He also advised him on the challenges that walk hand in hand with the joy and merits of priesthood and encouraged him to be steadfast and grounded in the Lord. He also pleaded with the parishioners to support and pray for father Jean Claude and also the other priests, because they cannot accomplish their tasks alone. The mass was so interesting and filled with fun; a smock was presented to father as a sign of appreciation for his tireless efforts and commitment towards the work of God. Before the final blessing, father Jean Claude took to the pulpit to thank the church for receiving him warmly and also for their kind gesture. Afterwards father was asked by the other priests to bless them and father Jean Claude humbled by this honor raised up his arms upon them and spoke a word of blessing as they knelt in reverence to his “new anointing”. The Eucharistic celebration was then climaxed as all five priests said the final blessing and descending from the alter, the recession song was sung as they walked into sacristy.
Immediately after the mass, everyone moved to the priest residence (Haskew House) for the second phase of the celebration. Upon our arrival, we were met with a variety of dishes and drinks both local and foreign, especially our famous “Dokus” (Dog meat) and “Pokus” (Pork). After a short blessing by father Jean Claude, we dived straight to break bread with cheering and smiles, eating together, cracking jokes, as everyboby tried to taste all sorts of dishes and drinks. It was so lovely and the variation in ideology and culture brought about so much harmony and great excitement. It became even more hilarious when the MISA family presented to father Jean Claude a beautiful cake designed in form of a Bible. Father Jean Claude remarked saying “this cake is too good to be destroyed hence instead of cutting it he was going to keep it in his room for admiration”. Well! That didn’t stop the whaling appetites of the masses; at last the beautiful cake had to meet its end.
After we were all merry and satisfied; it was time for random speeches. The parish priest being the father of the entire family took to the microphone to congratulate father Jean Claude on his one-year anniversary. He thanked father Jean Claude for his support, respect and dedication saying he learnt a lot from him and appreciated his wisdom and humility. The prayer leader in the person of Sir Robert Ayamga also stood on behalf of the parishioners and congratulated father Jean Claude on the occasion of his first anniversary saying, he is loved and appreciated. He also remarked that he, in particular, was so impressed at how fast father Jean Claude learnt the local dialect and even saying mass in it.
In all, father’s enthusiasm and passion to duty was so undeniable that even though a few people were given the chance, this was what no one could finish speaking without mentioning. The parish priest then thanked everyone for making time to celebrate with father Jean Claude on his special day, the prayer leader said the closing prayer and father Jean Claude blessed us to depart safely to our homes.