Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Welcome back Henry!

We welcome Henry back from his holiday in Ireland! Its great to have him back in the community looking so well and energised by the Irish rain! Henry arrived yesterday morning from Accra and the community gathered in the evening for a prayer and celebration to welcome him back. We thank Paul, Brian and Jordaan (our social committee) for the meal they prepared. We thank Br Tom Early and the brothers at Drimnagh castle for the hospitality they offered Henry during his stay in Ireland.

Who you really are ( A song by Kirtana)

This morning for our quiet prayer we reflected on this song by Kirtana from their album called "The Embrace" There is much food for reflection and thought in its words.

Could there be more to this life we call mine
Than a journey through space or a storyline
More to life than the body can sense
Than the mind can conclude from experience
Does who we are begin with breath,
depend on form or end with death
Strip away these roles, these names
And tell me what remains,
who you really are, who you really are

We measure success by the things we accrue
Or the bonds that we form or the deeds we do
These too shall pass
as hard as we try to hold on to form, form will die
But inherent in this dance of form
is the chance to see what's yet unborn
And the choice to throw this chance away
And be caught up in the play
Of who we think we are who we think we are

This is your lifetime It could end at anytime
Where is your attention?
Where is your prayer? where is your song ?
In a fortunate life comes a call to be free
From a cycle of bondage and dis-identity
To wake from the dream and finally realize
The truth of one's being before the body dies
So before the final scene is past,
See the screen on which it's cast
See what's seeing this - me and you
And then you will see
Who, who you really are

To make my experiment

As Christ died he experienced his life as a total failure.
"My God why have you abandoned me?"
He had lived his life to the full, absolutely and sincerely, he had made his honest experiment.
On the Cross his Vision deserted him.
But because he had lived so fully and devotedly he won through to the Resurrection.

We all must do what Christ did.
We must make our experiment.
We must make mistakes.
We must live our own individual life.
And there will be error.
If you avoid error you do not live; in a sense even it may be said that every life is a mistake, for no one has found the truth.
When we live like this we know Christ as a Brother, and God indeed becomes a human person.

(Carl Jung)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Internet problems!

We have been having endless problems with our internet for this month. So far the internet service has worked for just 4 full days. So where is the problem?
Recently Vodafone bought out Ghana Telecom. Until June of this year when Ghana Telecom was operating the system we had a relatively uninterupted service and even when there was a problem the people at Ghana Telecom responded immediately and usually had the problem fixed within a matter of hours.
Since July and the Vodafone take over we have had not only endless problems with the internet and broadband services but the customer service has really deteriorated.
This month we have made endless calls to Customer Care to address our problem. We have been given endless assurances that the problem will be looked into and fixed. We have been given a variety of excuses for the problem from faulty wires to gremlims in the main server!
Among them was the one that said some of the workers have been served with redundancy letters and that these workers although still occupying their posts have lost all interest in their job and have no concern for customer care or service.
So I am left to question the trend of big multi national companies taking over smaller entities. At least Ghana Telecom with all its limitations provided a service. Vodafone with all its red pretensions and promises is failing in providing the basic facilities to the ordinary customer. Who is the looser and who is the winner here?
As someone once said ... when the elephants march in triumph, its the ants going about their work that get crushed!
I wonder whether Vodafone unbeknown to its customer has in its name cryptically hidden its real message ... "Woe the phone"!!!!!

PS: This and some of the recent updates on this blog have been done using the Zain mobile internet service! At least that works and is reliable for now!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

They had not gone out to the tent, yet the spirit came to rest on them also and they prophesied in the camp.
Seventy elders all together in the tent received the spirit.
To Joshua’s dismay seventy-two elders
began to prophesy to all in the camp.
Holy Spirit,you don’t keep our rules.
We can’t hem you in or harness you,
We can’t say you can’t go there
or you wouldn’t dare do that.
Like the wind, you blow where you will
and we can hear the sound you make
but we do not know where it comes from or where it goes.
So we ask you,let us feel your breathing
within us.
(taken from

Thursday, September 24, 2009

School Holiday Ministry

During the last school holidays in April we made an unsuccessful attempt to invite children from the neighborhood to come for classes on Fridays to our community since our teaching ministries had stopped. This time round not willing to give up we made a second attempt.
Nicholas, James and I took the risk again. We went round casting the same nets, this time through the church, hoping for a catch. This time round we got a very encouraging response from both children and their parents. There was a big turn up from the start to the end. About thirty five children turned up.
The five Fridays were spent well with effective learning experiences for both students and ourselves. We taught them Mathematics, Science and English as well as involving them in some interactive activities such as sports, discussions and art work.
Friday, 11th September was a wonderful day. The three of us and the children gathered to appreciate our time together and the efforts that each person had put to make the program successful. We had a small celebration whereby we had aerobics (guided by Ndivo), watched a movie and then shared a light snack together. We thanked the children for participating whole heartedly and for their good conduct during the program and they too expressed their thanks some with cards and some with words of mouth. We read from their faces a willingness to participate again in the same program if there was to be another opportunity.
We thank them all and the community as well for the support we received during this time.

