REFLECTIONS ON THE OCCASION OF THE SILVER JUBILEE OF EPISCOPAL ORDINATION OF MOST REV. CHARLES G. PALMER-BUCKLE, METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOP OF ACCRA AT THE HOLY SPIRIT CATHEDRAL, ACCRA
Readings of the Solemnity of Epiphany
Is. 60: 1-6
Resp. Psalm: Ps. 72: 1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Eph. 3:2-3, 5-6
What return can I make to the Yahweh
For his generosity to me?
I shall take up the cup of salvation
And call on the name of Yahweh
I shall fulfill my vows to Yahweh,
Witnessed by all his people.
Costly in Yahweh’s sight
Is the death of his faithful.
I beg you, Yahweh! I am your servant,
I am your servant, and my mother was your servant;
You have undone my fetters.
I shall offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
And call on the name of Yahweh
With these words, my brothers and sisters in Christ gathered in this Cathedral, I greet all of you as I thank Archbishop Palmer-Buckle for asking me to be the homilist for his silver jubilee of Episcopal ordination. This was just when he was saying good bye to me in the bishop’s house in Koforidua after the climax of the silver jubilee of the creation of Koforidua diocese. I wish to assure you all that this may in the long run turn out to be anything but a homily. How could I have turned down this request? I took over the administration of CDK from him and more importantly he was the principal celebrant for my Episcopal ordination.
Charlie, please, have it already in mind if by God’s grace I am able to hit 25 you will surely be asked to say a few words for your younger brother, Agyaaku.
Twenty five years as a bishop/archbishop! Hmmm!! Many are the things that have happened for which time will not allow me to put them out here in this celebration. I will try and briefly highlight on some to make my point. I remember when he was ordained bishop of Koforidua, he had very wonderful black hair and beard. I still can picture you but look at what 25 has done to him. Please do not look at mine. It tells you that the ministry is not a simple one even though it is the work of God.
I recall very well when he started in Koforidua and for the first few years referred to himself as an apprentice bishop. He did his best to wean himself of this status and I think now you qualify to be referred to as a very seasoned Archbishop.
Whatever is the situation, we need to join him in thanking the good Lord for having sustained him in faith and in the ministry of shepherding His flock in both dioceses of Koforidua and Accra. We in Koforidua are proud that we prepared him for Accra.
We are using the readings of the solemnity of Epiphany, a feast that celebrates the visit of the Magi during which they presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the new born Saviour of the world. These were very precious and symbolic gifts. We join and walk in the footsteps of the Magi with the assurance that through our acts of faith in life we can also let others come to know Christ. Besides that, you will also agree with me Charlie, that, you have been presented to Mother Church as a precious gift and so will encourage you to use your gifts and talents in the continual development of the Church.
As chief shepherd and through all these years of ministry you have tried to serve the Lord in the people entrusted to your pastoral care. At the time that the prophet Isaiah prophesied in Chapters 60-62, Jerusalem was still in ruins, still a city forsaken. The prophet’s message was therefore to encourage them, to rise up in splendor because their light had come.
Our present society and for that matter, our world is struggling with all kinds of social evils, moral decadence of all kinds. Our nation is not exempt from these. For example, bribery & corruption is rife in every aspect of the Ghanaian society which is a concern to many, homosexuality, lesbianism, some negative aspects in partisan politics etc. Since becoming a bishop/archbishop you have not relented in speaking your mind about these and many there are who have applauded your courageous stand on such social cankers. I should be quick to mention here that there are others who have also not spared you and even gone as far as asking you to put off your clerical garb and wear a political colour. Like the prophet Isaiah you have at the same time encouraged your flock about the fact that the light of God will continue to shine upon them. This is what your prophetic role entails, to encourage and condemn where necessary. It was not surprising that the then President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency J. A. Kuffour appointed you as one of the eminent members of the National Reconciliation Commission (2002-2004). That, also, came with all kinds of criticisms even as you were asked to serve on this important national Commission.
Beginning your episcopate in Koforidua, certainly, was not easy. You had to build it all from the scratch, no permanent secretariat, accommodation, staff etc. you moved on slowly but surely until some of the main structures were in place, temporal office space, diocesan pastoral & training centre, etc. You went through the length and breadth of the diocese, including the present Donkorkrom Vicariate, riding in small boats in the night with Fr. Otmar Auinger, SVD, Fafanyo etc. on the Volta lake in the night and during the day. All this was your humble effort in bringing the Good News to the people far and near.
