History of the Ghanaian Catholic Community
For some years back various groups of Ghanaian Catholics residing in the Washington Metro area have felt the need to come together to worship and practice the Catholic faith “the way we used to do back home.” As we watched in admiration the founding and growth of Ghanaian Catholic churches in other US and Canadian cities such as New York, Hartford, Chicago and Toronto, we became more convinced about the need to get a group together in the Washington area.
The many discussions among Ghanaian Catholics began to yield some positive results when visiting priests and Bishops from Ghana provided the rallying cause to get our numbers to attend services at Parishes where they were scheduled to celebrate Mass. Some of our early attempts involved meetings and celebrating of Masses at the homes of our members often with some visiting Catholic priests as celebrants. There were Ghanaian Catholic cells at St. Louis Parish in Alexandria, VA; another at St. Camillus in Silver Spring, Maryland and our group at the Queen of Apostles Parish in Virginia.
In the summer of the year 2001, after various attempts to band together had failed, a more committed group of our members who worshiped at the Queen of Apostles Parish in Alexandria, Virginia succeeded in bringing us together to form the nucleus of what will come to be known as the Ghanaian Catholic Community. Thus, from these modest beginnings, our numbers kept growing as word began to spread among the Ghanaian community that finally the Ghanaian Catholics too have “formed a Church”. The leadership and general membership worked tirelessly building strong bonds of Christian love and friendship to build the group from a Prayer Group to a fully fledged Community within a Parish.
Our formative years were not without the usual growing pains. We had our share of disappointments, disagreements and even disputes among ourselves over policies and strategies for growth. But we never lost sight of our goal of forming a Ghanaian Catholic Community in the Washington Metro Area to “worship and celebrate the Holy Eucharist in any one of our major local languages with a Ghanaian clergy and backed by a Choir singing authentic Ghanaian Catholic tunes”. By the summer of 2003 we had structures and groups like the Choir, the Youth, and the St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, as well as the Christian Mothers to provide strong pillars to serve as anchors for our community. By the end of 2003 our young community had hosted the Most Rev Osei Bonsu, Bishop of Konongo-Mampong Diocese, the Most Rev. Peter Kwasi Sarpong, Archbishop of the Kumasi Archdiocese as well as many visiting Priests who were in the US for studies or vacation. We were also blessed with a visit by the Most Rev. Paul Loverde who gave his blessing and encouragement to our efforts.
In November of 2003 our group suffered the loss of one of our founding members in the passing away of Mr. Kenneth Mensah, the vice chairman of the advisory Committee. In our search to get a fitting Catholic burial for our fallen brother, we approached the Rev. Fr. Tuck Grinnell, the Parish Priest of the St. Anthony of Padua Parish who graciously offered to conduct the burial service. The warm reception accorded our group by Father Tuck during the funeral of our brother Kenneth persuaded our leadership to seek his permission to relocate the Ghana Catholic Community to his Parish. With the consent of Fr. Tuck our group moved to St. Anthony in November 2003 and was assigned one of their meeting rooms to hold our prayer sessions. After attending the 11am English Mass on Sundays, we would retreat to our room and read the day’s Bible Readings in Twi, sing and pray the Rosary, and rehearse the Twi Liturgy all in preparation for the day when we would have our own Priest.
Throughout this period our group lacked the services of a priest and always had to rely on temporary services of priests on vacation or at times lay preachers. As expected, a constant feature in the prayer of the faithful was for the Lord to give us a permanent priest to lead our group. In June of 2004, the Good Lord answered our prayer when He brought us Rev. Fr. John Owusu Achiaw who was on vacation from Bantama Parish in Kumasi. Fr. Owusu Achiaw spent three months with us and helped shape the Community as we see it today. He served as our pastor and spiritual leader, a co-director of the Choir as he participated in every Choir practice during his stay with us, and led us on pilgrimages to the Grotto of the Lourdes in Maryland, The Franciscan Monastery in Washington DC, and to Pittsburg, PA.
The period of Fr. Owusu Achiaw’s stay witnessed the maturity of our group in to a fully fledged “church”.
The return of Fr. Owusu Achiaw to Ghana in September of last year left us without a shepherd as we faced the gloomy prospect of continuing without a Priest. We kept the faith and never gave up; and for two weeks we were without a priest. Then, lo and behold, when the Lord finally answered our prayer, we had about three priests to work with and Rev. Fr. Henry Kwaku Duah an SVD priest who had come for further studies at the Loyola College in MD promptly answered our call. His presence has led to the rapid growth in our numbers with each passing Sunday as new members join the flock to swell our numbers. We also have the services of Rev. Fr. John Duah Prempeh, SVD who comes in every other week to concelebrate Mass with us.
Through the leadership of Rev. Fr. Tuffour, Fr. Henry Kwaku Duah and Fr. Duah Prempeh, we have almost all of our brethren and sisters who stayed behind at the Queen of Apostles back in our fold as we move forward in unison to love and serve the Lord.
Any account of the history of the Ghanaian Catholic Community will not be complete without the recognition of the immense support and guidance provided by a number of people that has brought us this far. The Bishop of Arlington Diocese, the Most Rev. Paul Loverde has always been supportive of our efforts and gave us every encouragement and advice. The Most Rev. Peter Kwasi Sarpong and Bishop Osei Bonsu deserve special mentioning as they provided and continue to provide support, advice and guidance during their visits and through correspondences with our group. We owe a debt of gratitude to our own Fr. Horace H. Grinnell, affectionately called Fr. “Tuck”, the Parish Priest of St. Anthony of Padua, who has always found a way to accommodate our requests and make us welcome. Indeed the entire clergy of the Parish as well as the administrative staff especially Mr. Collin, Sister Lucy, Louis, Willie and many others.
We have to make special mention of the contribution to our growth by a number of visiting Ghanaian Priests including Rev. Fr. John Nyarko of the Obuasi Diocese, Fr. Stephen Owusu Achiaw of Kansas, Fr. Opoku of Milan Italy, and others. We also benefited immensely from the help given to the choir by past members of the Bishop‘s Group resident in the U.S.
Indeed too many people from among our own membership and outside have played significant roles in our formation, growth and development that time and space will not permit me to list here. The Lord knows and appreciates the role you played and continue to play and your reward awaits you in Heaven.
We invite you and the general public to join us in our worship each and every Sunday to make our dream come true.
Compiled by Nana Adu-Gyamfi Kumanin, Immediate Past President of the GCC