Friday, December 23, 2011

We remember and celebrate how he came among us to show us how to love with generosity and compassion for all.

May he be born again in our hearts.

May your Christmas be blessed with light, love and peace.

May you experience and reflect the light of Christ throughout 2012.

May the light of Christ guide your steps safely on the path that leads to God.

Happy Christmas from all of us

at Br. Paul Noonan Formation Centre, Tamale.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

From Sunson to Christmas.

At the centre of religious life is the search for God. Time alone with God is crucial, and, as part of this, Christian Brothers each year make a retreat of at least six days.
So it was that, during the second week of November, the twelve of us novices and our three formators from Br. Paul Noonan Formation Center, Tamale, negotiated the 54 speed bumps on the road from here to Yendi, nearly two hours east of Tamale, to make our retreat at St. Martin’s Centre run by the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD). The retreat was led by Fr. Kofi, an American SVD priest, who has spent nearly all of his time as a priest in Ghana.
We had two talks each day given by Fr. Kofi himself, and they were words that drove passion and inspiration into our hearts. Almost every one of us admitted that the retreat was an extraordinary, powerful experience. We were challenged to the depths of our hearts to respond with sincerity and integrity if we were to ‘make a lifetime commitment in this dangerous world’ as young Christian Brothers. We were called to reconcile with one another and with our own self. We were moved by the Holy Spirit for a conversion of mind and heart to accept Christ into our lives once more. Each of us in our own individual reflection experienced a personal conversion.
The whole atmosphere of the place played a significant role in the quiet time spent with the Lord. There was ample time for personal reflection and walks around the retreat centre in the heat of the day or the coolness of the evening.

The retreat also set the tone on which we will walk into this Advent period and onto Christmas. We feel we have a reason to celebrate Christmas with true happiness and joy in our hearts. We are not only going to celebrate the birth that took place two thousand years ago in Bethlehem, nor prepare for the second coming, but celebrate the reawakening consciousness in us of the constant presence of Jesus in our lives each day. He comes to us every single moment but we were too slow to recognize it. Today we look forward to celebrate Christmas and we sing glory to Emmanuel, God with us!
A novelty for us was reading in the dining room! During lunch times we heard read the lives of Br. Leonard Tavup from Papua New Guinea and Br. Celestino Mgala from Tanzania. The lives of these two men brought inspiration to us - each of them had a unique personality and his own journey towards Christian Brotherhood. Their spirituality was influenced by different cultural backgrounds, but they shared the same dream and charism as Christian Brothers. We hope to follow in their footsteps as disciples of Jesus and Edmund.
We offer a sincere word of thanks to Fr. Kofi and the retreat centre staff, as well as Brothers Kevin and Tony, who were present to support us with prayer and listening.
Merry Christmas everyone, and a happy New Year 2012.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Elly Sakwa working with students


Training for the physically disabled has a long history in Tamale - the Training Center for people with physical disabilities was established in Tamale on the 1st July, 1962, so will celebrate 50 years next year. The centre is operating under the Ghana Ministry of Social Welfare, and it provides skills training for disabled people between 15 to 45 years of age.

The training is basically in rural crafts, which include tailoring, dress-making, shoe-making, leather-work and weaving. The course duration is three years, but it can be extended for trainees who need more time.

The aim of the programme is enable trainees to move into self-employment based on the skilled trade they have learned. The alternative for many disabled people is begging on the street, and according to the manager, the programme has reduced the number of disabled beggars in Tamale.

Lamin Tholley during morning prayer with students

The trainees live a peaceful and communal way of life in the institution, which is residential. They assist each other according to their abilities; as 1 Corinthians says, “You are Christ’s body”. So, for instance, the able-bodied trainee who is a deaf-mute can collect and do things for those who are physically immobilised. These, in their turn, can direct the blind from dangerous situations and can interpret for the deaf-mute when the need arises. The deaf-mutes can do the heaviest work among them because they can see and move freely.

The two of us who go for our Friday ministry to the Training Centre receive so much from this experience. We see the uniqueness of each according to their abilities, and we have realised that disability is not inability. The wonders of God are realized each time the trainees are doing their practical work. When the blind are weaving, one sees God’s possibilities even though we humans may think such things are impossible.

We enjoy our time there every week, teaching and interacting with them. We help them to grow in their spirituality by leading them in morning devotion each Friday. We admire most of all their ability and willingness to learn. They are energized when you teach them new ideas and have a desire to learn more. We thank God for the experience that we have there, since they are helpful in our growth as well as theirs.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Saturday, 10th September, was a special day for us Novices and the children around our Sagnerigu neighbourhood. It was the first time we have been able to host a day of fun and games at Br. Paul Noonan Formation Centre for local children. We entertained 35 kids up till early afternoon on what was the final Saturday of the long school vacation. We were able to offer the children a fun day just before they returned for the new school year.
All the 13 Novices facilitated well, with plenty of games in small groups. We were grateful for the assistance of a Muslim friend, Rafik, who came to help us with translation, as not all of the children know much English.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Sexuality is one of those topics that is of vital interest to almost everyone, yet is often not talked about openly. So we were delighted to be visited recently by Brother Donal Kirk, the Deputy Province Leader of the Africa Province, who took us for a Psychosexual Development workshop in early August. We were joined for the workshop by the novices from the F.I.C. Brothers, which made for more interesting interaction.

