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PROFILE
Mission in Ghana

Ghana (1965-the present)

In 1965 the Brothers of the Immaculate Conception went to Ghana at the request of a White Father, a former pupil of the Brothers in the Dutch town of Schiedam. Education was only a secondary reason why the Fathers were looking for brothers. For the request from Ghana had a special aspect: the Brothers were in the first place asked to take over the leadership of an indigenous congregation of Brothers. Since the 1940s there had been a congregation of African sisters in north-west Ghana devoted to nursing and education. Moreover, already before 1950, a White Father had founded, in the northern part of Ghana, a congregation of men for catechetical work, the Brothers of St Joseph. But the priest lacked the time and, more importantly, the insight to guide a congregation of Brothers. After some unsuccessful attempts in their search for a congregation of Brothers which could take over the leadership of the Ghanaian brothers, the White Fathers came eventually to Maastricht. After the General Superior had made a visit to northern Ghana, in the beginning of 1965, the General Council consented to the request. By September 1965 Dutch brothers would come to guide the Brothers   of St Joseph and to integrate them into the Congregation of the Brothers of Maastricht.

Ghana, seven times the Netherlands, is in many respects like Sierra Leone. The north of the country - where the houses of the brothers are - is one big flat, monotonous savanna landscape, as in Sierra Leone. It has a tropical climate; the north has a rainy season which lasts four months and a half, from June to October. The harmattan, a dry desert wind which comes from the Sahara, dominates from December to March. At that time of the year the days are hot, the nights cool; humidity may reach an extremely low percentage (4%) which is very unpleasant. The average annual temperature is around 26.1E, highest in March and lowest in August. Of the total population of about sixteen million only thirty per cent live in the poor north, which counts more than 25 different tribes. They are small-scale farmers, scattered over the rural areas or living in villages. Since the mid-1980s Ghana has become a bit more prosperous, but it is still one the poorest countries in the world. More than twenty per cent of the population adhere to some kind of animism. About sixty per cent are Christian (Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian), mainly in the south of the country. In the north sixteen per cent are Muslim. These statistics are hardly ever reliable; the percentage of Christians is probably too high, that of Muslims too low. The lingua franca is English, which is also the teaching medium in the schools. It is the most realistic option for a country with so many different tribal languages.

At their arrival in 1965 the Brothers of Maastricht settled in the diocese of Wa (1960), where Peter Poreku Dery, a Ghanaian, was bishop. In Kaleo they started with the religious-life formation of the members of the indigenous brothers' congregation, which had been set up by the White Fathers; they also offered them secondary education. So they had come to do two things. Firstly, to prepare the Ghanaian brothers, who were to be received into the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception, for their temporary profession in 1966. Eighteen out of the twenty native brothers chose to merge with the Brothers of the Immaculate Conception; two returned to secular life. Secondly, these brothers would be trained for further study at the teachers' training college in Navrongo. The first Ghanaian brothers went there in the autumn of 1967.

The work of the brothers in Ghana developed very successfully. In 1968 a school could be built in Nandom with aid from the Dutch Government. Besides education at secondary level two small technical schools could be set up in 1973, one in Nandom and one in Kaleo. In subsequent years an agricultural project, a farmers' cooperative and a service centre for building-industries were added. The number of Ghanaians in the Congregation increased so that they could take over the administration from the Dutch brothers. At the moment of writing the province of Ghana counts eight houses: Kaleo (1965), Nandom (1967), Tumu (1968), Wa (1976), Tamale (1981), Accra (1989), Damongo (1990) and Zebilla (1996).






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