Promotion of Clergy formation is my priority
· Says Bishop-Elect Afoakwah
By Damian Avevor
The Bishop-Elect of the Obuasi Diocese, Very Rev. Fr. John Afoakwah says that the promotion of on-going formation for the Clergy would be his top most priority in his ministry as the Shepherd of the Diocese.
He said the Obuasi Diocese lacked experts in various sacred and other disciplines and the personnel he had to work with was very critical and their on-going formation and skill acquisition was very critical.
He said the formation would be extended to the laity, noting that the promotion of the overall faith growth and spiritual life of the Clergy and especially the laity was of absolute necessity.
In a response to a questionnaire sent to him by The Catholic Standard after the announcement as the new Local Ordinary, Bishop-Elect Afoakwah said Catholics especially the children and the youth must know, understand, defend, teach and live out their faith as Catholics.
He stressed that the Diocese also needed well-formed and properly motivated lay faithful including Catechist, Catholic teachers, marriage counselors, lay evangelizers, Biblical Apostolate leaders.
The Diocese had a Pastoral and Formation Centre (St. John Paul Formation Centre, Ofoase Kokoben) which must be made more functional with different formation programmes, he added.
“The phenomenon where some Catholics are drawn away by their peers must cease. The Bible has to be the book for every Catholic in the Diocese. The prayer life of the Catholic should be strong so that they will stop going to various prayer camps. These are some of my faith growth concerns and serious attention will be given to them.”
He said the future of the Obuasi Diocese depended largely upon vocations to the various callings particularly Priesthood and Religious Life, hence the need to give these areas of the church a priority.
Obuasi Diocese is a rural Diocese and financially weak. I have been appointed at a time when the Obuasi Mining Company is at its lowest, almost all its workers declared redundant with just a skeletal staff. Without the mines, Obuasi is a “ghost town”. I have a heavy responsibility to make Obuasi Diocese financially self-sufficient or self-reliant
He said he expected loyalty from his Priests and a united presbytarium, appealing to the Priests, Religious and the Laity to support, understand and co-operate with him in his new appointment.
“I expect to have the support, understanding and co-operation from my brother Priests. Priests are every Bishop's immediate co-workers and as such there must be a solid bond of good relationship of mutual respect. In fact, a Bishop and his priests are like a team and a coach. When players listen to and play according to the techniques of the coach, they are always a winning side.”
“I also expect good example in holy living from them to the laity and good stewardship in the Church's finances and goods,” he added.
Like the Priests, he said, he also expected similar team spirit from the Religious, whom he noted had a special role and unique charism, for effective pastoral success.
For the laity, he urged them to support him with constant and continuous prayer since they were directly involved in various professions in society, saying that he expected from them to bring Christ unto their jobs and their places of work.
“They are to generously support the Church with their talents, time, and treasure, financial and other material resources. Catholic families are to be prayerful and committed to the faith, in this way they can be agents of evangelization.”
He assured them that he would welcome every good idea or suggestion and take their constructive criticism, saying that “My door are always opened and all have rooms in the Bishop's house.”
Adding he said “I will distinguish between personality and issues during discussions on pastoral matters. I need the expertise of all and will tap and use every potential in them for pastoral effectiveness. Be ready to be delegated by me to perform certain assignments. Your welfare will be my utmost concern. I love them all and will shepherd them tenderly.”
He said his appointment was a very big challenge, stating that “The position of a Bishop deals with all levels of society: Academicians, politicians, traditional leaders, all professionals, middle class and lower class.”
As a Bishop, he said you have to stand up to and provide pastoral care to these different categories of persons. It is an arduous task. It calls for discipline, moral uprightness, being an example for all, a person of integrity and good reputation, be the voice of the voiceless as you stand for peace and fight for justice. It is awesomely demanding.
Asked how he saw his new office, he said it was primarily of service, stating that the Bishop was a teacher of faith and his office was to provide authentic teaching on the faith and defend it.
He lamented that “ignorance has become a serious problem in the country as there were a number of teachers of the Bible and different teachings or doctrines saturating the entire Ghanaian religious atmosphere making many people confused including Catholics.
The Bishop as a Priest is and should be a person of prayer, teach others how to pray just as Jesus thought His disciples and to bring people to God in prayer, teaching them the correct way to go to God in prayer.
He was sad that nowadays, certain people were championing and promoting some prayer styles that were questionable and objectionable, urging Catholics not to follow the crowd and be swept away by these prayer currents of the day.
He said that “Our traditional Catholic prayers and spirituality must be re-taught, better explained, and made more attractive including the prayer pattern of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and my office is responsible for this.”