A day of recollection

An unreflected life is not worth living. September 22nd was set aside to allow novices to sit back and see how life has been for us in the novitiate as far as Peace is concerned. Peace is only a five lettered word yet its complexity is beyond measure.
As I reflected on the theme of the day which was peace and reconciliation, I discovered quite a number of things. First and foremost, the experience of St Therese of Lisieux became alive in me.
Like any other person, this admirable saint once had a problem with one of the nuns, to solve the problem; she always smiled whenever she came across the nun who was making life unbearable for her. The trouble shooter therefore one day gathered courage and asked her what good trait Therese had discovered in her. Her answer was “always I see Jesus fully present in you.”
To me this is a perfect way of nurturing peace in community. Reaching this level is also not easy unless I give out my life to others. Jesus also fulfilled the scriptures by denouncing retaliation. So for peace to prevail, the love of Christ should come first for enhancement of rapport amongst the community members.
It also came into my realization that I should be peaceful first especially in mind for that is where everything starts.
The Lord Buddha once said that we are what we think and what we are is the result of our thoughts.
It’s an invitation for every person to be clear about his thoughts and if possible mention them out. It doesn’t just stop in the mind but it should be transmitted to the heart and then to the entire cosmos. This is a long journey and that is why it calls for patience.
My prayer now is that God should make me an instrument of peace so as to preach it even if it be only in smaller dimensions. Above all there is need to be prayerful and the need for self reconciliation; otherwise peace will remain a word without meaning.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Love is the first ingredient in the relief of suffering"

Padre Pio – Mystic, Confessor, Stigmatic. For 50 years he suffered the five wounds of the crucifixion. A true victim with Christ. A credible sign to our time. A channel of grace.

Francesco was born on 25 May 1887 at Pietrelcina, the son of Grazio Forgione and Maria Giuseppa De Nunzio. On 6 January 1903, at the age of sixteen, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars at Morcone, where on 22 January he took the Franciscan habit and the name Brother Pio. At the end of his novitiate year he took simple vows, and on 27 January 1907 made his solemn profession.
After he was ordained priest on 10 August 1910 at Benevento, he stayed at home with his family until 1916 for health reasons. In September of that year he was sent to the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo and remained there until his death.
Filled with love of God and love of neighbour, Padre Pio lived to the full his vocation to work for the redemption of humanity, in accordance with the special mission which marked his entire life and which he exercised through the spiritual direction of the faithful: the sacramental reconciliation of penitents and the celebration of the Eucharist. The pinnacle of his apostolic activity was the celebration of Holy Mass. The faithful who took part witnessed the summit and fullness of his spirituality.
For Padre Pio, faith was life: he willed everything and did everything in the light of faith. He was assiduously devoted to prayer. He passed the day and a large part of the night in conversation with God. He would say: “In books we seek God, in prayer we find him. Prayer is the key which opens God's heart”. Faith led him always to accept God's mysterious will.
The love of God filled him, and satisfied his every desire; charity was the chief inspiration of his day: to love God and to help others to love him. His special concern was to grow in charity and to lead others to do so.
The virtue of fortitude shone in him. He understood very early in life that his would be the way of the Cross, and he accepted it at once with courage and out of love. For many years, he experienced spiritual sufferings. For years he endured the pains of his wounds with admirable serenity.
He sincerely thought of himself as useless, unworthy of God's gifts, full of weakness and infirmity, and at the same time blessed with divine favours. Amid so much admiration around him, he would say: “I only want to be a poor friar who prays”.
From his youth, his health was not very robust, and especially in the last years of his life it declined rapidly. He died on 23 September 1968 at the age of eighty-one. He was declared a Saint on 16th June 2002.

(Account taken from the Vatican website)

Cornelius Birthday

On the 22nd of September, Cornelius celebrated his 30th birthday! It was also the day we spent the morning reflectiing on the theme of peace and reconciliation.

