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Father Ryan Reports from West Africa (VIII): “Winding Up in Ghana”


Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society Patrick J. Ryan, S.J. is spending a month in Africa, a continent where he previously lived for 26 years. During his time there, he will be blogging about his experiences. Here is his latest post:

Since last Saturday, Jan. 9, I have been meeting with old friends whom I originally knew at the University of Ghana. The Reverend Joyce Kodade, a Presbyterian minister (a man, like Joyce Kilmer and Joyce Cary), was my student in his final year (1975-76). He eventually did a master’s degree at Fordham’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (1985-87). He is now a major administrator of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ghana.

I celebrated mass on Sunday morning in an “out-station” I began with 12 adults and about 30 children in December 1974. We started in a classroom, but now the parishioners (about 1,000 in number) worship in a church they have built and dedicated to my patron saint, St. Patrick. As soon as they build a presbytery, it will become a full parish. The offertory procession, involving all in church, was conducted to an African beat and brought up not only cash donations but also foodstuffs, candles, bottled water, toilet paper and soap. This helps their pastor, Father Agbattey, to survive. Like most masses in Africa, it began a bit late but (happily, given the heat) only lasted 90 minutes.

On Monday, I had lunch with another friend from those days, Professor John Pobee, once my head of department. Late in life, he was ordained to the Anglican priesthood and is now the Vicar General of the Diocese of Accra. He also worked for 19 years in Geneva for the World Council of Churches‘s program for ecumenical theological education.

Today I had lunch with a former registrar of the University of Ghana (who also worked as a registrar later on In Rwanda), Ebow Daniel. I have a particularly poignant bond with him and his wife, Theresa. On my 40th birthday, I had the sad duty of burying their eldest son, a 12-year-old, who had died suddenly of an asthma attack.

I return to Nigeria tomorrow, Jan. 13, and to New York on Jan. 16. Alas, I will miss the Jan. 14 funeral of my friend and former Provincial, Father Joe Novak. May he rest in peace.


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