You did your best to bring the people of God together and to make them proud of their faith. Ma wani ngye se woye Romani, was one of your famous songs with the people. You were the one who introduced the regular catechesis in the St. George Cathedral and in all the parishes and outstations you visited explaining the Church’s teachings and the scriptures to the people. These made very positive impact on the people and many have benefitted from this practice of yours.
Besides this you also introduced the Bible Youth Camp around the Christmas season for young adults and students in second cycle institutions from the entire diocese. The impact has been tremendous. I cannot but mention your special love and charism in taking care of poor and needy children. Sometimes I could not understand your spirit of perseverance even in the face of some disappointing beneficiaries. Some of such children have even been named after you, full name.
With your brotherly, priestly love and affection you never relented in your efforts at uniting the presbyterate of Koforidua and this spirit, I can say to a large extent is still working. You will stop at every parish on your way to some place and just say hello to the priests; what we termed, stations of the cross.
You have still the following to your credit as far as the Koforidua diocese is concerned:
- Prepared the first baseline survey study of the diocese
- The introduction if the annual pastoral leaders’ meeting, also termed Mini Synod
- Organized the first diocesan synod
- Payment of school/hospital fees for poor children/students
Charlie, a devotee of Blessed Virgin Mary
Permit me to enter a bit into his personal spirituality. This is a pastor who does not go to bed until he has prayed all the five decades of the holy Rosary, no matter how late in the night. With all these you have positively influenced so many people unknown to yourself.
When it comes to your episcopate in Accra, I wish someone else would have continued from here. My dear brother, what I have said above apply as far as I can get the feeling from some of the parishioners and priests in Accra. Certainly Accra has its own peculiar pastoral needs and challenges as it is but you have not relented in placing your pastoral, administrative skills in running the Archdiocese.
I can mention without fear that quite a number of your priests are also receiving further education in different disciplines within and outside the country to enhance their pastoral engagements. I can see the springing up of new parishes in almost all the growing areas of the capital. You have in place a Youth formation centre, Catechetical training centre.
You organized the second Archdiocesan Synod to brainstorm on very pertinent pastoral concerns for the Archdiocese. The Acts of this Synod, I believe are helping and guiding in the pastoral drives of the parishes. It was during your episcopate that the Archdiocese celebrated her 120 years of evangelization and presently preparing to celebrate the 125 anniversary. You have embarked on the restoration project of the Holy Spirit Cathedral. I humbly entreat you, my dear People of God to put your weight behind this effort so that this very Cathedral can be refurbished to the greater glory of God.
As our Metropolitan, I would like to encourage you to leave no stone unturned in building up our Province. Be assured of your suffragan dioceses’ readiness to support all the positive moves in having a united province. On the National level, I wish to thank you sincerely for your wonderful contributions and the amount of knowledge you bring onto the floor of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference deliberations.
My dear People of God, our celebrant will be the first to admit that his calling to the holy Catholic priesthood has been through the grace of God. Left to him alone he accepts that he is even unworthy, but still the Lord who knows the hearts of His children has chosen him and ordained him for His work. He has been humble enough to admit his own shortcomings and ever ready to renew himself in the sacraments offered by Mother Church. He aligns himself with the mission of Jesus who came not to call the upright of hear but sinners to conversion (Lk. 5:31-32; Mk. 2:17). He has tried fervently to share his faith experiences with others.
I can hear you repeating with the Psalmist: “What return can I make to Yahweh, for his generosity to me? I shall take up the cup of salvation and call on the name of Yahweh. I shall fulfill my vows to Yahweh ..” Ps.116:12.
The Church in Accra needs you still to strengthen them in the faith. A journey that requires enormous prayer and sacrifice! Strive relentlessly for the unity of the clergy & religious. I wish therefore to entreat all to intensify your prayerful support for our brother. Continue to show love to him, because I know he loves his Church and vocation. Continue to offer thanksgiving sacrifice on his behalf so that he can minister still well to the flock entrusted to his care.
Accra and its pastoral needs can be complex and can be demanding. May Mary, the Mother of priests and your patroness continue to intercede for you always! Congratulations and I wish you many more fruitful years in the episcopacy.
Most Rev. Joseph Afrifah-Agyekum,
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Koforidua.
6th January 2018.