We began the day with an hour's quiet prayer and then after some time in personal prayer and reflection we gathered to share our insights and the fruits of our reflection. The morning concluded with a reconciliation service.

The evening was a time of celebration where even the "wounded" and the "handicapped" joined in the dancing!! These were the battle weary after an ordinary game of football!!

Chickens and Sustainable Living!

The ecstasy of receiving the little chickens in our community and celebrating the dream, dreamt in the first community meeting in March through Brian, gives me time to look at the Brothers commitment to a new way of living pledged in the Sustainable Development Workshop.
Thanks to all the brothers involved in the realization of this vision. ‘Nothing is beyond our reach if we reach out together, if we reach out with all the confidence we have, if we are willing to persevere even in difficult times and if we rejoice with every step forward’.
After the foresaid workshop, we confessed our part in hurting mother earth, expressed thanks for creation and promised to take the responsibility to care for it, and to commit ourselves to a new way of living.
We looked at the following hard questions that can lead to this kind of change – How do we show care to the earth? What can we do to stop those actions that perpetuate the vicious cycles of exploitation, degradation and destruction?
I believe the poultry project is one of the signs, including the other little ways in which we remain committed, like disposing of garbage, recycling, attempting to make the novitiate a plastic free area and many more simple ways, not forgetting the animals we share the compound with.
Impossible to tell apart, is the generosity the brothers showed when we had an adventure and a familiarity expedition to Paga (Upper East of Ghana), on 19th August when we managed to catch sight of Crocodiles as well as crossing into Burkina Faso.
It was praiseworthy to see Eco-tourism being promoted and in unison the money generated from visitors being used for the support the local dwellers of the village. I felt the charge was too much but after the man in-charge shed light on how they operate, I feel the initiative of helping students and giving the inhabitants loans absolutely well thought-out.
Let’s continue to care for the earth, the mother of all that is natural and human.

The Chicks are here!!

After months of waiting on promise after promise from one of the local inhabitants of Tamale, the 15th of September was like a dream come to reality. It was the time for us to kick off our long awaited poultry broilers project. This suggestion was brought up by Brian Chipango one of the novices from Mater Dei and supported by myself and Chris.
Everyone was waiting for this moment and it was good to see how enthusiastic the novices are about this project. It is very good these chickens have arrived now as the price of chicken is going up at an alarming rate. We hope all the fifty two chicks will survive and that we’ll have a chicken feast in a couple of weeks to come. (Jordaan)

Celebrating life - Remembering Pauline

As Chinua Achebe said in his book 'A man of the people', a frog will never move in broad day light unless something is after it's life.
This expression made sense to me as we sat around in the chapel on 9th September, 2009 to express our sorrow and sympathy to Paul who had lost his eldest sister, Pauline a fortnight ago. Pauline who was only 33 years old leaves behind a young husband and two children. She died giving birth to her third child who also passed away.
This was a different day altogether and quite unfamiliar as we assembled to be in solidarity with Paul as back in Kenya his family gathered to lay to rest their beloved daughter, sister, wife and mother.
We were joined by the Brothers from Choggu and the visiting representatives of West African DLT, Brs Benedict and Alex, and Samuel. It was a moving experience since we have never celebrated life under that dimension. Many a time we celebrate Birthdays but not promotion to glory.
I would also like to commend Paul on how he conducted himself during this time of sorrow and agony. It is my conviction that in one way or the other, we the novices have learnt something from him. And as a community, we extend our sincere condolences to the entire Mbithi family and assure them that we will remember them in our prayer. (Otieno)

Monday, September 21, 2009

3 fold celebration

"Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” John 14:27
The United Nations General assembly has declared September 21st to be the International Day of Peace; a day to be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence.
This is the appropriate day for all people with goodwill to do anything concerning the promotion of peace in a small way, Education, awareness and actions.
We are reminded that we are all part of one global human family living together in the world that remains broken and divided. The Novitiate community assembles for a service with other religious and the lay faithful at the Local parish at 4pm.
21st September is the 1st day of Shawwals ‘Idal-Fitr or ‘Id al-Saghir (Muslim calendar), Muslims come together to celebrate after the fasting month of Ramadan. Here in Tamale the Muslim community gathers on an open ground. After prayer the Imam delivers a speech and amid rejoicing and kisses of peace the faithful go their own ways to celebrate this great day with family and friends.
Again September 21st 2009 marks the one hundred years since the birth of noble man and forefather and now declared founder of Ghana-Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Masses of Ghanaians are jubilating as they are privileged to have a public holiday in honor of the Icon and the person who lived the black star. Hope remembering him will challenge all to live the ideals and principals that he stood for.
As we mark these events let us learn and live the promise, to act on behalf of Peace, not only for the day or this week, but for all of the days of our life.
May Jesus’ peace live in the hearts all humanity-Forever!!

