By Bro. Rafał Dąbkowski OMI – Missionary in Ghana.
On Sunday afternoon, November 28, 2021, we set our feet on the land of Ghana for the first time. We will probably remember this flight from Rome via Lisbon for the rest of our lives – it is a great step towards a new Oblate mission in the African Continent. After nearly two months of preparation in Rome, Lourdes and Aix, our pioneering team begins a new work in this West African country, which has a population of over 30 million.
Abenoxoe means “place to live”
Ghana, colonized by Great Britain, regained its independence only 64 years ago. The most famous Ghanaian is perhaps Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General.
It is here, on the largest artificial lake in the world – Lake Wolta, and on the main river of this country, also Wolta, in a small village aptly named Abenoxoe (translation from the local language Ewe is: “place to live”) we will serve the local Catholic community and look after one of the few Marian shrines in this country – Our Lady of the Grotto – Our Lady of Lourdes.
It is truly an Oblate mission, among the poorest, for whom shelter is made of small houses, often covered with clay with a tin roof that protects it, especially in the rainy season. It is a mission that certainly falls within our Marian charism, a place where numerous pilgrims of Ghanaians and tourists visit. It is a mission truly at the end of the world, because the nearby chapels can only be reached by boats. It is a mission in the spirit of our Founder, because it is open to the request of the local bishop, who sees the need for a new Marian congregation in the diocese.
A good start is half the battle – a vibrant community
The mission in Ghana is the first Oblate mission opened in the new millennium and the first in the third century of the Congregation’s existence. The COVID-19 pandemic did not allow the opening of this mission earlier, and already in 2019 the diocese of Ho was visited by members of the General Administration at the invitation of the local bishop, and then decided to open a new mission – reporting directly to Father General.
The new community consists of three Oblates from three nationalities (Nigeria, Poland, Senegal). From October 1, we officially belong to the community of the General Administration. We had a great time of preparation before starting this new work, in Rome, Lourdes, Aix and Ghana itself. Conferences, lectures, meetings, experienced retreats, and finally the experience and stay in the place of future ministry made it possible to prepare well for work in Dolna Volta, in the eastern part of Ghana.
In our General House we were able to take part in sessions on interculturality, internationality, building a new community, and the history of missions. Together we had a retreat in Lourdes and also visited the community in our motherhouse in Aix. In Ghana, at the invitation of the bishop of the Ho diocese, Mgr. Emmanuel Fianu SVD, we were able to observe the work in many parishes. What is most beautiful was taking part in the indulgence of the Sanctuary where we would be future custodians. This experience strengthened our awareness of the decision we made, as well as of the great needs of the Church in Africa.