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On the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Konongo-Mampong Diocese, of the 20th Anniversary of my episcopate, and the 40th Anniversary of my priestly ordination, it gives me the greatest pleasure, on behalf of the Konongo-Mampong Diocese and on my own behalf, to welcome you all to this Thanksgiving Mass.

I was ordained a priest on 3 August 1975 together with Fr. Martin Adu, now in Miami, Florida, U.S.A., and Fr. Augustine Barimah of blessed memory, in St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica by Most Rev. Peter K. Sarpong, at that time Bishop of Kumasi (now Archbishop Emeritus I of Kumasi).  After my ordination I was assigned to the St. Mary’s Parish, Suntresu, Kumasi.  After one year of pastoral work, I was asked to pursue doctoral studies in New Testament in Aberdeen, Scotland.  On completion of my doctoral studies, I was asked by my bishop in 1981 to go and lecture in the Department for the Study of Religions, University of Ghana, Legon.  While there, I also did chaplaincy work for the Catholic Communities at Legon and Kwabenya.

On 17 March 1995, while on a sabbatical leave at the Pontifical Beda College, Rome, I was appointed the first bishop of the Konongo-Mampong Diocese that had been erected on 3 March 1995.  I was ordained a bishop on 28 May 1995 together with Most Rev. Thomas Kwaku Mensah, Bishop of Obuasi (now Archbishop Emeritus II of Kumasi), Most Rev. Philip Naameh, Bishop of Damongo (now Archbishop of Tamale), Most Rev. Anthony Kwami Adanuty, Bishop of Keta, and Most Rev. Gabriel Akwasi Ababio Mante, Bishop of Jasikan.  My installation in Mampong took place on 11 June 1995.

As we meet here today to celebrate 20 years of the existence of the Diocese, 20 years of my episcopate and 40 years of my priestly ordination, I would like you to join me in giving thanks to the Almighty God for all the graces that he has showered on the Diocese and on me during all these years.

By the grace of God the Diocese has seen some growth.  We started off with 18 parishes and rectorates in 1995.  These included Atebubu and Yeji in the Brong Ahafo Region, now part of the Techiman Diocese.   Now there are 49 parishes, rectorates and Mass centres.  In 1995 there were 36 priests; now there are 94.  Indeed, with five deacons going to be ordained in July this year, the number of diocesan priests will be 99!

New congregations have come into the diocese.  These include the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Drobonso, the Dominicans (both men and women in Besease and Donyina respectively), the Redemptorists in Besease, and the Josephites and the Missionaries of Africa in Ejisu.  Later this year we expect the Presentation Sisters based in the Gambia to go to the St. Augustine’s Parish, Agogo, Asante-Akim, to open and run a school.  We also expect the OLA Sisters to go to Bepoase to take charge of the Sacred Heart Clinic and Maternity there, and the Carmelites to go to the St. Michael’s Parish, Ahenkro, to open and run a school there.

The last twenty years have also seen the coming into existence of the St. Joseph’s Seminary, which is part of the St. Joseph’s Senior High School in Mampong.  The Lord has blessed us with a lot of vocations to the priesthood, with 55 major seminarians currently in our major seminaries. Many priests have undertaken Master’s, licentiate and doctoral studies in Europe, the United States of America, Canada and Australia.  The Spiritan Institute that started as a formation centre for men pursuing the priesthood in the Congregation of the Holy Spirit is now a University College open to all qualified men and women.  We pray that it will one day become a full-fledged university.

The formation of the laity and the youth continues with an active Diocesan Laity Council and a vibrant Diocesan Women’s Council that coordinate the activities of the laity, the youth and the various women’s societies.  The period under consideration has also seen the coming into existence of the Men’s Society, which is gradually spreading to many parishes.

The Diocese has also changed in terms of infrastructure.  These include the bishop’s residence, the diocesan secretariat, additions to the Divine Providence Centre, churches, rectories, schools, hospitals and clinics.  Mention may be made of the St. Vincent’s Clinic and Women’s Training Centre in Drobonso, the new St Joseph’s Hospital at Abira, the Pope St. John Paul II Medical Centre, Jamasi (with its mortuary), the St. Mary’s Senior High School, Konongo, the St. Michael’s Senior High School, Ahenkro, the Our Lady of Grace Senior High School, Mamponteng, and the St. Sebastian’s Senior High School started by the Congregation of the Daughters of the Most Blessed Trinity (F.S.T.).

We would like to thank the Lord for all these things, and pray that in the coming years he will enable us to achieve even more.  But above all, we would like to thank the Lord for the spiritual growth of the Diocese that cannot be measured in physical or material terms.

The diocese has been helped immensely by many benefactors, both local and foreign.  We thank them for their assistance and pray that the good Lord will continue to bless them and prosper the work of their hands.

I would like to say a word of thanks to all the Religious Congregations in the diocese – the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, the Josephites, the Missionaries of Africa, the Society of African Missions, the Dominicans (both male and female), the Redemptorists, the Sisters of St. Louis, the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus, the Congregation of Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Mercy, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, the Daughters of the Most Blessed Trinity (FST), and the Congregation of the Holy Family.

I would also like to say a word of gratitude to all our diocesan priests and all the laity for their contribution to the Diocese over the past twenty years.  I thank my brother priests and bishops, alive or dead, who shepherded this part of the Lord’s vineyard when it was part of the original Kumasi diocese.  I salute all the gallant missionaries and pastoral agents of the past, some of whom are still alive, though some have gone to their eternal rest.  May God reward all of them abundantly for their services in the past.

We have just concluded our first ever Diocesan Synod on the theme: “The Konongo-Mampong Diocese in Retrospect:  Prospects, Challenges and the Way Forward”.  It is our hope that we will be able to implement the synodal decrees and that the Synod will greatly influence our diocesan policies in the future.

As we gather here for this Eucharistic celebration on the occasion of these Anniversaries, let us thank the Lord for the graces, blessings and joys, as well as the sorrows, toils and challenges of the past 20 years.  We would like to thank the Lord for all that he has done for us by saying with the psalmist, “What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people” (Psalm 116:12-14).   With the prophet Isaiah we “will recount the gracious deeds of the LORD, the praiseworthy acts of the LORD, because of all that the LORD has done for us” (Isaiah 63:7).

In conclusion, I would like to say a word of gratitude to you all for making time to attend this celebration of the three anniversaries.  My thanks go to Daasebre Osei-Bonsu II, Nana Mamponghene, Daasebre Otuo Serebour II, Nana Juabenhene and Nananom from other traditional areas.  I owe a debt of gratitude to my brother bishops, Most Rev. Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi, Bishop of Sunyani, and to Most Rev. Peter Kwaku Atuahene, Bishop of Goaso, who was our homilist for today.  My gratitude also goes to the clergy and religious, especially those who have come from other dioceses.  I am also grateful to our political and civil leaders here present.  My thanks also go to my friends and former parishioners from the University of Ghana, Legon, who have come to give me moral support on this occasion. Finally, I would like to thank all you lay faithful who have graced this occasion with your presence.  May the good Lord shower his blessing abundantly on you all.