The focus of the workshop can be summed up by reminding ourselves that the word “sex” comes from the Latin word “secare” which means ‘to cut off’. It refers to the fact that as men and women we are divided, or cut off from each other, by the reality of sexuality. We come into this world unhappy, crying, aching, longing, not at ease, hungry, experiencing disconnection as we leave the mother’s womb. We long for reconnection; we spend our lives searching for this.
The search for God and the search for human intimacy come from the same source-----our sexuality---the energy for relationship. My desire to spend an hour in prayer and my desire to spend an hour with a friend over a cup of coffee come from the same source.
The workshop raised many questions, provoked much recalling of personal experience, provided new insights, and left us all realizing how a life of celibacy as a Christian Brother does not mean somehow leaving our sexuality behind.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Unlike novitiates in former times, we are not isolated from “the world”. Interaction with the people and culture around us is an important part of our development as individuals and as a community. So it was that on the 9th of July we had a group of Tamale Secondary School (TAMASCO) students visiting our community. The group is part of the Catholic Society in TAMASCO and they wanted to know something about the mysterious community of young men living near them. There were many interesting questions asked by the students. Their questions were mainly about who we are as aspiring Christian Brothers, what we do and how we live our life. After a short welcome, two novices took them for a quick tour around our compound. We then continued the program with a welcome by our Director, Br. Tony Shanahan. After that, we had a brief presentation by one of the novices about the history of the Christian Brothers, our ministry and formation and our numbers and presence around the world. Four novices then gave testimonies about how they came to know the Brothers in their various countries. They also shared with us their struggles and convictions regarding the call to Christian Brotherhood. There were many interesting stories and they seemed to make a positive impression on the young audience. The students asked many questions regarding the vow of poverty, not getting married, requirements for joining, the challenges we face as Brothers, where we get our money from to do our ministry and – not surprisingly in Africa – who does the cooking for the Brothers. There were other technical questions that we could not answer as novices but we were rescued thanks to our two formators, Br. Kevin and Tony. We ended our program with light refreshments and time to chat with each other. It was a very special moment for us as we enjoyed the students’ company and friendship.

One week later we welcomed some of them back to our community but this time it was for a different purpose. It was for a friendly game with their football team, which turned out to be a tough assignment for us. We struggled to keep our younger, quicker opponents out of our territory. Despite the support of Bros. Kevin and Tony, and our visitor and assistant coach, Br. Joe Mosely, we went down 4-0. The spirit of the game was competitive but friendly. We all enjoyed this first time to play together as a team against external opposition.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Septu and students at St. Charles Lwanga.

St.Charles Lwanga Primary school is a Catholic agency school. The school is made up of 810 students with 35 teachers, all from different religious denominations. Sr. Piala Massawe, a Tanzanian, from the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, is the headmistress of the school.
The school provides basic educational rights for all children in and around the location. Without this school, the majority of the students would be travelling long distances to other schools. However, some of the students still walk more than one hour to reach the school. The number of students enrolled increases rapidly every year.

The school experienced two major problems earlier this year: overcrowding of classes and shortage of teachers. Additional buildings recently constructed are now in use by the students. This solves the issue of overcrowding but not the issue of teacher shortage. More than half of the teachers are not getting their salaries which causes the teachers to stay away from the school and find other ways to support their family needs.

Blaise and students - out of class time!

After conducting school assembly on Fridays, we go into some of the classes which have no teacher and we teach. We take the responsibility of being with the class until the end of the day’s school programme.

Beating students is the usual way of disciplining students for misbehaviour or coming late for school. We have not followed this practice and we approach students in a gentle, polite and compassionate manner.

Personal reflection by Blaise
Cycling to school takes an hour and ten minutes. Before reaching the school I meet some students having their breakfast at the small street markets beside the road. Inside the classroom some students were not concentrating and participating in the classroom activities. From what I have experienced, a teacher has to use a stick to warn each child to concentrate and to participate. I am challenged by these behaviors and attitudes.

Before taking too much time to find out what is the cause, I really sympathize with these children and started working with them. I love them despite their individual differences and difficulties. I teach them individually according to the best of their abilities. After some weeks of using this approach, I noticed a great improvement. Those who hardly smiled now smile. Those who could not socialize openly, now mix around with others. Those who struggled with concentration and participation in class and school activities, now show attention and involvement in all class activities.

At ten o’clock break some children would come to me individually and say, “Brother Blaise, give me money or food, I am hungry.” Whether this is a true need or whether it is just because they see Christian Brothers as people who have money, it is a challenge to evaluate and reflect on. The questions are: is it a common practice to beg for food or money? What is it like in their homes? How many of them have parents, guardians or families? And how many of them starve for food and good living conditions?
Live Jesus in our hearts… forever.