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Diocesan Priests On The Move

Sep 9, 2009, 5:59 AM | Article By: Augustine Kanjia

Priests are men chosen from among people, set apart to do the will of God by leading His children to Him. The Gambia and Sierra Leone are in one association for Diocesan priests. The Diocesan priest is a priest that belongs to a particular diocese, either by birth, settlement or transfer. They were trained by the local bishops and in turn work in that diocese or are transferred on request to another country or diocese. The National Diocesan Priests Associations of Sierra Leone and The Gambia explained their successes and why they are priests. Christian Panorama delves into it and writes below.

The Secretary to the Diocesan Priests Association of Sierra Leone and The Gambia, Rev. Fr. Peter Konteh from Sierra Leone during the AECAWA Plenary Assembly thanked their bishops for their tireless effort in encouraging them to carry on with the task of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in bringing His Good News to this part of the world.

Fr. Peter Konteh said they give praise and thanksgiving to God for the year of the priest and the wonders worked in their lives in The Gambia and Sierra Leone.

"The first disciples by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus said 'Follow me and I will make you fishers of men (Mk 1:17). God has entrusted us with a huge responsibility to care for his flock (cf. Jn. 21:17). This invitation to serve God as priests in our country and the world at large is a gift to respond to daily. As ministers and labourers, we strive daily to make a total submission that is evident in a loving surrender to Him whose protect we strive to implement," he said.

Fr. Konteh said The Gambia is a small country with population of about 1.5 Million while Sierra Leone is a little over 5 Million, of this, the percentage of Christian is very minimal, and there still remain a vast geographical area to be evangelised.

"Sierra Leone is divided into three Catholic diocese. Diocese of Kenema is located in the Eastern Province, and it is occupied, predominantly by Mendes and Konos. The head of this portion of the people of God is Most Rev. Bishop Patrick D. Koroma.

The Diocese of Makeni is located in the Northern province and the people are predominantly Temnes and Limbas. The head of this portion of the people of God is Most Rev. Bishop George Biguzzi.

The archdiocese of Freetown and Bo comprises the Southern province and the Western Area. The lay faithful in this diocese are predominantly Mendes in the South and Krios in the West. The head of this portion of the people of God is Most Rev. Archbishop Edward T. Charles.

The Diocese of Banjul was created on the 14th June 1957. The head of this portion of the people of God is the Right Reverend Robert P. Ellison CSSp.," he said.

Talking about the statistics of the diocesan priests according to diocese Fr. Konteh says,

Freetown and Bo: 46

Makeni:               26

Kenema:              20

Banjul:                 17

He said statistics of parishes according to diocese stands as follows:

Freetown and Bo: 27

Makeni:               19

Kenema:              15

Banjul:                 17

He said they had many parishes but a few personnel and some parishes were without resident priests. "The people have cried for far too long. Some neighbouring parish priests are asked to take care of such vacant parishes and the laity continue to wait patiently for their own resident parish priest. Some religious missionaries are helping in our dioceses and their presence has covered pastoral gaps in some of the parishes," he said. He confirmed that there exists an atmosphere of love and friendship among priests, religious and other pastoral agents. This he said signals a bright future for their countries. "But there are set backs too," he said.

He says, "The vocation to the priesthood is an invitation from God and one responds wholeheartedly within a specific context and environment. The vocation to the priesthood and religious life is a vocation of ministry, love and service in the church and in the world. The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus; it is a spiritual journal that starts in faith, grows in love, progresses with determination and commitment and lasts for a lifetime.

"Our call is hindered in some ways. Below are some of our successes and hindrances in our ministry." He said.

"There is growth in our country. We have three black bishops one is retired. We deliver beautiful apostolate and live in the ordinances of life. The poor appreciate our effort to helping them. We correct each other with genuine fraternal correction to help the other. We have a yearly retreat and we always long for the proclamation of the Word.

It is not all glory and majesty, even when we achieve we must acknowledge our weaknesses. Firstly we have some hostile people and environment. Some priests follow the clamour of worldly grandeur and materialism. Jealousy, infighting and favoritism among priests. Quest for excellence at all cost. Financial pressure and burden from family members and blurred vision. Lack of dedication and commitment. Less capacity building for priest. Lack of transport to facilitate pastoral work and priests cannot work without the necessary logistics.

Fr. Konteh said despite all the difficulties, they still have priests who quietly present Christ's Words and actions each day to the faithful and to the whole world, striving to be one with the Lord in their thoughts and their will, their sentiments and their style of their life. He further said that they still remain to be faithful to their vocation.