About International Day of Peace - 21 September

The International Day of Peace ("Peace Day") provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date. It was established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. The first Peace Day was celebrated in September 1982.
In 2002 the General Assembly officially declared September 21 as the permanent date for the International Day of Peace.
By creating the International Day of Peace, the UN devoted itself to worldwide peace and encouraged all of mankind to work in cooperation for this goal. During the discussion of the U.N. Resolution that established the International Day of Peace, it was suggested that:
"Peace Day should be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples…This day will serve as a reminder to all peoples that our organization, with all its limitations, is a living instrument in the service of peace and should serve all of us here within the organization as a constantly pealing bell reminding us that our permanent commitment, above all interests or differences of any kind, is to peace."
Since its inception, Peace Day has marked our personal and planetary progress toward peace. It has grown to include millions of people in all parts of the world, and each year events are organized to commemorate and celebrate this day. Events range in scale from private gatherings to public concerts and forums where hundreds of thousands of people participate.
Anyone, anywhere can celebrate Peace Day. It can be as simple as lighting a candle at noon, or just sitting in silent meditation. Or it can involve getting your co-workers, organization, community or government engaged in a large event. The impact if millions of people in all parts of the world, coming together for one day of peace, is immense.
International Day of Peace is also a Day of Ceasefire – personal or political. Take this opportunity to make peace in your own relationships as well as impact the larger conflicts of our time. Imagine what a whole Day of Ceasefire would mean to humankind.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

World Peace Day - 21st September

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred . . . let me sow love
Where there is injury . . . pardon
Where there is doubt . . . faith
Where there is despair . . .hope
Where there is darkness . . . light
Where there is sadness . . .joy
Divine Master,grant that i may not so much seek
To be consoled . . .as to console
To be understood . . .as to understand,
To be loved . . . as to love
For it is in giving . . .that we receive,
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned,
It is in dying . . .that we are born to eternal life
(St Francis' Prayer of Peace)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Na Tuma Pam, Frank!!!

Br. Frank can only be compared to the black star in the Ghanaian flag. Ghana being the first African country to gain her independence from the British imperialists was meant to be an epitome to other African countries. Each African country had to learn something from Ghana in order to gain freedom.
In the same way Br. Frank is a perfect example of Brotherhood worth to be embraced and if possible to be adopted as a role model. We have learnt quite a number of things ranging from Edmund Rice to Mark's gospel.
For sure his humuor and his appropriate use of technical words and expressions will be felt “immediately” as he always said. Even the word 'rebuke' has taken on a new meaning for us.
We will also remember his enthusiasm and energy for all things including playing pool. Who can forget the little gleeful dance when a ball was potted with much elegance and flair!
Frank spent a 100 days with us and left, via Nairobi, for Lusaka where he will be on the ISC staff. We are sure that he will bring the same enthusiasm, cheer and joy there that he brought to us here.
In a special way we say in Dagbani, ‘na tuma pam!’ which translates into thank you very much. ‘Naawun ni shee’ (May God grant you a safe journey) (Otieno)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Do not be afraid

Like the disciples in the sea, we too are afraid of encountering storms which might be a threat to our lives. In the world today, the greatest fear is the fear of nuclear destruction that could destroy our planet. My heart freezes when I hear of the atomic bombs that can hit the whole world within seconds and reduce it to a formless void, back to where it has tried to come out from over billions of years ago. When I learnt that the earth’s resources have been consumed until there is no more left in the store to keep it going beyond 50 years, I was filled with terror of encountering a major storm, a disaster, a crooked future with no hope. I think millions of people who are on this earth and are aware of these fundamental facts feel the same way too. Our hearts are all crying out for someone to help, like the disciples in the sea. The question remains “who will?”
However there is hope as God himself tells us in Joshua 1:9, “be strong and of good courage, do not be dismayed nor be frightened for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” If we take the words of God seriously, we have all the reasons not to fear. Scripture scholars put it that, the word or message ‘do not be afraid’ appears in the entire bible 365 times meaning we need to have courage all days throughout the year. Therefore let us put all our trust in God. Christ himself calls us close to him in Mt 11:28.
Let us then place all our worries and fears to him in prayer. Prayers of letting go our fears and asking for courage to move drastically towards saving our planet earth and its people, of changing the minds of people from making nuclear weapons to studying about earth conservation, from inventing poisonous substances that contribute to global warming to preserving life and nature, from destruction of the earth’s resources to construction for the future generation, from exploiting and oppressing human race with corruption and injustices to empowering them with knowledge and dignity. This way the world will be a better place for you and for me and for the generation to come.

29th August

“I’ m going to get stuck into this thing called Religious life or get out of it all together”. Br. Bryan de Paul Noonan said this statement on his 33rdrd Birthday as recorded in the Tribute. What a prophetic statement he made? Indeed he fought a good fight until when he met his death here in Tamale1
On 29th August, a sorrowful wave of wind blew in our midst as we commemorated the Beheading of John the Baptist, and the death anniversaries of Edmund Rice and Paul Noonan. The trio left a legacy which is still present in the minds of people whose lives have been influenced by what they did and how they lived.
I also realized that the death of John the Baptist is quite similar to the death of Naboth in the Old Testament. While the death of Naboth was organized by Jezebel the wife of Ahab in order to get his vine yard, Herodias also manipulated king Herod through her daughter to have John killed so as to avoid more challenges.
Anyway it is my conviction that the spirits of these three men are much alive in our midst. It is therefore an invitation to each and every one of us to shape our lives to be what we would like to become. (Otieno)

Harmonius Living!

19th August, 2009, surely will be a day I will live to remember and ponder about during my stay in Ghana, not because I had a picnic just two days after celebrating my birthday, not because it is the first time I touched a crocodile, not because it is the day I visited briefly the land of Burkina Faso after crossing the border with Ghana, but because the foundation of my faith was shaken and broadened.
It was the day I came into real contact with a Roman Catholic religious congregation of Brothers – the Presentation Brothers – sharing the same compound with African Traditional Religion. My brothers and sisters, what I mean here is this; African Traditional believers having their shrine in a religious and formation house compound! With the unwelcome perceptions we Christians have towards these traditional religious as barbaric, outdated, paganistic, and fetish, I think if my local ordinary was to hear this he may drop dead.
But is there something wrong with this? Absolutely no! This is a practical scenario on how best the two parties have gone with their religious inter-Dialogue, how they have come to understand the underlying message behind difference in their religious beliefs and prayer, that “we are all looking and searching for one thing, one product:; God’s unconditional love and compassion though packed in different containers called Christianity and African Traditional Religion.
In a Christian prospect, I believe these Religious Brothers have, undoubtedly learnt to live far more beyond the law, and in their own way and language are struggling to respond to Jesus’ call “Unless your virtues go beyond those of Scribes and the Pharisees, you will not see the kingdom of heaven” To me this is where the theory of co-existence is magnificently translated into reality! It is possible, the divisions among our religions we can eradicate, and this we can do without turning over each other’s coat, just like these Brothers are enjoying their harmonious living with the other religion. It starts with you and I, lets get out and act even in our small capacities, ‘the seed will grow’ or who shall we wait for? (Nicholas)

Amaraaba Dennis!

“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” As the story enfolds in the book of Genesis, Abram went as the Lord had directed him. He was forced to leave the place he had established his home, the people he had got used to and many other things you can name. I see the person of Abram in the eyes of Br. Denis Vaughan who openly accepted the call to come to the novitiate here in Tamale, Ghana.
Friday 14thAugust was a wonderful day in our community to receive Br. Denis safely from Nairobi. Special welcoming prayers were organized in the evening to welcome him whereby we shared water served in a calabash, a symbol for hospitality here in Ghana, and bread, a symbol for acceptance. It was great for Br. Denis to join the community of fourteen novices and two team members. The novices too were pleased to see the gap left by Br. Prince, who is now in Ireland, filled.
We hope that we and the people of Tamale in general, will enjoy the fruits of Br. Denis’ taken risk of coming over to assist us in our spiritual journey. Amaraaba Denis!

July - August Birthdays

We celebrated 5 birthdays this last two months here in the novitiate. We gave thanks to God for the lives of Jordan(26th July), James(28th July), Sydney(7th August), Nicholas(17th August) and Sunday(18th August).
All have contributed much to this community in their own way and are a gift not only to us but to the many people they minister in Tamale.
We give thanks to God for their parents and their families and hold them in our prayers.